creative software for creative people

openArtist tries to be a focus point for artists to get their hands on creative software


State of creative software

So many cool applications. But hard to find. Hard to install. Hard to keep updated. Artists want to use software, loose interest fast if is seems hard to get to work. People who write software are mostly more interested in developing and put all their energy into this than in distribution.

openArtist tries to collect and combine creative software into one distribution, ready to use. Some of these programs are just not found in Ubuntu/Debian repositories, are built from scratch and packaged into openArtist’s repository. Also the Personal Package (ppa) archives play a siginficant role in openArtist. Canonical has made a fine invention when setting up Launchpad and their ppas. Many people build their own versions of programs, drivers etc, and openArtist tries to use the best ppas around to provide a stable, up-to-date distribution and program base.

The Base system

Currently based on ubuntu 12.04, openArtist has a stable base system, which is tuned for multimedia useage. On the low level side, you can install other kernels with one click. Liqourix, Realtime and Lowlatency are for your disposal. As the standard kernel is even good enough for lowlatency audio, and this is optional. Lowlevel multimedia packages like ffmpeg try to be as fresh as it will not break the system. Nvidia CUDA is available, as well as a manual how to install latest proprietary graphics drivers by hand. Infiniband drivers let you put together a fast SAN, Exfat read+write driver kernel module. ZFS filesystem support via kernel module. ZRAM kernel module toggle.

On the Highlevel side, the standard Keyboard shortcuts have been changed, mainly to use the windows (super) key instead of ctrl, as this would interfer with many program’s keyboard shortcuts. The keyboard shortcuts of the desktop environments have been unified, so that you have one set of shortcuts which work on every DE: the Openbox environment, the XFCE environment and the CLASSIC Panel environment. OpenArtist ships with these three by default now. Openbox is a highly configurable, low memory gui for power users, slower computers, multimedia installations. XFCE is a full blown desktop environment with everything you will ever need, but on a lighter base than e.g Gnome, Kde. CLASSIC Panel is a hack of the gnome3 fallback mode, it provides a gnome2 look&feel with the familiar panel used in pervious openArtist versions. Some may call it nostalgic, but it works really well.
The nautilus file manager has been patched to bring back some lost and add some new functionality. This includes direct file sharing over nfs via avahi, and some plugins like nautilus-actions and rabbitvcs.
All these changes will be documented in great detail elsewhere.


Choice is the key value in openArtist. To have more than one tool for one task is crucial, not only in terms of artistic freedom.FLOSS Linux is not perfect, and the chances that a task will succeed rise if you have more choice. If one program fails, one of the others will work. Also, the personal preferences mirror themselves in the tools which we use.


openArtist tries to go deeper then other distributions, in terms of preconfiguration, and in available software. That’s true for many other areas too, e.g the menu structure is much more diverse, the documentation has different levels (built-in in the lanunchers in the menu, editable mindmap, special topics essays).
For every usecase (I am a writer (which writing tools are out there? hmm ok, non distraction fullcreen writing programs, programs to help structurize a novel, …) , I am a freelancer (what does a freelancer need, apart from creative tools? timetracking tools, project management tools, money management, collaboration tools…)), it tries to provide the best set of tools, which are freely availabe for Linux.


OpenArtist also tries to think out of the box of FLOSS software only. While most of its programs are openSource, there are some programs which are available as freeware, public domain, abandonware, free Demos or run in the webbrowser. Some programs, also openSource ones, work quite well in Wine (the windows abstraction layer which allows for executing windows programs in Linux). Some have no real counterpart (yet) in Linux, actually work really nice in Wine, once configured right. And this configuration is already done in openArtist. Some commercial Programs are so widely used that the cannot be ignored, when there is the possibility to run them on Linux. So e.g Ableton live (demo) or TouchDesigner (free for noncommercial Use) are bound into openArtist. Then there are Programs which allow for using them with a special personal learning edition, or which feature free demos. If these are valueable additions and there is no real free counterpart in floss Linux for them, openArtist is including them.

How does this work? Redistribution of such software is prohibited. Basiclly openArtist has scripts which are launched before an application is started, and the scripts check if it is installed. If not, it pops up an install dialog. Through this mechanism, in some cases, no standard debian package gets installed, but a script will be run which will download and install the non-redistributeable application. As this alone is a bit unclean \ most of these scripts are themselves packed in to a debian package, e.g to provide a proper removing of the software.

As there is a growing list of linux-based commercial software available for artists, openartist tries to keep track of them, too, in a special mindmap document.