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The 10 best cross-platform applications

In this cross-platform world, you need apps that can handle whatever systems you're supporting. Jack Wallen lists the cross-platform applications he thinks are indispensable.

From Windows to Linux to Mac and back, it's becoming more and more difficult for companies to pin themselves down to one single platform. As a result, we need applications that can span those various platforms. Here are 10 of my favorite cross-platform applications. How do they compare to your own list?

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

1: Firefox

There is little doubt that one of the most popular cross-platform applications is Firefox. No other browser has come as close to usurping Internet Explorer as the reigning king of the Web as Firefox has. A good cross-platform browser has become essential, since so many applications and services are now handled online. Thankfully, the rise in popularity of cross-platform browsers like Firefox has helped ensure that companies don't lock down their sites and services to a single browser.

2: OpenOffice

Applications like OpenOffice enable those who can't afford Microsoft Office to function in a business (business-like or educational) environment. OpenOffice is one of the pillars of the open source communities and is one of the most important cross-platform applications available.

3: TeamViewer

If you do any support, you know the importance of a good application that allows you to remote into a client's machine. There are plenty of them out there; some of them are cross platform by way of being used within a browser. But few of them are truly cross-platform applications. TeamViewer is one such beast. With a client for Windows, Linux, Mac, and iPhone, there will rarely be a client or situation you can't support.

4: Adobe Reader

There's no shortage of PDF readers out there. And for every platform, there is a unique PDF reader. But none of those unique viewers offers the quality and ease of use that Adobe Reader provides. It is the standard for PDFs, and with clients for just about every platform, it's a clear winner over the competition.

5: Chrome

Never before has a Web browser caused such a buzz. Not only did Google Chrome turn heads, but it also gave the competition reason for concern. Google Chrome is fast (the Linux version has been tested as the fastest rendering Web browser on any platform), it is stable, extensible, and as cross platform as any other browser (not called IE).

6: Thunderbird

If you're looking for a stand-alone email client and you need it to traverse the landscape of all your platforms, look no further than Thunderbird. Thunderbird is a true emailers' email client. With its slick, tabbed interface, you will find no email client that looks and performs as well across your operating systems. And like its cousin, Firefox, Thunderbird is theme-able and has a vast repository of plug-ins to make it even more useful.

7: Apache

Apache is one of the most-used Web servers in the world. When you add to that the fact that you can use Apache on Windows, Linux, and Mac, it's hands down the winner among Web servers. And to top it off, Apache is free. How can the competition win against such a mighty contender?

8: MySQL Workbench

Although this tool is new to the world, you will not find a better database administration tool anywhere for any platform. With this MySQL admin tool, you can work your MySQL magic on all platforms. The only downfall? For some platforms, you have to use the development release. But according to my experimentation, the development release is as stable as any other database admin tool available.

9: VMware

Although I am a HUGE fan of VirtualBox (which is also cross platform), VMware can be used across platforms for just about any reason. From a single user wanting to experiment with other OSes to massive enterprise rollouts, VMware can do pretty much anything. It's proprietary, but it's worth every penny.

10: VLC

You will be hard pressed to find a more flexible, useful media player than VLC. VLC is available for Linux, Mac, Windows, *BSD, UNIX, Solaris, and more. It can play nearly everything and even do it across a network. It has a tiny footprint, it's open source, and it's free. What more do you want in a media player?

Your turn

These are some of my favorite cross-platform applications, and I think they offer the most across-the-great-divide bang for your buck. But I'm sure some of you have other ideas about the best cross-platform applications. Share your own picks with your fellow TechRepublic members.

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.

109 comments
sunsetbay4me
sunsetbay4me

recently a file was needed that had been saved in the archived in PDF format. Adobe could not open it even though it had been used to create it. Foxit opened it with out any problem and allowed us to resave it. Adobe can now open that resaved file.

redermor
redermor

Scribus, Skechtup, Qcad, Izarc, Httrack,

Alan Henderson
Alan Henderson

Inkscape is an excellent vector graphics app. Linux/Windows/Mac. Top class free Illustrator replacement.

hernang7542
hernang7542

I was impressed with Chrome's speed and efficiency on Mac but the current version has one major gap. No Java support in the mac version. That almost makes it NOT cross-platform friendly.

pmdoyle65
pmdoyle65

I have been looking at and comparing browsers for years and always come back to Opera. It is the fastest and most secure out there. Currently it can be used on Windows, MAC, Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris. The settings and the amount of control you have is second to none.

bill-waisnor
bill-waisnor

Multiplatform, open-source editor Audacity

Fel-x
Fel-x

Adobe Reader? It must be a joke... It's huge, slow and full with security holes

mcooper
mcooper

Google Docs is probably the ultimate cross platform app.

derek
derek

I agree.... for one lifetime license I earn good money supporting folks with this cross platform client that is always reliable and quick... glad to finally see it in some lists...

parnote
parnote

If you are trying to install a multimedia player that does not pull in a lot of outside dependencies and libraries, look somewhere else other than at VLC. I have an Xfce desktop environment, and prefer to not pull in all the QT3 and QT4 dependencies. There is, unfortunately, little to choose from that is uses nothing more than pure GTK+ libraries. Now if someone could port VLC over to a pure GTK+ version, I'd be all over that.

fallout330
fallout330

Firefox, Thunderbird, Teamviewer and Sun VirtualBox....all the way!

gtorborg77
gtorborg77

Why this doesn't make their top 10 list is beyond me... unless it's just because there isn't a Linux version. This nice desktop database has been cross platform (Mac/ Windows) since 1993.

bng44270
bng44270

How interesting that 6 out of the 10 are 100% open source software. Chrome is based on an open source software package and that's almost as good.

dr_noir
dr_noir

lastpass.com plugin for all platforms. It even does iPhone, WebOS and Windows Mobile! Secure passwords, links to all the sites you're registered in and portability, what else could you want? Oh, did I mention it's free for desktop use? ;)

brockers
brockers

I saw number 4 and basically ignored the rest of the list. There is no way the author can have any credibility if he lists Acrobat as a good anything... Bob

balcornc
balcornc

It's not often that I agree wholeheartedly with an editorial or article such as this, but in this case, I do. I have used all of these applications except for TeamViewer, and have found them all to be stellar.

joe.nagel
joe.nagel

SecureZIP allows you to ZIP/Encrypt data files, and move them (in any direction) between mainframe, iSeries, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, Linux and Windows.

Petetm
Petetm

Notes is getting there but Domino has been solid and OS agnostic for years.

spearson@8herons.com
spearson@8herons.com

Anyone know of a USB stick password manager program that works on Windows, OSX and Linux that doesn't require a separate program for each OS?

ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898
ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898

FileZilla, PuTTY, PySol FC, Tortoise SVN, Perl, Python (ok, so those aren't apps, but still...), even some Linux commnd line stuff has been ported to Windows and even Mac.

lduvall
lduvall

I like FreeMind and am using it under Linux and Windoze. Same goes for Password Gorilla.

dalexnagy
dalexnagy

Add KeyPass to the list to manage the the ever expanding population of passwords.

shahdan
shahdan

My list would be these: Firefox, OpenOffice.org, Audacity, xampp, vlc, GIMP, Pidgin, LBreakout2, Dia, HTTrack, etc..

dgoranss
dgoranss

Here's my list. I use Mac, Ubuntu and Windows (work only) so cross-platfrom software has been important to me. I'm very glad to see that there are so many great applications that are also free to use: Firefox DropBox OpenOffice Skype - no need for MSN FileZilla Google Earth Stellarium Virtual Moon Atlas TrueCrypt TeamViewer WireShark VirtualBox VLC Audacity GIMP Stella - yes I belong to the Atari generation Wine/Locknote Note really cross-platform but very useful. I store much of my sensitive data in a LockNote file stored in my DropBox. Locknote is a Exe-file but with Wine it runs fine on the machines I use. I use VMWare more than VirtualBox, I just put it last to have the above list completely free. What I would like to see as cross-platform: SketchUp Kstars - why I really started using Linux. Spotify Geany Steam - coming soon?

mullachv
mullachv

If you do development work, eclipse is ideal

rcyaris
rcyaris

how come no one ever mentions OPERA as the fastest browser on earth?

hwntrglobal
hwntrglobal

NTRsupport Ultimate for multi-agent teams supports Linux, Mac, Windows, smartphone for admins. To test and see complete list of cross platform support, please visit www.ntrglobal.com/ntrsupport.

martian
martian

except for that large file limitation. Try to see if it displays any files at or nearing the size of a full or partial dvd. (not sure of the cutoff, but it`s over a gig or two) Then I'd venture to think it'll drop down a few notches on the list. I just reluctantly had to revise my previous 1st choice of ftp software also, based on this which I discovered recently. We use ftp to transfer dvd images of programs at work such as Autodesk products and they fit that description. Imagine my surprise when I was told, `yes, it`s there and I can see it`... I`ve had to switch to Core FTP lite to compensate. Hope this helps.

Alan Henderson
Alan Henderson

for the infuriating way it displays Bookmarks. Your Bookmark tree is always fully expanded. It's hopeless if you have more than a few dozen bookmarks. Bookmarks apart, I'd prefer it over Firefox which seems to be getting slower and more prone to the dreaded "not responding".

pmdoyle65
pmdoyle65

That is an issue with Chrome. Again one of the nice to Opera. You can tweak each site that you go to to be java enable or not. It is not just a browser wide control setting and that is nice. Load and play with and test it on certain sites - http://radar.weather.gov/ridge/Conus/uppermissvly_loop.php - a radar loop of the Mississippi valley suing java. In IE it takes forever, but chrome not so bad

ralph.bacon
ralph.bacon

Yes, Lotus Notes (owned by IBM) is highly underrated and works across multiple platforms from IBM mainframes, through Linux and of course Windows. Poorly marketed it is now being overshadowed by MS SharePoint. A great pity that MS did not take over Lotus rather than IBM doing so, IMHO!

coloncm
coloncm

Remember that this is mostly a Windows environment technology website, but you're not alone. eclipse has been around for a lot longer and/or is more popular than any on list below 3rd place. With all its features, components, add-ons or plug-ins, integration with other large-scale products, and cost (he, he), there shouldn't be an argument.

gwcarter
gwcarter

Eclipse is a superb IDE with facilities for everything I do, from COBOL to Java. It does suffer, though, in the cross-platform area in that it has no version for my i86 Solaris machines.

nicsimmons
nicsimmons

LastPass is one of those simple programs that truly speeds up everything I do online. On every device I own.

coloncm
coloncm

There just happen to be different versions of it so that it'd support web browsers. Despite its apparent capabilities, I wouldn't consider Acrobat reader cross-platform, and it should be taken from the list.

abenitesvil
abenitesvil

Yeah... What about VUZE?. I used it on Linux (Centos & Ubuntu), Mac, Windows... and i think that Vuze is a great torrent manager.

david_baird14
david_baird14

Domino is THE best cross-platform application for any enterprise worth its salt

jeffpk
jeffpk

There are versions of KeePass 1.x for both Windows and OSX. I just put both on my USB drive and run whichever I need from there. KeePass 2 actually is .NET, so it is cross platform IF you install Mono on your Mac.

marcdw
marcdw

Yeah, Vim is one of those editors I always make sure is installed regardless of the OS.

prj
prj

I also use Netbeans especially now PHP is fully integrated.

ian3880
ian3880

See comment 13 above ... :-)

atodd1985
atodd1985

Just ditched NTR Support from our network in favour of logmein, however we are windows only clients. Found NTR slow, often losing connection, sometimes connecting but not loading any of the remote image. We didn't have ultimate though so I guess that could also have been a factor. Needless to say after such a bad experience I wouldn't touch it again in a hurry.

mattohare
mattohare

Adobe has loads of faults. I'd be one of the first to say it. (In fact, in this thread, I think I was.) However, it is multi-platform. One problem I have with it (no MDI in current versions of Reader) is because they want Reader to operate the same on all of the platforms. To them, I'd say that if I wanted a Mac, I'd have bought a mac.

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