Open Source

Free yourself from the command line with these 10 GUI tools for Linux

Can you finally break loose from the command-line tether? These 10 tools might do the trick.

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When I broach the subject of Linux with some people, their immediate response is, "I don't want to have to use the command line." Ten years ago, I would have understood their trepidation. Today, however, that response is no longer valid. Why? The Linux platform has so many outstanding GUI tools, the command line is no longer a necessity (especially for desktop users). In fact, when on a desktop, I rarely need to use the command line.

Here are 10 easy-to-use GUI tools that have replaced commands. Each one does a great job of standing in for the command line -- and in many cases, even adds features.

1: users-admin

users-admin is part of the gnome-systems-tool and replaces the commands for user management. If you're a Ubuntu user, you might find the default user admin tool a bit limiting. The "dumbed-down" version of the user administrator strips away the ability to administer groups. If you're a power user, you'll want to install the gnome-system-tools package to make up for that lack. With this tool installed, you'll never have to use the command line to manage users.

2: phpMyAdmin

phpMyAdmin lets you work with MySQL without touching the command line. For database administrators, the MySQL command line is a must. For those who don't consider themselves DB admins, a web-based GUI like phpMyAdmin is essential. With this tool, you can do nearly everything necessary to create, delete, and administer your databases.

3: Gnome Network Tools

Gnome Network Tools has been around for a while -- and for good reason. This tool replaces a number of often-used network tools. You'll find GUI front ends for ifconfig, ping, netstat, traceroute, port scan, lookup, finger, and whois. Having all of those tools in one handy GUI makes network administration much easier on Linux. Gnome Network Tools also makes using these standard tools a much more user-friendly experience.

4: Unity Dash

Unity Dash is much maligned, but it's one of the most powerful search tools on any desktop on any platform. With this easy-to-use graphical tool, you can search in multiple locations at once -- either local or online. Search results include applications, files/folders, multimedia, wiki entries, and much more. Many users complained about the inclusion of Amazon search results (so much so that this feature is now opt-in). If you want pure search power in a GUI tool, you'll be hard pressed to best Unity Dash.

5: GParted

GParted is one of the most powerful partition tools you'll find in Linux, command line or no. With this tool you can create partitions, format drives, grow/shrink drives, label drives, check drives, and a lot more. I use this tool to handle all my external drive partitioning. GParted can work with most file systems (btrfs, ext2/3/4, fat16/32, ntfs, hfs/+, reiserfs, etc.). If you need to work with a file system, you can't go wrong with GParted.

6: Gnome System Monitor

Gnome System Monitor is the tool you should grab when you have a rogue app sucking up memory or frozen. Instead of having to use the killall or kill commands, you can simply open this tool, highlight the app in question, and click End Process. No more will you have to remember what -9, sighup, or any of the other switches mean. This tool is as easy to use (but more reliable) than the Windows Task Manager. Granted, you don't get all the power available from the command line, but Gnome System Monitor will give you all the help you need to kill applications using a GUI.

7: Nautilus

Nautilus is a multi-talented file manager, offering built-in compression/decompression tools (to replace zip/unzip/tar) and all the file management tools you could need. One of the best features of Nautilus file management is that instead of having to copy/paste, you simply right-click an item and select Copy To or Move To to get the file or folder where you want it.

8: Déjà Dup

Déjà Dup is what you want as a desktop backup. It does an outstanding job of taking snapshot backups and storing them locally or even in a remote location (including cloud services, such as Amazon S3 and Rackspace Cloud). With this tool you'll get secure, encrypted backups without having to touch rsync and other backup-centric commands. Deja Dup also offers scheduled backups (so no having to deal with cron).

9: glogg

glogg is a treat for those who need to pore through system logs. It makes it easy to explore your system logs with the help of the grep and less commands. Anyone who has had to dig through system logs knows it can be one heck of a chore. With glogg at the ready, that chore is far easier.

10: GdMap

GdMap can be considered the Linux equivalent to Windir Stat. It provides a graphical view of what is eating up your hard drive space. This tool keeps you from having to research or create complex regular expressions to search for file size. And having the graphical representation makes the task of understanding what's gobbling up your space so much easier.

GUI or command line?

Linux doesn't have to be as complicated as the command line can be. I've been using Linux for nearly two decades and have, over time, used the command line less and less. In fact, I find most distributions let you unfetter yourself from the command line.

What do you think? Does Linux lose its power when the command line isn't used? Or is losing its dependency upon the command line a good thing for the open source platform?

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.

15 comments
mtarkowski
mtarkowski

Very interesting products.  Did not see the light with any of these.  Maybe in the future.

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

"Here are 10 easy-to-use GUI tools that have replaced commands."

Replaced? The commands have gone away and are unusable?
Buitremx
Buitremx

It's funny, after 8 years of switching to Linux, I barely use the CL for my daily tasks on my home computers. On the other hand, when my clients (I do tech support) started being forced to switch to Windows 8 (when buying new equipment), I also started using the CL when remoting into their computers to troubleshoot, since I don't own a Windows 8 computer and I didn't want to take their valuable time with me looking around for stuff that I needed to work on. And several of them, after watching me using it, asked for some commands to run themselves!


So the world goes round and round again.

jmward
jmward

Linux is quite usable in terms of GUIs rather than the command line, but then it has been for a long time.  Most of those mentioned have been around for a while, and are now standard on many repos.  But...

1) GdMap current version is 0.8.1, released in 2008!  And it doesn't work any more on Ubuntu/Linux Mint systems - it won't produce a result, and tells me I have 128 TB of storage.  I wish!

2) Gnome System Monitor is also a standard - and the current 2.0.4 was released in 2003!

3) GParted is great, and has been available for a long time - I keep a live Ubuntu 10.04 CD around just to use it from.

4) Gnome Network Tools is fine, currently maintained, and standard.

5) Nautilus is not really a good example of a Linux GUI tool, because it's very basic.  Compare it with Caja and Nemo, which both have:


    a) A dual-pane display (F3, or View | Extra Pane), which enables you either to drag files between panes, or right-click them and select Copy/Move to | Other Pane;


    b) An Up button which takes you one level higher towards the root in the folder hierarchy - amazing that Nautilus doesn't have this, and yet is standard on the latest Ubuntu!;


    c) the facility to open a folder as root by right-clicking on it and selecting Open as Admin/Root.  If you then open a root folder from the new window, you can edit, for instance, /etc/environment directly in the text editor and then save it, which you wouldn't normally have permission to do.  You can't do this in Nautilus, so your only option is the command line.

6) And everyone uses phpMyAdmin surely, it's a browser-based tool, not a Linux GUI!

Twilight23
Twilight23

Why would I want to "break free" of the command line? It's an extremely efficient way to do a lot of things.

jmward
jmward

Linux is quite usable in terms of GUIs rather than the command line, but then it has been for a long time.  Most of those mentioned have been around for a while, and are now standard on many repos.  But...

1) GdMap current version is 0.8.1, released in 2008!  And it doesn't work any more on Ubuntu/Linux Mint systems - it won't produce a result, and tells me I have 128 TB of storage.  I wish!

2) Gnome System Monitor is also a standard - and 2.0.4 was released in 2003!

3) GParted is great, and has been available for a long time - I keep a live Ubuntu 10.04 CD around just to use it from.

4) Gnome Network Tools is fine, currently maintained, and standard.

5) Nautilus is a particularly bad example of a Linux GUI tool, because it's very basic.  Compare it with Caja and Nemo, which both have:


    a) A dual-pane display (F3, or View | Extra Pane), which enables you either to drag files between panes, or right-click them and select Copy/Move to | Other Pane;


    b) An Up button which takes you one level higher towards the root in the folder hierarchy - amazing that Nautilus doesn't have this, and yet is standard on the latest Ubuntu!;


    c) the facility to open a folder as root by right-clicking on it and selecting Open as Admin/Root.  If you then open a root folder from the new window, you can edit, for instance, /etc/environment directly in the text editor and then save it, which you wouldn't normally have permission to do.  You can't do this in Nautilus, so your only option is the command line.

And everyone uses phpMyAdmin surely, it's a browser-based tool, not a Linux GUI!
    
In other words, unless you've been living in a cave for the last few years, there's nothing new here, no changes, and no particular reason to advertise now the GUIs that have been part of Linux from way back.  Short of material for articles?



tkainz
tkainz

While I personally don't have too much of a problem with the command line - being brought up in the DOS dark-ages, I do feel that the command line can be too intimidating for the general user and one of the things which may still be scaring away many people whom might otherwise be willing to consider the jump to one of the many  well-crafted Linux distros.


I would (unfortunately) not be too surprised and even expect the GUI versions to not be as fully functional as what you would be able to do from the command line but would "hope" that there is enough functionality to make using the program worthwhile.  Window's is no different with that respect.  There are more than a few Window's "Apps" which I found to be a waste of the installation time due to their limited functionality and I immediately went back to the desktop version.


I do think though that only when the "average" prospective user can do all that they "need" to do from a GUI interface will Linux really start to take off.  The command line needs to be an available option for advanced users only and not a requirement for ANY reason for the prospective "average" user.

guitarmanvt
guitarmanvt

There are two types of users: those who shouldn't mess with the command-line (typical desktop, business users) and those who shouldn't be allowed the excuse of not understanding it (developers).


I'm not sure the first class of user really should be messing with disks, although gparted is a nice tool even for an experienced developer. So, it's a balance.


The major failing with GUI tools is the lack of standardized tool-chaining support. You get that for free with command-line tools, simply by using pipe (|). Without the ability to tool-chain, you lose the ability to automate. 

Case-in-point: There used to be a site called "Real Men Don't Click", where unix sysadmins tried to automate Windows from the command-line. It proved to be so impossible, thanks to Windows' dependence on GUI tools, that the site foundered and died.


Please, let us not go down that road!
water-man
water-man

Dont forget Gadmin-Samba, or the CUPS webinterface for managing your printers

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

I don't know about you, Jack, but I'd rather pore through logs than have anything pouring through them.  ;)

extremeskillz
extremeskillz

Nice list Jack. On my ubuntu servers I use WebMin. Being web based I can administer the remote system from anywhere.

bobp
bobp

@jmward - I must have living in a cave. I was aware of a couple of these and use G-Parted, but was unaware of the rest. Thanks Jack!

knuthf
knuthf

@tkainz - I do not like the term "Command Line Interface", and usually respond that this does not exist in Linux. In Linux you use a shell, like "bash" or "csh", that contains more than just commands, but also allows loops and branches, to allow powerful scripts to be written allowing tasks you do frequently to be condensed into one script - with arguments like any other application. This makes the shell a tool for the system programmers, and not for the desktop user. It is not like the Windows "CLI" that is an opening to the underlying MSDOS. 

Jody Gilbert
Jody Gilbert

@NickNielsen Jack has the lamest editor ever! Fixed now... thanks. Time to pore myself a cold one. :)

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