Ubuntu is a new experience for me (at least, new outside of the Mac). With previous Linux distros I was always fiddling or fixing some niggle, with Windows I still find myself either trying (usually in vain) to get something working the way I want it, or just trying to ignore the irritation. The Mac isn't particularly configurable but the defaults are good and usually what I would want anyway.
But the big difference with Ubuntu is that it works so well out of the box that I can really concentrate on getting stuff done, while still being configurable enough to be personalized.
With this in mind I am going to start talking about some of the applications I use on a regular basis that give me a real productivity boost. Many of these applications will work not just on Linux but on Windows and Mac too (making them even more powerful in my opinion). The first of these is FreeMind.
If you are not familiar with the concept of mind-mapping, the idea is to capture thoughts, structures, outlines and so on in a semantic diagram - similar in many ways to outlining but more powerful (mainly because it is less strictly structured).
I really adopted the technique when I started writing articles for Developer.com a while back. I had used outlining and mind-mapping techniques a little before that, but the article writing was the real impetus behind making it part of my routine. That's when I discovered the Java application Freemind which is a completely free and open source solution for mind mapping.
The podcasting book I am currently writing was fully outlined in Freemind before I started the process of actually writing it, and it really helps keep the flow of writing going. Of course, things change during the writing process, but Freemind has some good features for re-arranging the maps easily with drag and drop, so it is not just a static item once created.
Freemind is not the only option - some related interesting applications include Conzilla which is closer to a diagramming organizational tool, and another one that I just can't remember the name of (used it for a little while then dropped it due to bugs) which was more like TheBrain from windows, but free and written in Java.
In truth though, FreeMind is the best of the options (at least for me). It is fast and easy to use and these days I don't write anything longer than a couple of pages without using it.