Linux

The five most bloated Linux applications

Some Linux apps have become as unwieldy as their non-Linux counterparts. You may still want to use them -- but be prepared for a sluggish experience.

I knew this day was coming... the day when a Linux application could begin to suffer from that horrible disease so many other applications suffer from on other platforms. Bloat. What is bloat? Bloat is the addition of unnecessary features that cause an application to grow to a size that renders it slow and laggy. Those features may be useful to some. But for many, they are just an anchor dragging the application deeper and deeper into murky waters.

Although these applications do suffer from bloat, it doesn't mean they are useless -- just frustrating (at times). And just because they make this list, doesn't mean I actually dislike the tools. But if you plan to use them, it's good to know what you'll be up against.

1: LibreOffice

libre office

LibreOffice is the flagship open source office suite, and I use it on a daily basis. I have to. I'm a writer. But because an office suite must do so much, if a package doesn't contain every feature already present in the competition, it might never get used. The competition is Microsoft Office, and it's the reigning king of bloat. There are times it makes me wish Abiword were more compatible with my editor's word processor so I could use a much lighter and faster tool.

2: Evolution

I used Evolution for years -- until it grew so slow and unreliable that I jumped ship for the much faster, single-minded email client Claws-Mail. You see, Claws-Mail does it right. It allows the user to enable/disable features through plug-ins to make the tool as light and fast as possible. Evolution tries hard to be Outlook and winds up being bulky, slow, and buggy. It wants to connect to Exchange (something I fully appreciate), but we all know how mountainous that challenge is.

3: KDE

KDE has some really incredible features (Activities being one of my favorites), but the speed of the desktop pales in comparison to the likes of Enlightenment or XFCE. Why? Bloat. KDE has grown enormously since its faster, more reliable days of 3.5. Of course, that is only because it is doing everything it can to keep up with the, you guessed it, competition (and actually doing a good job of the task).

I would like to see someone take KDE 4 and pare it down to a more minimal environment to see whether it can be given the speed of its much lighter brethren.

4: Firefox

With some rather strange behavior coming from Chrome these days, I have gone back to using Firefox. I'm not happy. Why? The latest iterations of Firefox are about as slow as can be. Not only in opening, but in rendering. At one time, Firefox was incredibly fast. Now, it's a bulky hulk that plods along. It's fairly reliable and a heck of a lot more secure than the competition, but good gravy, it's slow.

5: Banshee

Banshee is another one of those tools I use but grumble about when I do. Yes, it's great that Banshee can seamlessly connect to the Amazon MP3 store or Ubuntu One Music Store. But guess what? How many people are actually various features, like Lastfm (which you now have to pay for to use)?

Banshee

By default, Banshee enables a lot of the features that most users won't want and that do nothing but slow down the loading of the player. It is up to the user to go into the extensions and disable unwanted features. Problem is, just disabling those features won't bring about the speed people want. I say make those features options at first run (or installation), so users don't have to wait for them to load -- only to never be used.

Is bloat inevitable?

It used to be much harder to find bloated software on the Linux platform. Five years ago, I would have been hard pressed to pin down five titles I could easily say suffer from bloat. But even this trend hasn't brought us to the Quickbooks level of bloat. Give it time and we might see that happen. (Of course, many a Linux user would happily welcome the Quickbooks level of bloat if Quickbooks came along with it.)

What other Linux apps have frustrated you with their bloated tendencies?

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.

12 comments
swdswan
swdswan

Since a large portion of what I do is e-mail, and scheduling a great PIM is critical. I agree KDE got bloated but it still has all the features I want in one integrated package. My solution is to login to my server and run KDE from my server. All the performance I could ask for ... without slowing down my desktop. David Swan Vulcan, AB

darkduck
darkduck

I think this is common for all "all-in-one" players: they have too many features which nobody use in whole. Being it Banshee, Amarok, even Exaile or anything like this. The same is valid for non-free tools like iTunes, WMP. That's why I prefer more simple tools like VLC, Audacious &co

Rick S._z
Rick S._z

When a 6-core CPU costs slightly over $100, memory is cheap, and FAST video products are cheap, and my WD gigabyte disk with 64MB cache (and a 6GB interface) cost about 90 bucks -- upgrade. Or just turn off Compositing Effects in KDE -- a lot of machines can't do it well.

info
info

Is, in a word...people. First, they DO demand all of the features of the competition, even if those features are never used. Second, developers are under time crunches and are, in a word, lazy. With hardware being faster and cheaper than ever before, why not cut a few corners and let the computer take up the slack? Windows developers went this route YEARS ago... It also accounts for the third step. You mention that FireFox is slow, but stable. Blame that on website developers. If everyone followed standards in design and coding, everything could be nearly as quick as Opera or Chrome. Have a mismash of differing standards and implementations? It'll take the browser a tad longer to figure out what's going on, without errors or omissions...

shryko
shryko

I notice that of the programs you list, 2 of the biggest ones are not aimed at being *LINUX* applications. Firefox originally did not include Linux support, they started with just windows, but have gone cross-platform. That alone should tell you that they're not as focused about the linux, light-weight, race-car-speed side of things. KDE has recently added support where you can actually install many of its programs in windows. I'm not sure, but I think the "bloat" is largely in the fact that they're not trying to do maximum optimization to the OS, they're looking to compete in multiple OS environments. I know LibreOffice has to include its own libraries to do just about everything it does as a result (after all, windows doesn't offer all the small utilities to do tasks for the program, unlike Linux).

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

FF6 was slow and bloaty, but has been quickly replaced with FF7 (FF6 was out for what? Couple of months?). FF7 has been getting pretty good reviews, being almost as fast as Opera in some jobs and faster in others - so please state your version.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

I always feel like it must be mailing my grandfather (who's notoriously slow to write back) to ask permission to start ...

DOSlover
DOSlover

You want a sports car, then you will probably get a noisy, bumpy ride with two seats, lousy fuel consumption and no boot space. But undeniably fast. You want all those other 'luxuries', you sacrifice speed and handling. Why should software be any different. DOS running in a RAM drive is very quick but limited. Linux cannot stop certain laws of inevitability. It will not stop me using Linux nor will it stop me using some of the applications mentioned. I stilluse DOS from time to time. If you have a job, use the right tool and you will have your expectations met.

jdaughtry
jdaughtry

Have you tried SoftMaker Office ? It's proprietary for-pay-ware, but it's light weight, fully MS-Office compatible, and legal for business use The older version (MS-Office 2003 compatible) is free at softmakeroffice.com - bnet.com calls it the Best Free Alternative to MS-Office. The WIndows version runs "portable", don't know about the LInux version. You may find you like it well enough to pony up the $$ for the most recent version. Not onerous, those $$, as I once got a volume quote from them at under $20 per seat. NOTE - I have no relation to the SoftMaker folks except as a satisfied customer.

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

That's the new Firefox release schedule, a major update every 6 weeks. They're not always very major, though. FF7 is a significant upgrade, however; majorly faster, and uses much less memory.

pgit
pgit

I dumped amarok last year for exaile and clementine, the latter based on amarok 1.0. The Mandriva distribution did the same with the 2011 release, even though it's a KDE-centric distro and amarok is the KDE integrated player. Half the time I couldn't get amarok's features to even work, like indexing a samba share. Clementine isn't network aware, but it's worth the compromise, I can actually listen to things with it...

marcdw
marcdw

I discovered SoftMaker Office via its Ashampoo version awhile back. Since then SoftMaker Office gets put on any of my Win and Linux machines. Also on flash drive. Even the 2008 version is on my aging Pocket PC. The SoftMaker site has instructions on installing the Linux version to a USB flash drive, too. Given that I don't usually need a lot of what comes in larger office suites SMOffice fits the bill just nicely (my machines are mostly of the legacy variety). Quite fast and handles both OOo and MSOffice file formats. Worth the money IMNSHO.

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