Open Source Law Student

open source student As I edge ever closer to the dreaded LLM territory, I’ve been giving increasing thought to an idea I had earlier this year re my computer needs on this course and whether using open source solutions is a viable option. Can a law student successfully get by with just free open source and cloud-based options and still turn in the multitude of essays and other work required? Would I really trust Open Office with my precious dissertation or, God help me, Google Docs? Is either option even man enough for the job? Given that the latter doesn’t even support the inclusion of footnotes, I think we can quickly answer that.

So as the world heads further and further down the path of the cloud computing paradigm, much has been made of whether the traditional desktop apps are already becoming obsolete. Opinions differ of course, though I think the consensus would fall on the side of ‘we’re not there yet’. Probably, not by a long shot.

I’m certainly very curious as to whether I can survive studying an LLM using just open source software, underpinned by a battery of online cloud-based services. I certainly don’t have the unwavering confidence to place all my eggs in the open source basket and will be dual booting with Vista. But that being the case, will I resist the temptation of resorting to the tried and tested commercial programs from Microsoft, Adobe and the rest? I think I can guess the answer but it still promises to be an interesting experiment. Albeit possibly a short one.

While I haven’t definitively decided on the programs and services I’ll be using, my proposed line-up looks something like this:

  • OS: Ubuntu – Hardy Heron or Opensuse 11..... probably the former.
  • Office Productivity: Open Office ...If I hate writer, there’s always Abiword I suppose .... :-\
  • Email: Google’s Gmail – I’ve been using this since mid 2004 anyway!
  • Calendaring: Google Calendar
  • Web Browser: Firefox 3.x – again I’ve been using Firefox as my primary browser since early 2004!

Roll on September so we can get this party started. Or something like that! Sigh.


  1. If it is of any interest all of my CPE law notes are on Freemind.

  2. I gave Freemind ago last year on the LPC and couldn't get on with it. There are some better options out there for mind mapping .... all 'paid' though! Smartdraw is meant to be a better option - I think that's the program that some schools give to their dyslexic students too. There's a free trial version on their site but I haven't personally checked it out.

  3. That's a fascinating approach, I've never really heard of someone focusing on only Open Source software as far as law school's concerned, I tend to look at whatever I have that dose the task I need that'll do the task.

    I nearly used OpenOffice but at the start of my LLB there was an offer for Office 2007 Ultimate that I figured wasn't too bad and gave me OneNote which is a program I've not seen replicated anywhere else.

    Personally, as long as a word processor has footnotes and prints I'll use it for doing my essays, but there's nothing quite like OneNote, which keeps me bound to Office.

  4. I too have been used to using Office 2007 and equally like you, have been a lover of Onenote. I remember when Microsoft first revealed the new program back at Comdex in 2002 and was immediately excited about how and when I might use it. After testing the beta extensively, I went on to use the 2003 version quite a lot throughout my law degree, although, somewhat strangely, didn't so much for my LPC.

    Now that I've weaned myself off of it, I might stand a chance of switching to an Office alternative that doesn't sport such a program. After all, as you point out, there is no competing product quite like it on the market right now.

  5. I've only heard bad things about the Open Office (mainly, compatibility issues with Word), so I think for now I'll carry on using my Office 2000!

    Anyway, why are you creating all these difficulties for yourself? :)

  6. Because I'm a glutton for punishment, Andro. You should know that by know :-P

    ....and I'm just curious to see if it really can be done. :-)


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