Linux

10 must-have Linux office applications

Does Linux have what it takes to meet the needs of the corporate desktop? Jack Wallen thinks so. Here's his list of office apps that can handle everything from word processing to project management to data backups.

Does Linux have what it takes to meet the needs of the corporate desktop? Jack Wallen thinks so. Here's his list of office apps that can handle everything from word processing to project management to data backups.


Let's face it: Without a good set of office applications, your workday will be a waste of time. Productivity requires the right tools, and contrary to what some people think, Linux has everything you need to get you through the day without a hitch. We're going to look at applications that will satisfy everyone in the organization -- from HR to marketing to the front office.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: OpenOffice

This one goes without saying, offering word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database management, drawing, and Web page editing. Add to that the ability to read and write Microsoft Office files and export to PDF and Flash (among other formats), and you have a complete office suite that should meet every need your office has. The OpenOffice user interface has little to no learning curve, so users will hardly know the difference between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. OpenOffice is also cross-platform capable, with installation binaries for Linux, Solaris, Windows, and OS X (both Intel and PPC).

#2: Evolution

This is the Linux version of Outlook. Another one-stop shop, only this time it's all about the PIM. E-mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, advanced searching, desktop integration, shared vCards, junk filters, encryption, LDAP support, iCal support, and much more. And if your company uses an Exchange server, you're in luck because the Evolution Connector will be able to keep you connected. Evolution tends to be the default e-mail client for the GNOME desktop, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy Evolution on KDE (or any other window manager.)

#3: Scribus

This is desktop publishing at its open source finest. Scribus can do almost anything Adobe  Acrobat can do -- minus draining your wallet. Scribus does layering, opacity, ICC color management, CMYK color separations, and versatile PDF creation. With this tool, your newsletters, press packets, fliers, books, manuals, etc., are done in-house and on the cheap. I have used Scribus on numerous projects ranging from simple fliers to complex books.

#4: Gnucash

Gnucash is one of the best accounting packages available for Linux. It uses double-entry bookkeeping and is a suitable replacement for individual accounting as well as a small business accounting. Gnucash is one of the only accounting packages that is available across most all platforms (Linux, Solaris, UNIX, OS X, and Windows).

#5: OpenProj

This is the open source replacement for Microsoft Project. OpenProj has an equivalent user interface and functionality similar to Project and is interoperable with Project. OpenProj is released under the CPAL (Common Public Attribution License) license and is available for Linux, OS X, 32-bit Windows, BSD, and UNIX-like operating systems. OpenProj does require Java.

#6: Meeting Room Booking System

MRBS is a Web-based booking system for meeting rooms but can be altered to suit your needs. Although I wanted to include only applications that could be installed locally, I felt it necessary to include this application simply because it's so useful. For corporate environments that have multiple rooms to book, this small-footprint application is perfect. It can also be modified for use as an appointment book, too. MRBS can do repeated bookings, reports, DAY/WEEK/MONTH views, multiple authorization levels, and multiple language support. The installation is simple but requires both a Web server (Apache) and a database server (either MySQL or Postgres).

#7: GnoTime

Formerly GTT, GnoTime is a desktop application that tracks time spent on projects and offers time-based invoice generation. Numerous reports can be generated (Journal, Activity, Daily, Status, To Do, Invoices, Query, Primer, New Reports, Edit Reports), and the interface is simple to use. GnoTime also includes a diary entry editor for each project. With GnoTime you can embed simple SQL queries into report templates. In addition, GnoTime benefits from autosave. So in the rare event your Linux desktop crashes, your data is safe from loss. GnoTime runs on Linux, UNIX, and OS X.

#8: GIMP

I realize that graphics software isn't always included in lists of necessary office software -- but if your office does any of its PR or marketing in-house, graphics tools are a necessity. And when using Linux, GIMP is the de facto standard for graphics creation and/or manipulation. GIMP is to Linux what Photoshop is to OS X and Windows. But GIMP goes Photoshop one better because it's cross-platform ready. You can install GIMP on Linux, OS X, or Windows. It features a customizable interface, photo enhancement, digital retouching, hardware support, a huge range of file format support, plug-in support, its own scripting language, filters, and a host of other outstanding features.

#9: Pidgen

Many corporate businesses have started regarding instant messaging as a legitimate form of interoffice (or inter-cubicle) communication. And Pidgin is one of the finest of the instant messaging clients. Pidgen works with nearly all of the instant messaging services and can have multiple accounts configured. It's released under the GNU License, it's free, and it works on Linux, UNIX, Windows, and OS X. Pidgen supports file transfer, typing notification, spell-check, buddy pouncing, away messages, etc.

#10: K3b

What office doesn't back up data? None, if they employ safe business practices. And the CD offers one of the safest means of data backup. K3b makes backing up to CD simple. Not only can you do multiple backup types (audio, data cd, data dvd, copy cd, iso cd, iso dvd), you can save the backup information to a file. If you do the same backup regularly, all you need to do is open up the particular backup file and click burn. (No more having to drag and drop or hunt for particular files/folders to back up.) K3b can also blank CDR-Ws, retrieve TOCs, and write cue/bin files. K3b is available only for Linux and has been optimized for KDE.

This short list includes software that can easily handle much of your day-to-day office needs and do it on the Linux operating system. The software listed here is simple to use, reliable, (mostly) scalable, and business ready. Of course, this is a generalized list. Far more specialized office-type software is available on the Linux platform. One of the best places to look for such software is in your Install Software tool, such as Synaptic or Yumex. (The tool you have will depend upon the distribution you use.) Fire that tool up and look through the various categories (a good place to start is the "Office" category) to find what you need.

Linux is an outstanding platform for the office. It is flexible, cost-effective, reliable, secure, and enjoys a small learning curve. So if you're doubting Linux can take over your office software needs, doubt no more!

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.

27 comments
momofiona
momofiona

An Office suite Looks like Microsoft Office run on Linux and win. It's hot in china these days for some special reasonl. o_O???

tomofumi
tomofumi

Thanks author for telling me some less known apps (such as #3 to #7) even I've been using ubuntu desktop in office for over 2 years already.

gave
gave

It's Pidgin.im not Pidgen, you're linking to a cybersquatter using the Pidgin logo.

MWRMWR
MWRMWR

I download the latest Scribus in March and really tried hard with it and succeeded in producing a brochure eventually... but it was so broken (object names and properties getting lost and corrupted) and hard to use. I'll have another go as it really looked promising and I want it to succeed.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

So long as stupid people in charge continue to write stupid password policies, users are in desparate need of a (safe and secure) way to keep track of their ever growing, ever changing list of passwords. KeePass is extra cool because it will work on Lin, Win, Mac, Palm, Thumbdrives....

lklklk
lklklk

GnuCash is worth exactly what it costs... zip! Ever heard of custom report creation on the fly (GnuCash you have to program/write those yourself). Grisbi stomps GnuCash right into the ground--and in my opinion, is even better than Quicken.

DBonders
DBonders

Still waiting patiently for Evolution exchange connector to function correctly with a Exchange 2007 server...

swdswan
swdswan

I like the list, possibly because it is very close to my own list. I note you don't have a "note taking" application. My nomination is TOMBOY. I also use FREEMIND to track the information I collect. David Swan CTO DBiTS

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You didn't mention a web browser or a .PDF creation tool. I realize most distros will include a browser, and those aimed at a business environment will possibly have a .PDF tool, but they're far more essential than The GIMP.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Not just for user policies. Between websites, email accounts, personal servers, client servers, day job systems.. there are more than enough passwords to remember and using the same in multiple locations is not a brilliant idea. between portableKeepass on flashdrive and KeepassX on *nix systems and my PDA, I just pop open my password database from whatever front end I have handy. Password generation is very nice also.

IT_Juggler
IT_Juggler

As I often have to tell people around here, patience and persistence are not synonymous.

jdclyde
jdclyde

between FF and OO, got ya covered. B-)

Brian Doe
Brian Doe

You didn't mention a web browser or a .PDF creation tool. I realize most distros will include a browser, and those aimed at a business environment will possibly have a .PDF tool, but they're far more essential than The GIMP. ------------- Actually, PDF creation was mentioned in not one, but two of the listed applications. Both OpenOffice Writer and Scribus have full PDF-exporting capability that is every bit as good as what Distiller can create. Additionally, CUPS has Print-to-PDF. Good point about the browser though. Firefox is the de facto standard in most distros, but right now I am in the middle of a lover's quarrel with FF3, so knowing about alternatives would be a good thing.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I think Firefox is more well known than OOo so in terms of browsers, that one is pretty obvious provided your using http standards rather than ActiveX applets in your webapps. The other applications can be selected and installed after the base install but a browser is pretty much a fundamental component of any distro these days. Konqueror alone is a component of KDE. PDF creation is an area I'd like to see much more development in. I've yet to find anything that can produce a document as clean and asthetically pleasing as Adobe's tools. Anything else I've tried seems to produce a PDF with the feeling of being done by the Master's assistant while left alone with the forge and anvil. For PDF, using OOo's export function may be the best bet at present. Printing to PDF through CUPS does ok in second place. PDF Creater is left bringing up third place even after mucking with the config settings. Boo.. Boooo! (I hate having to wait until I'm at a Adobe enabled Windows box just to stamp out the news articles that are interesting enough to join my PDF library.)

Jaqui
Jaqui

all but IE are available for linux.. well IE and google's Chrome*. Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, lynx, links, elinks, dillo, konqueror, galeon are all browser options. *really, really stupid screwup somewhere, webkit, the html engine for chrome started out as khtml, KDE's native rendering engine, only INCOMPETENCE can explain why webkit doesn't build on linux.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Scribus - [i]Scribus can do almost anything Adobe Acrobat can do ? minus draining your wallet. Scribus does layering, opacity, ICC color management, CMYK color separations, and versatile PDF creation.[/i]

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

of Requiring the user to change passwords every 90 days. I would have to come up with 2 new unique hard to break but easy to remember "at least 8 character long - includes at least blah blah blah..." passwords every single freakin' day. Yeah, if it weren't for KeePass, I wouldn't do anything but manage my passwords all day. Too bad the next version is DotNET. Hopefully MONO will be ready for it by the release.

Brian Doe
Brian Doe

I very rarely have occasion to use an IM client, but when I do, I use Kopete. Not really sure why, as I use a Gnome desktop; I just do. That is one nice thing about Linux though. One is not tethered to a specific API. Gnome and KDE apps generally work pretty well together.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

How does it compare to Adobe created PDF? My grief is with finding something that lets me print to PDF as cleanly as Acrobat's virtual printer after my "copy to Word and clean up a little" process when needed.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Booo.. BOOOOOooo! Well, on Windows machines that's fine but I truly hope the do two things: 1 remain rational and keep developing the KeepassX code base for the rest of the OS world. 2 keep compatability of the database format. I previously used a different manager up until they broke database compatability between version releases and it sucked after as a result.

Brian Doe
Brian Doe

While some of that sounds like rendering issues (font scalability), those are some good points. I don't do much in the way of desktop publishing so I haven't noticed it. I'm curious to see how Scribus' PDF output compares to Distiller though.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

While documents do turn out ok I can see a contrast between a Linux.com print view webpage from IE > Adobe PDF versus Konqueror > CUPS PDF. It becomes more noticable when that PDF is then synced to my PDA for reading. Adobe's PDFs are much cleaner and seem to provide a more robust font when zoomed or at 100% with margins set properly to fit the screen. PDF Creator, OOo, CUPS.. I haven't found one that can produce the same quality for viewing. Not having Adobe is not an OS show stopper but when both tools are available, I still use Adobe too the point where I'll print an article to PDF the next day at work with it rather than the night before without it.

Brian Doe
Brian Doe

You mentioned wanting ability to print to PDF... What are you looking for exactly? CUPS has print-to-PDF capability, at least what's packaged with Ubuntu does. This means that anything that can be printed, from anything that uses the standard printer interface, can print to a PDF file - Documents, spreadsheets, web pages, email, whatever.