15 Must Have Linux Applications

Essential Linux apps for the efficient open source desktop.


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An operating system is of no value whatsoever without needed applications to get things done on a day to day basis. And even though this sounds obvious, it's something that is on the minds of many new Linux converts.

Will they be able to relinquish control over their tired, older legacy apps on the Windows desktops? While finding usable, Linux compatible alternatives?

In this article, I'll share fifteen software titles I use frequently -- often everyday. These are applications that quite literally make using the Linux desktop a real pleasure.

1) LibreOffice – Long before LibreOffice even existed, I was a big fan of OpenOffice. So my history with the software suite predates many folks as I've been a full time user of OpenOffice since day one.

Today however, LibreOffice is the preferred option for distributions looking to offer a cutting edge, dependable office suite to their users. My most commonly used applications within the LibreOffice suite are Writer and Calc. I use Writer because it's stable, provides me with strong control over my word processing documents and the options of installing extensions, and only further increases the software's functionality in my eyes.

The second must-have app that I use within the suite is Calc. For invoicing and budgeting, it's my goto tool for all of its spreadsheet power. Calculate, sort and compare – Calc is a fantastic spreadsheet option for today's modern Linux enthusiast.

2) Evince – An application that doesn't always make it into everyone's list, Evince is a PDF viewer that is fast and stable. In my humble opinion, I've found Evince to be a preferred alternative to Adobe's PDF viewer for Linux. It may have less options, but Evince makes up for it with speed and stability. Best of all, it comes pre-installed with many desktop Linux distributions these days.

3) gscan2pdf – Thanks to the SANE backend that comes with modern Linux distributions, scanning a document is usually as simple as connecting a scanner and selecting Simple Scan. And while it's a good application for scanning images, even supporting export to PDF, it's a pretty basic tool.

By contrast, gscan2pdf offers greater functionality, a better UI and of course, even supports network document scanners. In an enterprise environment, you're going to want to have access to gscan2pdf's capabilities. Another benefit to using gscan2pdf, is that it generally performs better, and works with greater stability for higher resolution scans.

4) Self Control – When you're on your PC, distractions are something you have to contend with. And usually, I am able to make the most out of my work time. But every once in awhile, like during big events that I might be tracking, I can get distracted. This is why I use an application called Self Control. It allows me to easily block specific websites, for a set amount of time. Best of all, once activated, it's very difficult to undo. So you won't be temped to simply turn off the app, should you wish to stop working and visit those time-wasting websites.

5) Kazam – Perhaps not an application that is going to be used by everyone out there reading this, but for me, it's a must-have. I have used a variety of screen capturing programs over the years on the Linux desktop. Without exception, nearly all of them were unusable. Worse, they offered poor results and left my recorded video looking over-compressed and grainy. Kazam is fantastic! It works well with most Linux audio connections, plus the video can be saved as WebM or MP4. Coming full circle, back to the audio connections, I love that it can actually record from two separate audio devices at the same time.

6) VLC – Whether I need a video player to view my own screen captures or perhaps instead I'm catching up on my favorite video podcasts, VLC is always my first video player of choice. This cross platform player plays practically anything, without needing to worry about which codecs are installed on your Linux distro. Everything that's needed is already included with the VLC application. It's also worth mentioning that VLC will also play DVDs, without any extra configuration. With this functionality, VLC saves me time and is hassle free. I know that any media file I throw at it will likely be played without missing a beat.

7) guvcview – Cheese, the photobooth app provided in many distributions, is garbage in its current state. The concept, layout and filters are pretty neat. But sadly, the application is a buggy, crashing, software mishap. Thankfully, there is still a solid solution for those of us using the UVC (Universal Video Class) powered webcams under the Linux desktop. Appropriately called guvcview, this software will provide you with much of the same photobooth functionality found in Cheese. The difference being, it won't crash or over-tax your CPU in the process of running. This software is capable of capturing still images and video recordings. You can even save your captures in a wide rage of file formats and codecs.

8) Pithos – Regardless of where you happen to work from, I believe that music can often help to avoid distractions. But one of the problems of managing an MP3 playlist, is that it can become a distraction in and of itself. Therefore, the next logical step might be to look to services like Pandora. The best way to enjoy Pandora on the Linux desktop in my opinion is through an application called Pithos.

Unlike listening to Pandora from within a browser, Pithos docks in your desktop's applet area. It allows you to easily change from song to song, while offering all the functionality found with Pandora in your browser. Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, is the lack of ads that show up within the Pithos client.

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Tags: Linux, Linux apps

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