Must have Ubuntu Packages

A list of top "must have" Ubuntu packages, along with an explanation of why you need each one.
Posted December 5, 2016

Matt Hartley

For most people, any default Ubuntu installation will meet their needs. Ubuntu provides users with Web browsing, email, along with various communication tools right out of the box. Heck, even basic backups are provided...although you must take the time to configure it.

Putting all of that aside for a moment, let's consider which "must have Ubuntu packages" aren't included by default. In this article, I'll share my top list of must have Ubuntu packages and explain why I rely on each of them.

PulseAudio Volume Control is a must have Ubuntu package – The provided volume controls for Ubuntu are fine, but the PulseAudio Volume Control is far superior and is absolutely a must have Ubuntu package. The default sound tools provide for all or nothing control. So if I am listening to a podcast for example, the default sound controls will show the name of the application in the Applications tab and I can use the Output tab to switch devices, however it does so for all sound using applications.

With the PulseAudio Volume Control, I can actually send the podcast to a USB headset while keeping everything else audible from my default sound card. Same level of control is available with the PulseAudio Volume Control when working with inputs. PulseAudio Volume Control provides me with Monitors for each output device. This is extremely helpful when recording audio.

Tilda is a must have Ubuntu package – Even in the last bit of 2016, you'll still find the best way to troubleshoot a problem or resolve one comes down to working with a terminal. The reason is that it bypasses the nonsense seen with a GUI wrapper. This holds true not just with Ubuntu, but with all operating systems - even Windows. Think about it – ipconfig /release /renew vs "the troubleshooter." The commands will always give you readable output helping you to figure out the problem.

Using Tilda, you'll have access to a light-weight drop down terminal window that is only visible when you want it to be. If using a terminal is a common practice for you, then you'll likely agree that it's a must have.

Simplenote is a must have Ubuntu package – Arguably you could suggest that another popular app could also fall into this category. However I think that for those who are not already invested into an existing note taking app, Simplenote is the best choice. It's available on iOS/Android, their website and of course as a native installation with Ubuntu.

What I like about it is that the hierarchy for sorting can be chaos and Simplenote embraces it. For example, I can use tags to make things easily sortable or just use the search function. Using the search function is great as I can just use a keyword from the note to locate stuff. Plus, Simplenote supports markup and allows me to pin stuff to the top of the list. It's dead simple to use, doesn't force me to sort things in any kind of order and syncs up across all my devices.

Simple Scan is a must have Ubuntu package – I may not do a ton of scanning with my HP all-in-one, but I do need reliable software that doesn't mind working with a wireless scanner. Thankfully my needs are more than met with Simple Scan. It's a simple to understand GTK app that makes scanning documents and pictures, simple. Some Ubuntu-based distros offer it by default while some do not. Therefore I thought it was important to mention it as a must have package.

In addition to simple scanning, Simple Scan also works with feeder-based scanners. Lastly, it also allows for simple in-house editing such as page rotation and cropping.

X2Go is a must have Ubuntu package – I'd also accept NoMachine as a solution (big fan of it as it just works), X2Go is great as it's a FoSS application that provides you with the powerful way to remotely access another desktop. Using the NX protocol, X2Go is a very responsive and secure way to access your desktop from anywhere with an Internet connection.

One of the neat features about X2Go is that you can either access the remote desktop as the already logged in user or as a completely new X session. This is a nice way of issuing updates to a family member's computer without them having the desktop "taken over" in the process.

Telegram is a must have Ubuntu package – I'll be among the first to admit that I avoid instant messengers like the plague. And despite my distaste for all things Facebook, family is generally contacted through Facebook Messenger. But my friends and contacts have learned I prefer to be reached over Telegram.

Telegram's strongest focus remains with text based communication in real time. This means any message sent to me via Telegram is received on my phone and on my PC, at the same time without any delays. Additional features include message search, smart notifications, a unified history and fantastic file sharing capabilities (even with larger files).

Bleachbit is a must have Ubuntu package - System maintenance is very important. Yet at the same time, most of us are lucky if we have enough forethought to setup a reliable means of data backup. This is where Bleachbit comes in! Designed to clean your Ubuntu installation of any extra stuff that's no longer needed, you simply select what you'd like to permanently remove and make it happen.

Bleachbit's common uses are: to free up disk space, improve system performance and provide you with an optimized system that's ready for compression if you so desire. I personally rely on Bleachbit to get rid of old data and keep my Ubuntu databases down to a minimum.

What are your must have Ubuntu packages?

Even if you're using another distro, odds are there are some applications that you simply can't live without. I want to hear about it. What say you? Which applications or libraries do you rely on to get your work done? Let's hear it! Comment below and share your must have packages.

Tags: Linux, Ubuntu, Linux desktop

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