Open Source

10 small Linux applications I can't live without

The spotlight is usually on the bigger Linux players, like LibreOffice and Claws Mail -- but these little workhorses deserve attention, too.

Day in and day out, there are small (or smallish) applications I have come to completely rely upon. Without these tools, my job and/or my sanity would become precarious. These tools range from entertainment to administration (and all points in between). So I thought I would share my short list with my loyal readers. Check out these apps, then pick and choose those that belong on your must-have list.

1: Pithos

If you're a music fan like me, you probably do a lot of streaming from the likes of Pandora. The problem on Linux is that most of the Pandora clients are horrible. That is, all but one. Pithos is one of the best music clients I've used. It's small, simple, and reliable, and it allows me to quickly choose between my Pandora stations and easily create new ones. I use Pithos every day I am at my computer and would hate to go without it.

2: Kate

There are times when a full-blown word processor is too much for the job, such as when you're coding in the language of your choice. Tools like LibreOffice let you write HTML, but I find the resulting code to be horrible. And although Gedit is a nice similar graphical tool, Kate has more features and works with indenting better. Of course, for straight-up editing of configuration files, you can't beat the ease of use of Nano.

3: Terminal

I was going to list a particular terminal, but ultimately it doesn't really matter so long as there is a terminal window to use. And I do use this tool —- every day, in fact. There are GUI tools for most every action in Linux, but you just can't beat the command line for speed and simplicity. So instead of logging out of the desktop and logging into a command prompt (or opening up a virtual terminal), I prefer to fire up a terminal window like Gnome-Terminal, Konsole, or Eterm.

4: Simple Scan

Of all the scanning tools I've used, Simple Scan is by far the easiest. From this tool, you can scan documents and images and save them as either images or PDF documents. Simple Scan enjoys an incredibly simple interface that isn't bogged down with too many features. Simple scan simply scans, and that's it.

5: Gwibber

I depend on Twitter to promote my novels, so I am always connected. One of the tools I prefer to use (over the Twitter Web site) is Gwibber. It's less obtrusive than the Twitter site, and when using the Gnome desktop, the tool integrates into the system tray. Gwibber can even use the KDE notification system and will pop up mentions and retweets to keep you alert. Follow me!

6: Basket Notes

As a writer, having a tool to keep notes with is incredibly valuable. And Basket Notes does this incredibly well. It lets you add nearly anything to a basket, so you can stay organized in whatever it is you need — classes, tests, writing. You can even get creative with Basket Notes and use it to categorize things like hardware/software deployments. This is one of those pieces of software whose limitations are only bound by your imagination.

7: Brasero

Show me a Linux user who does not depend upon CD-burning software and I will show you a Linux user not used to Linux. Anyone who has enjoyed Linux for long knows that a common task is burning ISO images to CD. Without this task complete, the installation of Linux (and the handing out of Linux CDs to friends) wouldn't be nearly as simple. And as far as burning applications, there aren't many that are as easy to use as Brasero. I use it on a daily basis for either creating ISO images or secondary backup media.

8: Dropbox

There are two easy solutions for syncing files on multiple machines in Linux: UbuntuOne and Dropbox. The problem with UbuntuOne is obvious — it's only for Ubuntu (and Ubuntu-based distributions). So the best means of keeping machine directories in sync (especially when you're outside your network) is Dropbox. This enables me to get my work done from anywhere — a must-have without a doubt.

9: Lucky Backup

I can safely say that I back up a lot. And having Dropbox installed ensures that if a backup fails, I still have my most crucial documents on another machine. But even so, a good backup solution definitely helps give me peace of mind. So far, I have yet to find a tool as easy to use and as reliable as Lucky Backup. Yes, I've set up bash scripts and cron jobs for such tasks. But Lucky Backup makes the process so much faster and easier, anyone can have a powerful Linux backup solution.

10: Labyrinth

One of the tools that has managed to get me out of a writing jam more than once is Labyrinth. Sometimes, plots can get out of hand or wind up stalled. I have found that one of the best ways out of such predicaments is to use good mind-mapping software. What I like about Labyrinth is that it's incredibly simple and requires next to no learning curve. Just install it and start creating simple mind maps.

Other favorite small apps?

I use a lot of software on a daily basis. But generally speaking, the LibreOffices, the Claws Mails, and the Chromium Browsers get all the limelight. The little applications discussed here also deserve their share of attention. I hope that at least one or two of these apps will wind up on your "can't live without it" list. What other small apps have you gotten hooked on?

About Jack Wallen

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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