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 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.


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

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