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 Today, however, that response is no longer valid.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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.