Open Source

10 obscure Linux apps you should know about

The diversity of Linux apps can be a bit overwhelming -- and it's easy to overlook some of the smaller gems out there. Here are a few useful apps you may not have heard of.

If you've ever taken the time to dig through the vast collection of Linux software titles, you know it's easy to get lost among them. And with so many pieces of software available, it's hard to know which ones are worth trying. So to help you out, I created a list of 10 of my favorite lesser-known (but very useful) tools available free for the Linux platform.

I chose a variety of tools to help you get an idea of what kind of smaller apps are out there. Let's take a look at these helpful apps so you can decide which ones would be of use to you.

1: Regexxer

Regexxer is a unique tool for those who need more power from their searches. With this tool, you can use regular expressions to search documents (or code) and even use regular expressions to replace the found text. Although you need to have mastery of regular expressions, the GUI for this tool is quite easy to use. If you need help with your regex, here's a quickstart page to get you going.

2: GNOME System Log Viewer

GNOME System Log Viewer is a great little GUI for viewing the various log files on a Linux system. Not only does the tool format the logs in an easy-to-read layout (easier than a text editor), it offers a filtering system that makes digging through lengthy log files much easier. The UI is straightforward; just remember that to view the majority of the system logs, you must have admin privileges.

3: Computer Janitor

Computer Janitor gives you a fast way to see which packages on your machine are no longer supported -- and if necessary, it will remove them. The UI is clean and simple and does not cause the app to lose anything in the way of efficiency. You simply check the apps you want to remove, read the quick information given, and then click Do Selected Tasks.

4: Gigolo

Gigolo is one of those simple networking tools you will be thankful you discovered. It manages SSH, Windows shares, WebDAV, FTP, and Obex connections. Once connected, you can browse the share within the default file manager of your desktop. This application is part of the XFCE Goodies package.

5: Gnome Network Tools

Gnome Network Tools is a great little tool that houses GUIs for some of the most often used networking tools: Ping, Netstat, Traceroute, Portscan, Lookup, Finger, and Whois. From each tool's tab, you can run the command with the help of an-easy-to-use GUI. You can also get information on each networking device installed on the machine (including MAC address and packets sent/received).

6: GtkDiskFree

GtkDiskFree lets you know how much used and free space is on each disk connected to your Linux box. With GtkDiskFree, you can view the used and free space on drives as well as mount and unmount them. You can also configure the GUI (to an extent) to make it look and behave the way you need.

7: Kodos

Kodos is a Python regular expression debugger. What does that mean? You can use this tool to create, test, and debug your regular expressions. This tool is a must-have for developers whose applications take advantage of regex. The author of Kodos also encourages users to contribute to the Regex Library.

8: Basket Note Pads

Basket Note Pads is a KDE application for organizing, creating, and sharing notes. But this isn't just your everyday note-taking tool. You can embed sound, links, pictures, and more into your notes. Basket Note Pad also makes it easy to share notes with other Basket Note Pad users, as well as reuse data between notes. If you're still unsure of what this application is used for, think of it as an open source replacement for Microsoft OneNote.

9: Configure-Debian

Configure-Debian is an easy-to-use front end for the Debconf package. With this tool, you can easily search through all installed packages that use Debconf for configuration and rerun the configuration tool. This is handy when an installed package (such as Apache or MySQL) needs to be reconfigured as if it were being installed for the first time.

10: Graphical Disk Map (gdmap)

Graphical Disk Map (gdmap) is the open source equivalent of Windir Stat. When you need a simple visual representation of the drive(s) attached to a Linux box, this is the tool you want. With this tool, once you know what is consuming your drives, you can act accordingly.

Other favorite apps?

There are so many tools in the Linux-verse, it can be hard to know where to begin. I hope this short list of applications demonstrates that there are, in fact, outstanding tools for Linux users -- its' just a matter of knowing where to begin.

Have you come across some obscure Linux apps that you can't live without? Share your picks 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


For Ubuntu, I find these invaluable: * Grub-customizer -- published via Daniel Richter's PPA. Graphical set-up of GRUB entries, allowing you to edit the stanza titles, hide unwanted boot stanzas, change the ordering of stanzas, group in sub-menus, change the splash screen size, etc. Excellent tool. * nautilus-open-terminal -- Nautilus extender to open a terminal in the given folder. * Byobu -- 'screen' on steroids. Look up either 'byobu' or 'screen' if you don't know what these "super shell" tools are. * gprename -- group file renamer. * FWKNOP -- Super-secure firewall knock operator, using SPA to open a given port for an originator at a given IP number. I use it to unstealth SSH ports for entry. * testdisk -- reconstruct deleted/overwritten/lost/damaged partitions. A lifesaver...


This is a nice list, but it might be a good idea to include an indication if the tool is distribution specific. It doesn't make sense in the Linux world to assume that everybody is running Ubuntu. e.g. #3, Computer Janitor.


I prefer Ubuntu Tweak over Computer Janitor - at least the versions through 10.10. Computer Janitor has destroyed my system more than once. In the later versions, such as Mint 12, it loops forever cleaning up "older kernels" and never cleans them up.


iftop is a command-line system monitor tool that produces a frequently-updated list of network connections. By default, the connections are ordered by bandwidth usage, with only the "top" bandwidth consumers shown. cURL is a computer software project providing a library and command-line tool for transferring data using various protocols

I have a few that aren't anywhere NEAR as "tech-geek-guru" centric.....: Beesu - I dont evne know what it really IS.....but when I wanted to delete a folder and was gettingt an error message that it was unable to be deleted......moved....etc. I ran this and then it disappeared, I think it's some kind of "Menu Editor" for your Main menu selections that appear when you right-click, because the option to "Change Owner & Permissions" wasn't there UNTIL I ran it! BleachBit - The best thing for my Fedora 17 machine since the Linux kernel! Everytime I run this app my machine emerges as if it's almost new. It gets rid of a lot of "fluff" that builds up over time. GParted - The best tool for partitioning hard drives....both internal and network attached....hands down a necessity for any admin's Linux Tool Kit! ClamAV - It may be hard to get it up & running, but once you do, it helps provide peace of mind just knowing that SOMETHING is minding the store and that no one can just waltz right in unannounced!


I'm too busy or lazy to try a lot of new things. Reading someone else's stuff every now and then helps a lot. There are two of these I am downloading now. Thanks.


Nice list (Bookmarked). :) The regular expression debugger (Kodos) looks like it should be really useful (since I basically don't know anything about regular expressions).


is a Root Launcher, there are others as well but this one only works in Fedora based systems as far as I know. Its a graphical alternative to opening a terminal and using 'su' It creates a Root session that you only need to password into the first time, it then runs in the background and launches tasks with Root privileges when you need them from a mouse click. I have to say, this is a pretty stupid thing to have laying around. If you need to be root to do something that you cant setup your user for, you probably shouldnt be doing it for starters. And if you know this, then you'd be logged into a terminal anyway...


Does much the same thing. And, from my logged-in terminal, I can run gksu there, too.

Editor's Picks