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20 Linux Alternatives for Common Windows Applications
Datamation ^ | 5 July 2011 | Matt Hartley

Posted on 07/06/2011 4:42:51 AM PDT by ShadowAce

Looking for Linux alternatives to Windows software? Here are twenty choice Linux apps you might want to consider.


1- LibreOffice: Some might point out that Oracle's own Open Office is still very much an option, but the fact is that Linux distributions are or have already migrated to LibreOffice in its stead. Unlike the proprietary-friendly Microsoft Office, LibreOffice offers the end-user much of the same functionality without the added cost of proprietary licensing. However, the biggest downside to LibreOffice has to be the lack of proper formatting support when opening a Microsoft docx document. While the document may be supported, chances are fantastic that the previous formatting won't hold.

2- GIMP: It's been my experience that you either embrace GIMP software or run PhotoShop in WINE as an alternative. Speaking for myself, I've found that GIMP offers most of the functionality one looks for with an image manipulator. The only real issue I've ever found with GIMP is that PhotoShop users refuse to learn about its differences. I think most of the aversion to using GIMP is familiarity and laziness. Others will likely see this differently, though.

3- Swiftfox: One might think of Swiftfox as a version of Firefox that is fine-tuned for your PC’s architecture. Designed exclusively for Linux enthusiasts, the project has produced some promising results for several years now. The biggest single advantage over Firefox releases 3.x (and backward) is the speed provided. At this point, however, the future of the project looks really spotty. According to some recent indicators, it seems the project may be in trouble, and a new Firefox 5.x based release looks very unlikely. Then again, it's entirely possible this long lived project could pick back up despite current setbacks.

4- Open Shot: I've found that Open Shot is easily my favorite video editor for the Linux desktop. If someone is looking for a solid Windows Live Movie Maker type of software for Linux, Open Shot should be the first place to look.

With fantastic transitions and video/audio effects, Open Shot offers a little something for everyone. Open Shot's video editing is simple and doesn't need any added time with the help manual. The only real downside to using Open Shot is that it lacks some of the advanced functionality offered by its KDE counterpart, Kdenlive.

5- Network-manager: Regardless of which desktop environment you happen to use, you’ll find that network-manager makes connecting to the Internet a straight forward process for Linux users. Even though the front-end applets and interfaces may differ from desktop to desktop, in the end you'll find that the experience is universally comparable to that of managing wired/wireless connections on the Window desktop.

It has been said that, in some ways, the Linux options offer a greater degree of control. The biggest hurdle that I've come across is that Linux wireless support can be hit and miss.

6- Evolution: I may be going out on a limb by suggesting Evolution as a practical Microsoft Outlook alternative. Then again, if you're seeking a reliable way to connect to Microsoft Exchange without relying on IMAP, Evolution is pretty much "it" for that goal.

The downside to Evolution is that compared to its KDE counterpart Kontact, Evolution looks like something from 15 years ago. Not only that, but Kontact offers a better layout to the features provided, as well. Sadly though, the last fifty or so times I've checked, Microsoft Exchange support for Kontact was only half done. Then again, it's entirely possible that OpenChange is changing all that.

7- F-Spot: Despite Ubuntu's choice to start including other, less useful options by default, it and other distributions continue to offer the Windows Live Photo Gallery alternative known as F-Spot within its repositories. The best of the included features offer a powerful yet simple interface that allows each person to edit and color correct their photos.

Albums, tagging and sorting – F-Spot can do it all. The biggest issue I have with it is the lack of photo stitching functionality that is offered by its Microsoft counterpart.

8- gtkpod: On the Windows platform, iPod users rely on iTunes for management of their iPod devices. But for Linux enthusiasts, this can be a bit more complex as there are different ways of handling music management or iPod formatting. While other software runs many of the same libraries, gtkpod has consistently provided a solid way of managing older iPod type devices.

The biggest downside to the software is the lack of updated iOS support. It's an Apple problem: each time the libraries are updated on the Linux side, Apple releases another update putting things back to square one.

9- Rhythmbox: Just as gtkpod is a great management tool for some aspects of the iPod, like iTunes, the music management side of things on a Gnome desktop is best suited for Rhythmbox.

For handling music management, creating playlists and having access to the album art to your music, Rhythmbox is very solid software. Bundle that with some fairly compelling plugins that do stuff like allowing for Pandora playback, it's easy to see why Rhythmbox is such a huge hit.

Plus, music stores are generally provided, Linux distribution depending. However, the single biggest let down with this software is not being able to sync your recently updated iOS device with it.

10- amaroK: Unlike Rhythmbox, amaroK is a lot more attractive to look at. Offering the same kind of functionality as Rhythmbox, I've found that amaroK goes a little further for KDE desktop users in that you can find scripts to try, in addition to the available plugins. To the end-user, this simply means even greater functionality.

So even though amaroK suffers from the same iOS headaches as other software thanks to Apple updates, it's still the best from the music management point of view. I'd even say it's better than iTunes from the perspective of overall music control.

11- Evince: Life without Adobe Acrobat Reader does exist! Even though the Adobe PDF reader has a Linux option available, there is a much faster and more user-friendly option called Evince. Faster, more stable and perhaps even more desirable than its Adobe counterpart, I've found Evince to be the best option for handling PDF files on my Linux box. The only real issue I've discovered while using Evince is an apparent problem working with editable PDF files.

12- Gnash: Like most people, I'm not a big fan of the Flash plugin for my browser. It's slow, CPU intensive, and even recent fixes leave much to be desired, as it's still a stability issue for many Linux users. The alternative is known as Gnash. It's designed to offer much of the same functionality as Adobe Flash player.

Yet I'd remind you that it's still a pretty young project and not necessarily going to meet with all of your expectations. I'd instead put most of my focus on HTML5 in the future. I think Gnash isn't really going to be the answer to Flash we had all hoped for.

13- K3b: Having used a number of disc burning programs available on the Linux desktop, I'd suggest that K3b is the best available at this point. Those who are familiar with Nero from their Windows desktop will feel at home using K3b. Much of the same file/music/ISO burning functionality is found here.

Based on my usage, the only thing I'd love to see added is a Blu-ray burning option. Not asking for the playback of DRM content, rather ripping data to Blu-ray discs instead. Considering Nero for Linux offers this option, I'd love to see K3b offer the same if possible.

14- Inkscape: Because not everyone is ready to use an Adobe product, users of the Linux desktop are left to think outside of the box. This means that instead of using Adobe Illustrator, for example, you’re more likely to find Inkscape providing much of the same functionality. Like with anything, there are going to be different approaches between the two software programs. But for someone not schooled heavily in Adobe, learning to use Inkscape is very simple.

As for possible disadvantages, the only thing I would point out is that Inkscape is much "simpler" than Adobe Illustrator.

15- BlueGriffon: Microsoft Expression is a popular option among those on the Windows desktop, but Linux users might be wondering what the closest thing to it would be for them. Having looked at half a dozen different options, I've found that BlueGriffon is best suited for HTML5, has decent extensibility options and just generally provides a good new-user experience.

The only real issue I found with this Expression alternative is that it's still very young. Just make sure to update often and grow with the project for best results.

16- Ekiga: Skype is a must have for many people out there looking to video chat with their contacts. And why not? – there is a working Skype client for all three major platforms, including Linux. But with Skype now owned by Microsoft, it might be time to begin looking more closely at Ekiga as a viable alternative.

The single biggest buzz-kill I know of with Ekiga is the lack of real client support for OS X. Software listed as compliant with Ekiga is either dead in development or simply doesn't work all the way.

17- FreeMind: Windows users have found MindManager to be very effective in making sure that creative ideas are brought forth in a visual sort of way. And thanks to FreeMind for Linux users, this goal can be accomplished without the extra price tag or needing to be run a non-Linux operating system.

Like many advanced applications that are run on Linux these days, FreeMind is run with Java. To most people this is not a problem, but to others looking for mind mapping software, Java is a show stopper.

18- Filezilla: Running SmartFTP is common among the Web designers on the Windows platform, but cross-platform Filezilla does so much of the same thing that it almost seems silly to use anything else. I've actually found that Filezilla seems more reliable than the other FTP clients I’ve used on Windows.

Add to it that it looks the same on any platform, and my feelings aren't hurt at all. Some users will likely be able to help me out with this, but I haven't been able to find anything I dislike about Filezilla in its recent releases. It has everything I could want from a decent FTP client.

19- Empathy: Only a year or two ago the world was ablaze about Digsby being the greatest instant messenger client out there. Back on the Linux front, I've found that Empathy works just fine for my needs. Not only that, but I can keep my social network logins in a separate client called Gwibber instead of piling them all into one. For me, perhaps the biggest advantage to using Empathy over Digsby is being able to use video chat.

20- Gufw: Like Windows, both the Gnome and KDE desktops have a number of great tools to set up the best firewall settings the user could need. And while Windows users have the Windows built-in firewall, Linux distributions such as Ubuntu offer something called ufw. By itself, it's easy to use from a command line. However, I've found tossing in the Gufw front end can go a long way toward making firewall control even easier.

TOPICS: Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: linux; windows
I'm posting this because I've noticed several people asking about alternatives to their Windows programs. Several of these (like LibreOffice) are available for the Windows platform as well.
1 posted on 07/06/2011 4:42:57 AM PDT by ShadowAce
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To: rdb3; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; GodGunsandGuts; CyberCowboy777; Salo; Bobsat; JosephW; ...

2 posted on 07/06/2011 4:43:25 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: rdb3; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; GodGunsandGuts; CyberCowboy777; Salo; Bobsat; JosephW; ...

3 posted on 07/06/2011 4:44:20 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce
6- Evolution:

The name kills it. If they need me to use it they need to call it something else.

4 posted on 07/06/2011 4:56:31 AM PDT by varmintman
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To: varmintman
Sorry to hear that. I use it constantly, and it has always worked for me just fine.

It has nothing to do with the humanistic theory, BTW.

5 posted on 07/06/2011 5:00:24 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

Thank you for the list. It would be nice if there were something like a Wikipedia page suggesting Linux alternatives to common Windows applications, with specific “best recommended programs” broken down by the Linux distro upon which they are to be run.

I’d like to add Cinelerra as a Linux movie editor suggestion. Its user interface is complex, its appearance daunting, but that’s because it is the highest featured GPL movie editor extant. It’s kind of like the cockpit of a jet rather than the dashboard of a car. But there’s a lot of documentation online, both as text and on You Tube. There’s even a web site “Cinelerra for Grandma.”

6 posted on 07/06/2011 5:15:30 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Hawk)
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To: varmintman

With a name like that, I’d be wondering whether it would keep “evolving” on me, so every time I think I’ve conquered it, the next update would throw me a new monkey wrench.

7 posted on 07/06/2011 5:19:20 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Hawk)
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To: HiTech RedNeck
I've played around a little bit with Cinelerra. Like you mentioned, it is more like a jet than a car. :)

But it does seem pretty full-featured.

8 posted on 07/06/2011 5:40:09 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: varmintman
The name kills it. If they need me to use it they need to call it something else.

Uh, okay. It's a very capable email client. What is wrong with the name?
9 posted on 07/06/2011 6:37:00 AM PDT by randomhero97 ("First you want to kill me, now you want to kiss me. Blow!" - Ash)
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To: ShadowAce
Hi ShadowAce, good post, very helpful list.

The criticism common to Linux "alternatives" to proprietary software will always be that the free version doesn't have this feature or that feature, or isn't compatible with the latest from the proprietary vendor.

OF COURSE! Proprietary software vendors make little money on initial sales, which are often heavily discounted. Most of their revenue comes from paid upgrades to newer versions. And how does the vendor entice existing customers to upgrade:

  1. Add new features, sometimes providing useful functionality, but more often making the product ever more bloated or packed with confusing options.

  2. Make a new version incompatible with older versions. As soon as a few new customers have bought it, the rest are more or less obliged to do so.

  3. Withdraw support for older versions.

You notice that proprietary software vendors like Adobe, Microsoft, and even Apple (who is primarily a hardware vendor) utilize all three of these methods. All of the methods are perfectly legal and indeed are good business practices for forcing customers to keep current.

So it is no surprise that the free "alternatives" will always be playing catch-up. It's the nature of the beast, not some shortcoming of free software per se.

I mention this point because a lot of people complain that free software generally lags the proprietary offerings, because they fail to understand the nature of providing "alternative" software in a competitive marketplace.

10 posted on 07/06/2011 7:02:46 AM PDT by dayglored (Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!)
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To: ShadowAce
11- Evince: Life without Adobe Acrobat Reader does exist!

I haven't used Acrobat Reader in Windows since I discovered Foxit Reader years ago. Much smaller than Adobe and has more functionality. Plus it let's one add typewritten notations to a PDF file....and it's free.

A lot of good software packages in this list though. I'll have to install some and see how they work.

11 posted on 07/06/2011 7:11:14 AM PDT by Bloody Sam Roberts (If you think it's time to bury your's time to dig them up.)
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To: dayglored
Excellent point regarding the nature of software alternatives.

I, personally, have no need for the latest "feature" or version of any particular piece of software just to have the latest. If the feature seems useful, then I'll upgrade. This usually occurs during an OS upgrade--a new filesystem (usually), or faster boot system.

But with individual applications? Almost never. I accept upgrades for applications that run on my chosen platform, but I do not choose my platform based on certain features of applications that are available on multiple platforms.

12 posted on 07/06/2011 7:13:02 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: Bloody Sam Roberts
I'll have to install some and see how they work.

Please report back here your findings. I am quite familiar with some of the apps listed above, but others I have not heard of before.

Also, if you have other suggestions, feel free to add them to the list!

13 posted on 07/06/2011 7:15:13 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

I’ve found GIMP to be clunky, but hey it’s free.

14 posted on 07/06/2011 7:51:17 AM PDT by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: ShadowAce
A few programs thatmake my life easier:

keepassx - a password manager. It's kind of like PasswordSafe, and can read its files if you need to.

pidgen - an IM client that understands just about every protocol on the planet.

quanta plus - a non-wysiwyg html editor. This is a highly customizable program that produces really clean HTML code.

vlc - for watching vids. there are both windows and Linux versions, and Mac versions as well I think.

celestia - a universe simulator. also Mac/Windows versions. You don't really know how big the universe really is until you try flying through it at just the speed of light. Also check out the Celestia Motherlode, which has tons of extremely cool add-ons.

gonvert - a front-end tothe 'units' utility. Want to know how many cubits there are in a light year? No problem!

Actually, the sheer number of unique utilities available is mind-boggling. Of course, many require some familiarity with the command line, but with a little effort, you can do things fairly easily and quickly that would be almost impossible to do with windows unless you're a decent programmer.

15 posted on 07/06/2011 9:04:56 AM PDT by zeugma (The only thing in the social security trust fund is your children and grandchildren's sweat.)
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To: ShadowAce

The problem with Linux/UNIX systems is that their products are named like they were named by a nerdy 16 year old trying to be different or cute.

If you look at product branding it is important not to name products something like ‘K3b’ or ‘amaroK’ if you want to get mainstream attention. UNIX names always sound like digestive system noises.

16 posted on 07/06/2011 9:21:08 AM PDT by CodeToad (Islam needs to be banned in the US and treated as a criminal enterprise.)
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To: ShadowAce

Thanks. Nice work. Some of these, I use even on Windows Machines, like GIMP.

If you ever update this, you might consider doing it a format like, “If you use MICROSOFT OFFICE, you might want to try...”

That way, your readers could look for the programs they use. Also, you could also provide multiple options, like LIBRE OFFICE and OPEN OFFICE, if you thought there was an argument to using OpenOffice instead of Libre Office.

17 posted on 07/06/2011 9:49:58 AM PDT by dangus
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To: ShadowAce


(Archived for Usefulness)


18 posted on 07/06/2011 10:10:10 AM PDT by bajabaja (Too ugly to be scanned at the airports.)
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To: ShadowAce
Great list Ace.

Since I do not need Exchange, I use Thunderbird w/ Lightning for my email/PIM - Much better for me, and is cross-platform, so it is a good trainer model for windows folks getting ready to jump to nix... Tho none of the nix apps (including Evolution) are very good at syncing (to portables, and etc).

Agree with you on Gimp, which I have grown to love. It is, however, a bit eclectic, and I can see where folks might have less patience with it than they ought to... But that patience is rewarded greatly. GIMP is cross-platform, and runs in Windows too.

Also a big fan of Pidgin, at least in my portable environments... though for the biggest two IM networks (YIM, MSMess, and facebook too), Yahoo makes a nix compatible YIM, which may be a more familiar interface. Skype users have the convenience of cross-platform too, IIRC. Pidgin is also cross-platform, and as an IM, can run almost any IM network simultaneously.

One of the biggest buzz-kills is bookkeeping software - and it is the hardest to transition. Let me humbly suggest GnuCash as a very sturdy and feature rich alternative, fit for any size business (or at least it has been for those I consult for (SOHO and under fifty emps)). GnuCash is also cross-platform, so Windows users can acclimatize using the Windows version. And most will have to acclimatize - It is more like MYOB or PeachTree than it is MSMoney or an Intuit product... But I have found that independent bookkeepers (and there is the biggest worry) can very easily handle the transition, and ALL that I have turned on to Gnucash wind up offering it as an alternative to all their clients.

As an active proponent of moving folks over to Linux, I have found the jump to be more palatable for my clients if I get them switched onto cross-platform softs as much as possible before the jump is made, tackling one thing at a time, so their equilibrium can be maintained. With in 3 to 6 months, with the major software having already been transitioned while in Windows, the main transition into a Linux Desktop Environment is relatively painless.

19 posted on 07/06/2011 11:11:21 AM PDT by roamer_1 (Globalism is just socialism in a business suit.)
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