Linux

Linux applications I can't live without


Okay so I've read it countless times "I can't switch to Linux because I can't live without application X." Well I've had enough. It's time to fight back!!!

Recently my father was awarded a new PC from work. The PC was loaded with Windows XP. Now my father has been using Linux for the last 5 or so years. So when he realized he'd be using Windows he asked "What about gnucash? What about glines? What about..." It was all about the applications he had grown used to using and really needed.

Of course I said we'd find equivalent applications. But then the "buts..." came down the pike. "But it needs to be free..." Ah yes...well then, time to start searching for a free application to replace Gnucash. It took me a while but I did come across a freebie. 

This little ordeal put my brain to buzzing (well that and reading just another article on "Ten reasons why I can't switch to Linux" and all Ten were applications.) I decided to write a counterpoint to all those flapping their gums that this or that application prevented them from switching operating systems. So here's my list of applications that keep me from switching away from Linux.

Scribus: An open source desktop publishing software that is just as powerful as the very-much-more-costly alternatives. This application is, without a doubt, amazing.

Gnucash: My favorite banking software. It's simple, reliable, and very, very powerful. This application can easily handle accounting needs.

The GIMP: Forget Photoshop, The GIMP is where it's at. The GIMP is one of the flagship open source apps with very good reason.

gFTP: The best ftp tool available.

K3B: CD burning software. Outstanding.

Evolution: My mail client of choice. It syncs with my Treo 680, keeps my calendar, threads my email and all sorts of wonderful things.

Enlightenment: I hate the Windows desktop metaphor. It's so klunky. Enlightenment is simple, fast, themable, and reliable.

Aterm: My console app of choice. Yes, I do still run some commands.

Yum (or apt-get): I love the simplicity and reliability of these installation tools.

Of course this only scratches the surface. I could mention OpenOffice because I write so much. But if I didn't have OpenOffice I could use AbiWord or Word Perfect. I could mention FireFox but FireFox runs on damn-near everything.  There are also some honorable mentions that go to:

GQview, Evince, Jpilot, Kopete, xmms, rsync, tar, and a plethora of other command-line tools.

But ultimately you get the point. For every Windows application you can't live without, I have a Linux application I can't live without. It's a tit-for-tat world. But that's how it goes. I'm an open source kinda girl in an open source kinda world.

Oh wait a sec...let me rephrase that. 

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.

55 comments
TravisFx
TravisFx

that Linux is getting more like windows and windows i.e. with server 2008 is getting more like Linux with its minimum footprint and cmd line interface (power shell?) and all. Are they trying to be like ...each other Talk about confusion...

joshfutch
joshfutch

Linux is getting on GUI based OS and apps. I foresee one day an OS so user friendly, you don't need the incumbent anymore lol. My 2 cents

apotheon
apotheon

I miss almost everything about my unixy OSes (my current favorite is FreeBSD, not Linux, but the user environment is pretty much identical) when I find myself needing to use Windows for some reason. Much of it can be overcome, however, with the use of some (often obscure) software available on Windows -- you can add support for multiple workspaces, change the behavior of the interface to be more in line with your unixy expectation, and so on. Many applications available on free unices are also available in Windows versions (one of the benefits of open source software: it's available anywhere it's wanted). One can even install a somewhat complete unixlike environment inside of Windows, via projects like Cygwin. There are always niggling little things that are missing, though, and none of that changes the consequences of the underlying system architecture (such as reduced stability and security). There's also one problem, above all others, that most annoys me about having to use Windows: What's most missing, for me, is [b]su[/b]. I can't log into a different user account from within my current user environment. Oh, sure, with Windows you can do "fast user switching", but that's just not going to measure up to the ability to simply open a terminal emulator window and, within that, use [b]su[/b] to start a shell session as the root (administrator) account, or some other user account to which I have access, as needed. Of course, even [b]su[/b] would be almost useless without the full range of power of the unix command line. With Windows, you can't do all your software installation and uninstallation at the command prompt, for instance. I guess, overall, what's missing is a complete, comprehensive, powerful, multiuser command line environment, but [b]su[/b] is a big part of that.

Choppit
Choppit

The only application that springs to mind is Yakuake. Several times a day I press F12 on my Windows work laptop only to be disappointed.

tillytoo9
tillytoo9

I am COMPLETELY unaware of any software except what's been fed to me.....How would I switch to Linux? Do I need a greater comprehension than what it takes to work through windows? Thanks.

ajole
ajole

Or just set up a dual boot...I know I'm getting into this discussion late, but why on earth did you go to all the trouble of looking for Windows stuff when the guy was already OK with the Linux stuff? By the way, here's a reason to NOT use Linux...because the last three systems I built had motherboards with LAN and sound that Linux can't even see, much less drive. Yes, I know, there's a way to make them work, probably. And it's not Linux's fault that they keep making new stuff that works with Windows but not with Linux. But it sure is frustrating to try to get the stuff you need onto a box that can't get to the internet...

stomfi
stomfi

Because Linux can be configured and optimised for fast response for a particular vertical market big money application, more and more of these are being ported to Linux as corporate users ask their supplier for a Linux version. I'm talking about $50K+ apps here. This porting is not so difficult as was the port from UNIX to Windows in the 20th century, as the performance of modern Linux workstation is far improved and the UNIX code base is in many cases already in existence and up to date. This continuing trend for expensive vertical apps ported from Windows to Linux also means that your typical general purpose Windows apps will have to follow along as well to maintain their market share, and once this happens, FLOSS clones will either start to appear, or the base software will be open sourced and money tried to be made from add ons and services. At the moment of course it is the other way round as FLOSS apps get ported to Windows, but I for one never use native Windows at home, relying instead on wine for freeware specialised things I can't find or do on Linux. Its amazing how many work and faster as well. I can't do without "scrabout" and "sqirls" on wine. And I can't to without shell scripts that seamlessly interface with the native GUI, something I've never figured out how to do on Windows. I actually use the non free Runtime Revolution end user scripting IDE to do this on Linux. As there is nothing else out there so easy for end users to maintain, I'm stuck with it. I wish someone rich with insight would buy it up for FLOSSing, then anyone could build their apps they can't live without for either platform.

jdclyde
jdclyde

from either side, you get used to a program and it does the job well, who has the time to start over with a new application? Add on to that the fact that the majority of Windows USERS don't CARE about finding a better or more cost effective solution. They don't CARE how the computer works, they just want it to work. Training? Who has TIME to learn to be more efficient? As part of my new years resolution, I am getting back into this side more, and will have my first linux workstations at home and work. The goal is to duplicate my existing work applications that run on the Windows format, and now that Lotus Notes FINALLY has a linux client, the last piece has fallen in place. Wow, running a desktop without having to scan for viruses and malware every night? What a concept! The apps listed in this discussion are getting added to my list. Note: I am a VI user for the simple fact that I know any and every time I sit down at a nix box, it will be there. Best isn't my first consideration, consistency is.

bryantrv
bryantrv

There really is too much to list- kdewebdev, Dia, Synaptic, having Apache, MySql, Postgresql server running. Being able to make the desktop *just* like I want it (superkaramba giving me stuff on an 850 Duron that Vista wants a magnitude more cpu power to run). XDMCP services on my LAN, being able to open a console and use vi or nano or MC to quickly change a config file- and having the config file be well commented, so I don't have to search or remember what I changed last time. Being able to type man foo and getting the basics of what I need.....

lastchip
lastchip

[Okay so I've read it countless times "I can't switch to Linux because I can't live without application X."] Could be interpreted as; I can't switch to Linux because I can't be bothered to learn the replacement Linux application Y. I had a discussion about a week ago on this very subject, and the person concerned was saying: Can I use this and that (Windows applications) in Linux? The answer was that some could be used via Wine, but why not use the alternatives specifically designed for Linux. "Oh! I don't know if I could do that" was the answer. So you can determine from that; fear perhaps or laziness or any number of other reasons.

cesjohnstone
cesjohnstone

What about Autocad and add on packages used as industry standards Also where are the structural analysis packages also what about the graphical install upgrade packages In an office who has time for archaic command line inputs Reminds me of the old wordperfect devotees who would not move up to word because they lost their mystic or guru status

tsadowski
tsadowski

Several of the apps you list ARE available on Windows. Gimp is, Scribus is, OpenOffice is, and I know that I can get Tar and many other apps. As far as the win32 interface there are commercial apps that will update it and can make it look like other WMs. All that said. I do appreciate the sentiment. I have apps that I use in Linux that I wish I could have better access to on Windows at work. Course there's always the possibility of using Cygwin as an X-Server and running the apps on another system, but that is another story entirely! Thanks for the article!

groenem
groenem

I find Konqueror better than MS Outlook for my contacts and calendar appointments. The search facility is cool.

Jaqui
Jaqui

is slightly different. lynx, best browser bar none. [ no exploitable bloat in it, so fastest browser available ] SCREEM, for a website development secific tool nothing beats this. language highlighting, autocomplete of tags, built in site updating support, built in ftp support and works with all open source languages. emacs, since it's a slightly better interface than vim. [ pico is even better for simple editing of conf files, modeless tiny application that fits the need for a quick fix editor. ] GNUCash, the only accounting software you'll need, even for major enterprise use. it even has full support for connecting to any bank in the world to get current bank data on the account. Enlightenment, the no bloat gui that any SANE person would want. [ no taskbar, no startmenu, no fancy icons. just what is needed to work in a gui. ] kopete, for those times an im client is needed. gftp and lftp, since I'm not always in a gui to use gftp. lilo!!! cause it beats grub hands down. and the one that most people can't seem to use right.. linuxconf. a central control center for your linux system, at the command prompt or use gnome-linuxconf to have it in a gui.

PeterSS
PeterSS

I would love to move to linux/open source, but in our corporate environment, we need compatability with internal and external users, who predominately use Microsoft products. Open Office does handle MS file formats, but not 100%. I recently opened an excel spreadsheet with macros in Calc. It worked fine. I did some changes and saved it, then re-opened it in Excel, only to find that the VB bits were no longer editable. If we have both products within our organisation, we would need to be able to go back and forth between the applications. The other two file formats/programs that would present a problem are Project and Visio. Are there open source equivalents that will read these file formats?

Choppit
Choppit

RunAs is about as close as you get to su under Windows but nowhere near as satisfying.

alfowler
alfowler

I had the same "comprehension" problem. However, it took about a month, in my spare time, to get everything I needed for a minimal working desktop. The experience has been rewarding, for me.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Go to http://www.ubuntu.com and click Shipit on the right hand menu. You'll get the CDs in the mail in about 10-15 days and then you can install it! Ubuntu installs Open Office, Firefox, and a nice pretty GUI to get you on your way ;-) If you have any problems feel free to post on TR there are a bunch of us that can help you out.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Would connecting a Linux box to a Windows Active Directory domain be part of your attempt to duplicate your work Windows computer? I'm really interested in how that goes for you. I have trouble getting the Linux box to pass my credentials to the domain so I can access shared resources, proxy server, etc. without having to constantly re-enter my domain creds. I also can't figure out how to keep the creds up to date on the Linux client when the domain forces me to change them without manually changing them.

Jaqui
Jaqui

yup, autodesk doesn't make Autocad for anything but windows. there are equally powerfull commercial cad apps for linux. [ most include the hardware for the workstation as well as the software. ] the free / open source cad / cam options are far more limited in capablility. the home user 3d app market has been ignored.

DanLM
DanLM

That's no lie, their loss. My gain. And the app's that I use don't crash the system. But, hey. That's just me. Dan

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Why not go to youtube and type in XGL and see how far ahead Linux is in the GUI arena too. As for Autocad, structural analysis packages, etc, not running in Linux, talk to the vendor. Graphically installing upgrade packages? You haven't heard of YaST or Yumex? Why does this same FUD always crop up. Does MS have people that search on popular tech sites to post this tripe?

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

I will have to add MythTV to the list of "cant live without". People say linux multimedia is lagging behind, but that simply isnt true. What is lagging behind is our freedom to use purchased material how we see fit. Linux doesnt support quality-destroying DRM schemes, and so we dont get legal lisences to use propriatary formats such as .mp4 .mp3 and DvD. But, being linux, we can still use the non-encrypted versions, as well as FLAC, OGG, etc. My Myth box plays everything my windows box could, and does it better, cleaner, and with a much much older video card installed. Its nice to log on a user and watch the Myth frontend start up right away, tv is clear, sharp, and time shifted. I can comercial skip, record, import, export files, stream them across my network..and all it took was 4 hours of my time in the evenings. Three cheers for MythTV and open source Multimedia.

normhaga
normhaga

Screem appears to be a text based editor rather WYSIYG. When you have to make an estimate as to what the appearance of a page is, how do you compensate?

DanLM
DanLM

Crap, its GUI. I don't use GUI in my UNIX environment and don't want to. My UNIX box's are used for server purpose's only. Can this be used from a web page(ie, local only). Say with lynx? Dan

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

An emacs user! I thought I was the only one left! ;-) In all the shops I've worked in, everyone was vim all the way. I prefer emacs because it is so robust (the drawbacks the the vim users talk about) and the fact that I can do a TON of stuff in emacs makes it far more usable to me.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

replacement for Visio would be very sweet. Ive tried Dia, but it lacks a lot. I use Visio frequently and would like to be able to find a non MS alternative if possible.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Now, you know that to preserve macros, you need to open the VB Editor, select the text, save in Notepad, then send that along with the spreadsheet, and a short note. Big deal.

heres_johnny
heres_johnny

'Project Management' and 'Kivio' will get the job done. I believe each of them allow export to their Microsoft counterpart's file formats, too. In Ubuntu, installing is as easy as clicking on the 'Add/Remove' button.

heres_johnny
heres_johnny

'Project Management' and 'Kivio' will get the job done. I believe each of them allow export to their Microsoft counterpart's file formats, too. In Ubuntu, installing is as easy as clicking on the 'Add/Remove' button.

Tig2
Tig2

Open Workbench is the open source version of Niku, a resource based project management methodology. While the format is not compatible, the software is very robust and provides functionality that Project does not. My best Visio work around for non collaborative docs is to save them as jpegs. I believe that there is a viewer for them as well.

Jaqui
Jaqui

binary office file formats are malware vectors so are illegal on my network. send an ms office format file, get yourself blacklisted for spreading malware. send an odf, plain text file, no problem. pdf for something to be read but not altered. XHTML for any table format data if you can't use ODF. besides, with MS office file formats keeping every bit of data you entered, sharing them is sharing any confidential data you removed [ supposedly ] from the file, and is a violation of the privacy protection laws.

apotheon
apotheon

I saw "RunAs" as the title of your post and was thinking "Are you kidding? That's nowhere near the same thing." Then I read the main text of it, and thought "Yeah, that's exactly right." The limitations on my ability to work in MS Windows are, well, limiting. Lots.

jdclyde
jdclyde

When it comes to servers, we are exclusively *nix. SCO on our legacy box and RedHat and SuSE on the rest. The desktops are the only windows boxes.

j-mart
j-mart

Choice is limited but getting better. There is an Autocad clone called bricscad for windows and now they have a linux version that runs under wine, you can download a demo as an rpm that installs wine as part of the download. Not as good as runing natively but it works. I run windows version at work as is much cheaper than than Autocad and seems to be compleatlty compatable. great because I don't use Autocad as my primary cad but clients will sometimes send me ACAD dwg's and I need to work with them. The most functional Cad for Linux I have found so far is Varicad (for mechanical design which is what I do)3d solid modling capable but different to use as compared to mainstream windows offerings (Solid Works, Inventor, Solid Edge ProE etc) You can get a ProE linux version but it is expensive. Varicad is priced reasonably not out of the range of a home user (cheaper than full MS Office). Varicad is quite functional once you are use to using it. A downloadable demo is available and each version is a step up from the previous. Writing an open soruce fully fledged Cad program is quite a big task so it could be a while before we see one, but the comercial ones I have tried are a lot better value for money than some of the mainstream windows options

LinuxAndWindows
LinuxAndWindows

As a (non-structural) Civil Engineer, working in the CAD for Windows field, but using Linux where possible, I tend to agree that the choice of open source CAD application/packages is very poor. (As someone who works in CAD development and likes Linux but doesn't actually do anything about this, I am at least partly guilty!) I am unsure what the CAD market is like once you move out of the Open Source area. A number of the big vendors (eg Autodesk) which had Unix apps, discontinued Unix support many years ago. (I was interested to see the other day Autodesk does have at least one open source Linux application) I'm not sure what this says about the market perception of *nix. Unfortunately, I have to agree with "Structural Civil Engineer" that viable core Linux/open source applications are not available in this area.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We have some customers that mandate the files we send them must be in AutoCAD. A couple mandate the specific version. I can talk to Autodesk until I'm blue in the face, but if they don't see any profit in a Linux version, it ain't gonna happen. What Fear, Uncertainty, or Doubt was he spreading? He's incorrect about certain points, but there's a difference between deliberate misinformation and just being wrong.

jdclyde
jdclyde

is now part of the MS cert programs. People too lazy to have checked into what is available repeating what another drone has told them that they had heard at a MS seminar. As for CAD, CAD stations have been running on Unix desktops for a long time. What is funny is the drones act like unix came AFTER windows had created the internet and all. If they knew how stupid they sound to someone who actually knows the history, they wouldn't open their mouths outside of their own little circles. ~sigh~

jimlasalla
jimlasalla

Does anybody have a document "Ubuntu and MythTv for Dummies"? I am a complete noob when it comes to getting apps installed on lynx. Any help for somebody lost would be appreciated. Thanks,

Jaqui
Jaqui

in the setting section you put a link to your preferred browser and have it preview the page. you click the preview buton and the actual page in screem is opened by your browser. you are right, it's a code based tool, not a wysiwyg tool, so any code issues are a direct result of the user's own actions. :D

j-mart
j-mart

If your machine is a dedicated server you wouldn't use it as a workstation as well. GNU cash is a great program the price is right too

Jaqui
Jaqui

that I have seen. gnucash is a gtk app [ read: gtk = gnome in most cases ] you could take the sources and rewrite them to have it runnable as cgi... though I would require that it only worked on ssl if I was going to do that.

Jaqui
Jaqui

emacs is preferable to vi, but it's still not the best user interface. both use a moded ui model that makes them extremely kludgy in operatiion. emacs has far more capabilities than vi, but that's where the I already have an os comments come from :D

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

I give everyone possible a limited account. And use run as when I can. Occasionally I have to log off the user and on as a more privileged account, but that?s fairly rare. As for fast user switching, it?s disabled when you use domain logins, so it?s of little or no value to me.

apotheon
apotheon

. . . using anything other than an actually limited user account on Windows is just begging for security issues. Stick to using the limited account and fighting with the limitations of fast user switching and RunAs (or the better option of WinSudo, if it works well enough -- I haven't tried it), unless you like having to scour malware out of your system on a regular basis.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

is a good choice if you can assign your own account type or group memberships. It makes life more bearable in Windows over being a plain vanilla user.

Vetch_101
Vetch_101

Has to be said... RunAs is definitely a pretty poor impression of sudo. There is an app - WinSudo, which works by having a service running that adds administrator tokens to processes that need admin rights. I'm afraid to say, I haven't tried it, so I can't vouch for how it compares, but the concept sounds like it might make working as non-admin on XP bearable...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It was worth a try. I'm sure it can be done, I just can't find a complete, all-in-one set of instructions on how to do it. Anybody know of a distro designed for maximum connectivity with a Windows Active Directory domain while still requiring minimal tweaking?

Joe.Smetona
Joe.Smetona

Bentley's present lineup would require a complete makeover for Linux, but it would be worth it. They did have an Apple version many years ago but dropped it due to low market share.

bryantrv
bryantrv

Sounds like you need SQL-Ledger- runs on a web server (usually a LAMP, but IIRC, pretty much any server will do).

stomfi
stomfi

I always revert to the shell when faced with doing something the way I want it to happen as that was how us old office end users used to get '80s UNIX to do exactly what we wanted in the way that our mindset could figure out. Bash out a working system with awk, bc, encrypt, tr, grep, sort, join, split, dialog, plot, tbl, nroff, etc, single function tools for simple scripts combined by a shell into quick solutions by the power user. One can always update by whacking it onto the GUI with xdialog. There are enough shell tools on the Linux workbench to do anything, and now we have desktop power beyond our wildest dreams, who needs to optimise by coding in a formal language.

DanLM
DanLM

It wouldn't see the internet, but I agree with the ssl. Unfortionaly Jaqui, unless the source is perl or some scripting language. I wouldn't stand a chance of being able to rewrite it. I am putting together my own billing system, thats not what I was after. I need a general ledger app which will input my data. I would format it how ever was needed. I'll keep looking Jaqui, thank you for the feedback. Dan

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

And Vi doesn't help you with your mental health either ;-)

D-cat
D-cat

You just explained exactly why I prefer pico to both vi and emacs on the console. :)

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