Software

10 cross-platform tools that can make your job easier

With mixed-platform environments on the rise, you need tools that can handle whatever systems you're supporting. Here are 10 invaluable cross-platform applications.

I work in multiple environments throughout the day. Most of the time I am working on Linux. But occasionally, I have to hop on over to a Windows machine for various reasons (usually to help an end user resolve a problem). When I do this, I am thankful there are plenty of cross-platform tools available. These tools range from standard desktop tools to server-based applications.

I'm not talking about Web-based applications served up by one platform to all platforms. I'm talking about applications that can actually be installed on a variety of platforms and run natively. These are the bread and butter of my work, and the fact that they're available across platforms makes life much easier. You may be surprised to find out that these tools are available for multiple platforms. As they say, you learn something new every day.

1: FileZilla

FileZilla is one of the best FTP clients out there. Filezilla offers an outstanding GUI FTP client for all platforms and an FTP server for the Windows platform. The client software has plenty of features, including: Supports FTP, FTP over SSL/TLS (FTPS) and SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), IPv6 support, tabbed interface, powerful site manager, drag and drop support, filename filters, directory comparison, and much more.

2: MySQL

MySQL is, like Apache, one of the most widely used database servers on the planet. MySQL drives sites like Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Xoops, and a host of other CMS, ERP, and HRM sites. And for those currently running SQL looking to migrate, MySQL now has a simple to use migration tool to ease your switch. MySQL offers clustering, outstanding GUI admin tools (see below), and one of the most reliable and usable database servers available.

3: The Gimp

The Gimp is one of my favorite graphics applications. Most people are shocked to find out that The Gimp is available for all platforms (minus Android and IOS). It's a powerful image manipulation tool with enough filters and features to suit any level of user. The Gimp can please nearly any graphic artist without the funds for Photoshop. NOTE: The Windows version of The GIMP is looking for some solid developers to help with the project! If interested, contact the team through the Gimp Developer mailing list.

4: Audacity

Audacity is the cross-platform tool for editing audio. If you're looking for the best software to record your podcasts, regardless of platform, this is what you want. I've been using Audacity for years to record the Zombie Radio podcast (NSFW), and it has been a stellar tool. Not only does Audacity record, it also is one of the best audio conversion and editing tools you will find. Audacity also includes plenty of effects and filters.

5: AbiWord

AbiWord is a simple word processor. Why would you want to use a one-trick word processor? Abiword is small, fast, light, and offers plenty of features. AbiWord has been carefully written so that it can be run on any platform. AbiWord also includes a handy collaboration tool that is tightly integrated with AbiCollab.net and allows for easy sharing of documents with other AbiWord users.

6: Zimbra Desktop

Zimbra Desktop won me over quickly. With its unique ability to aggregate multiple streams of information (email, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), it provides a one-stop-shop for all your email and social feeds. Zimbra can also connect to Exchange, making it a great replacement for Outlook. Of course, you could take this one step further in your organization and use the Zimbra Collaboration Server and get rid of Exchange all together.

7: Claws Mail

Claws Mail is one of the fastest, most versatile email clients you will ever use. Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve when you try to make Claws go outside the boundaries of the standard email client. But that's when it really soars. With Claws Mail, you can do things you never thought an email client could do -- on Linux, BSD, Solaris, and Windows (sorry Mac users). Claws Mail also enjoys a good number of plugins to expand the flexibility of this powerful mail client.

8: SpiderOak

SpiderOak goes beyond the other cross-platform cloud sync/backup tool, Dropbox, by letting you fine-tune exactly what is backed up. Unlike Dropbox (where you're limited to the Dropbox folder), SpiderOak allows you to back up multiple folders and even preserve historical versions of files and folders. SpiderOak also allows you to share folders with its ShareRooms using RSS. SpiderOak gives you 2 GB free and then charges $10.00 USD per 100 GB.

9: GnuCash

GnuCash is the go-to open source, cross-platform accounting tool. It offers tons of features (double-entry accounting, stocks/bonds/mutual fund accounts, QIF/OFX/HBCI import, transaction matching, scheduled transactions, financial calculations, and more) and is the perfect solution for small businesses without the budget for QuickBooks or Peachtree.

10: TightVNC

TightVNC is an outstanding VNC server that enables you to remote into desktops of nearly any platform. It's free for both personal and business use and available for Windows and UNIX. TightVNC includes a Java-based VNC client along with the server. TightVNC is also compatible with standard VNC software, so if you don't want to make use of the Java-based client, you can use your client of choice.

Other picks?

Being cross-platform is going to become a crucial component to software in the coming years. Alternate platforms, such as Linux and Mac, will be rising in popularity as Windows begins a slow, steady decline. If you aren't already taking advantage of cross-platform applications, I suggest you start getting your users comfortable with them. It's what the future is about.

Do you have a favorite cross-platform app to add to this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

33 comments
mla_ca520
mla_ca520

I use Libre on my Linux box (my primary box). At work, we are Windows and I use MS Office and have Libre installed, because they still don't play well together. I have to say though, that while I like Libre and have used Open Office, it is no where near as good as MS Office. This is one area, where I'll MS their due. Their office suite is superior by a long shot to anything else I've seen out there. (except for Access, why not use a real DB with a web front end?) The other application that open source software is far behind is photoshop. MS Windows doesn't hold a candle to any Linux Distro I've used recently. I really like Manjaro now. I have some MS certs, but am more interested in proceeding with RH certs now. But in terms of Office suites, MS takes the cake. Now for the caveat: While I do think MS Office is hands down the best office suite, I do NOT think it is worth the money. Libre Office or Open Office are definitely mature and good enough to substitute for MS Office. The quality of those two apps is more than sufficient to justify saving several hundred dollars for word processing, spread sheets and slide show presentations. I haven't found a good substitute for MS Project. And regarding Visio, I'm no aficionado, but I am perfectly happy, so far, with Libre Draw.

phandaman
phandaman

If only I knew how to change the interface language or find a source describing how to go about it. Documentation certainly is not its strongest point, very frustrating :-(

russelleeadams
russelleeadams

?? Your recomended sources for these ?? 'My SQL ' (now [2013] March;) Express version now an Oracle Product, IS available for download from CNET downloads.com HOWEVER a PLETHORA of fellow traveler 'parasite' Browser hijack nuisance software installs FIRST & the CNET Download Manager is just a "traffic cop/taxi driver" subroutine!!!!!!!

cmaritz
cmaritz

... how did I NOT know about this?!?!?! Been trying it for a few days, and I'm a fan! Thanks Jack! C.

blatanville
blatanville

Has anyone got a suggestion for a cross-platform (preferably FOSS) document repository solution? Our small business is getting to the point where a dropbox share just isn't cutting it for sharing and versioning documents anymore, and we might be ready for a locally-hosted, web/net/vpn-accessible document repo with versioning, check-in/check-out, search, and simple organization, etc.

blatanville
blatanville

I've tried it numerous times over the years - the interface still seems amateurish. I recognize that the power might be there to accomplish amazing things, but it's obscured by a frustrating interface. At least they finally let you go into "one window" mode...

jimmyhelu
jimmyhelu

Just for the record for folks making the choice between Jenkins or Hudson - they're basically the same thing except, Jenkins is the original developer fork that occurred when Oracle took over Hudson, Hudson support petered off under Oracle's control and Jenkins was the stronger of the two. However, Oracle has recently gifted the Apache project with Hudson - so it is yet to be seen who will be the stronger seed, but right now Jenkins is the strongest.

gabbynizri
gabbynizri

Obviously this is something missing here, IT Process Automation tools (a.k.a. Runbook Automation) are essential for the day to day life of IT operations, same as you need VM's or SQL management tools etc...

mauited2004
mauited2004

An obvious CPA to me is between iOS and Android. Maybe I am behind the times with my knowledge but tracking a Droid from my iPhone was not possible and showed me some limitations so far with all this rapid tech explosion.

crowleye
crowleye

Our remote tech would connect to our network thru the vpn, then use TightVNC to remote into the helpdesk Mac, and finally use ARD to assist Mac users. Convoluted, but it worked and the remote tech could get away with just having a windows laptop. OSX 10.7 Lion ended that, the tech can't connect to the mac anymore, at least not consistently and not without someone in the building going to the mac constantly to clear caches and reset settings. We haven't been able to get any other VNC to connect Win7 PC to Mac OSX 10.7 since. Does anyone have a reliable alternative?

Crash2100
Crash2100

Oracle VM VirtualBox is another sweet program that you can get for free. You can literally run a computer inside of a computer, the program even supports running your own VM Servers! https://www.virtualbox.org/

anil_g
anil_g

LibreOffice Vim DB2 StrongSpace DuckDuckGo

mla_ca520
mla_ca520

I've tried both and though it is personal preference, I really like libre. What do you prefer about abiword? Do you know if tight vnc comes with the same security probs that other vnc clients / services have?

dunestrider
dunestrider

Unix timestamps are the number of seconds since January 1, 1970. A MySQL timestamp is in the form of YYMMDDHHmmSS (year, month day, hour, minute, second).

A-mantra
A-mantra

I have a query, What’s the difference between Unix timestamps and MySQL timestamps? If anybody will answer, It will be very helpful.

SpanishGuitor
SpanishGuitor

KingSoft Office Suite 2012 is a killer app. Try it is free!!

gcanny@GC-Tek.com
gcanny@GC-Tek.com

LibreOffice is better that OOo and M$ Office... and it's free too!

register2@optonline.
register2@optonline.

Openoffice (openoffice.org) is as good if not better than Microsoft Office, and it's free.

steve
steve

When I saw the title on the TR email I thought "oh good, cross platform tools to make my job easier" after all I deal with Win & LX stuff. After reading the article, though, I am a bit disappointed. Apart from VNC which I have already ditched in favour of Teamviewer, all the rest of your list seem to be applications, not tools :(

tonyisyourpal
tonyisyourpal

... and it's the major one made use of when MySQL is in the room. I'd rather use a DBMS that showed rather more respect to my data than MySQL generally does. And no, in this particular case it doesn't necessarily mean SQLSwerver or Orrible either.

dunestrider
dunestrider

I've been using MySQL as a mission-critical database in my business since 2005. Absolutely flawless and fast. I also set MySQL up on a BSD server back in 2003 for a local company, using Microsoft's Access as the front end for the database. Again, flawless, fast and reliable. I've notice that detractors generally think that Microsoft's SQL Server think that database is the only game in town.

tonyisyourpal
tonyisyourpal

Re. the notion that MySQL is "... one of the most reliable and usable database servers available." Only one riposte to that really : UPDATE credibility SET value = 0 WHERE author = 'Jack Wallen' AND subject = 'database servers' AND content LIKE '%tosh%'; COMMIT;

fifidonkor
fifidonkor

I tried MySQL again last year. After it insisted that an auto-incrementing integer field I had created be the Primary Key of the record, I dumped it (I mean it wouldn't let me designate any other field besides the auto-inc integer field as key). PostgreSQL still does everything I need, is free (as in free beer) and works perfectly for me. That plus PostGIS. And though I actually develop mainly in .Net I never touch MS SQLServer.

anil_g
anil_g

There's a whole class of "engineers" in the market with Microsoft certification and that's all they know. They are not actually educated in I.T. in a general sense they're just trained like monkeys to click the right buttons to keep Microsoft servers running. They don't actually understand sysadmin and networking outside of the Microsoft context. They're really more aptly described as "users" not "engineers". These are the people who say that Linux is a "toy" OS and that MSSQL is the only enterprise database. We need to have sympathy for them and slowly inform them about the real world. It's painful for them because they've spent years of their lives on their training and it's hard to acknowledge that what you thought was professional state of the art engineering is just Microsoft advertising.

thebaldguy
thebaldguy

If you'd shelled out thousands of bucks in licenses, you'd be blowing the SQL Server horn yourself! I thought I read somewhere that Google runs on MySQL?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Wouldn't be my first pick from a straight technical point of view on windows, or off it.

pap.gas
pap.gas

Would you be satisfied if the title had the word "applications" instead of "tools"? I guess you are trying to make a point but it is unclear what you want to say . . . Have you anything to suggest but expressing your disappointment?

bobc4012
bobc4012

that they are "graduates" of that program advertised on the radio and TV - about "their" computer careers. From what I read is they pay big bucks to learn how to pass the Microsoft certification tests and then told they should have no problem getting a job in IT.

dunestrider
dunestrider

Actually, Google has their own proprietary database. For some reason, they decided to create their own database from scratch.

bobc4012
bobc4012

referring to applications like GIMP, Audacity, GNU Cash, etc. While they have equivalents that run across systems, they normally would not be useful in an IT shop. For example, PING is a useful cross-platform TOOL. While I, personally, won't quibble about the wording. in the title, technically Steve is correct. A tool is a hammer, a screwdriver, etc., like ping. What was described is more like a "specific-use toolbox", containing the "tools" to accomplish a certain type of job. I am not going to come with "cement mason" tools to paint someone's house or rooms.

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