20 Linux Alternatives for Common Windows Applications

Tuesday Jul 5th 2011 by Matt Hartley
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A Linux pundit spotlights his favorite Linux alternatives to popular Windows software.

Looking for Linux alternatives to Windows software? Here are twenty choice Linux apps you might want to consider.

 

1- LibreOffice: Some might point out that Oracle's own Open Office is still very much an option, but the fact is that Linux distributions are or have already migrated to LibreOffice in its stead. Unlike the proprietary-friendly Microsoft Office, LibreOffice offers the end-user much of the same functionality without the added cost of proprietary licensing. However, the biggest downside to LibreOffice has to be the lack of proper formatting support when opening a Microsoft docx document. While the document may be supported, chances are fantastic that the previous formatting won't hold.

2- GIMP: It's been my experience that you either embrace GIMP software or run PhotoShop in WINE as an alternative. Speaking for myself, I've found that GIMP offers most of the functionality one looks for with an image manipulator. The only real issue I've ever found with GIMP is that PhotoShop users refuse to learn about its differences. I think most of the aversion to using GIMP is familiarity and laziness. Others will likely see this differently, though.

3- Swiftfox: One might think of Swiftfox as a version of Firefox that is fine-tuned for your PC’s architecture. Designed exclusively for Linux enthusiasts, the project has produced some promising results for several years now. The biggest single advantage over Firefox releases 3.x (and backward) is the speed provided. At this point, however, the future of the project looks really spotty. According to some recent indicators, it seems the project may be in trouble, and a new Firefox 5.x based release looks very unlikely. Then again, it's entirely possible this long lived project could pick back up despite current setbacks.

4- Open Shot: I've found that Open Shot is easily my favorite video editor for the Linux desktop. If someone is looking for a solid Windows Live Movie Maker type of software for Linux, Open Shot should be the first place to look.

With fantastic transitions and video/audio effects, Open Shot offers a little something for everyone. Open Shot's video editing is simple and doesn't need any added time with the help manual. The only real downside to using Open Shot is that it lacks some of the advanced functionality offered by its KDE counterpart, Kdenlive.

5- Network-manager: Regardless of which desktop environment you happen to use, you’ll find that network-manager makes connecting to the Internet a straight forward process for Linux users. Even though the front-end applets and interfaces may differ from desktop to desktop, in the end you'll find that the experience is universally comparable to that of managing wired/wireless connections on the Window desktop.

It has been said that, in some ways, the Linux options offer a greater degree of control. The biggest hurdle that I've come across is that Linux wireless support can be hit and miss.

6- Evolution: I may be going out on a limb by suggesting Evolution as a practical Microsoft Outlook alternative. Then again, if you're seeking a reliable way to connect to Microsoft Exchange without relying on IMAP, Evolution is pretty much "it" for that goal.

The downside to Evolution is that compared to its KDE counterpart Kontact, Evolution looks like something from 15 years ago. Not only that, but Kontact offers a better layout to the features provided, as well. Sadly though, the last fifty or so times I've checked, Microsoft Exchange support for Kontact was only half done. Then again, it's entirely possible that OpenChange is changing all that.

7- F-Spot: Despite Ubuntu's choice to start including other, less useful options by default, it and other distributions continue to offer the Windows Live Photo Gallery alternative known as F-Spot within its repositories. The best of the included features offer a powerful yet simple interface that allows each person to edit and color correct their photos.

Albums, tagging and sorting – F-Spot can do it all. The biggest issue I have with it is the lack of photo stitching functionality that is offered by its Microsoft counterpart.

8- gtkpod: On the Windows platform, iPod users rely on iTunes for management of their iPod devices. But for Linux enthusiasts, this can be a bit more complex as there are different ways of handling music management or iPod formatting. While other software runs many of the same libraries, gtkpod has consistently provided a solid way of managing older iPod type devices.

The biggest downside to the software is the lack of updated iOS support. It's an Apple problem: each time the libraries are updated on the Linux side, Apple releases another update putting things back to square one.

9- Rhythmbox: Just as gtkpod is a great management tool for some aspects of the iPod, like iTunes, the music management side of things on a Gnome desktop is best suited for Rhythmbox.

For handling music management, creating playlists and having access to the album art to your music, Rhythmbox is very solid software. Bundle that with some fairly compelling plugins that do stuff like allowing for Pandora playback, it's easy to see why Rhythmbox is such a huge hit.

Plus, music stores are generally provided, Linux distribution depending. However, the single biggest let down with this software is not being able to sync your recently updated iOS device with it.

10- amaroK: Unlike Rhythmbox, amaroK is a lot more attractive to look at. Offering the same kind of functionality as Rhythmbox, I've found that amaroK goes a little further for KDE desktop users in that you can find scripts to try, in addition to the available plugins. To the end-user, this simply means even greater functionality.

So even though amaroK suffers from the same iOS headaches as other software thanks to Apple updates, it's still the best from the music management point of view. I'd even say it's better than iTunes from the perspective of overall music control.

11- Evince: Life without Adobe Acrobat Reader does exist! Even though the Adobe PDF reader has a Linux option available, there is a much faster and more user-friendly option called Evince. Faster, more stable and perhaps even more desirable than its Adobe counterpart, I've found Evince to be the best option for handling PDF files on my Linux box. The only real issue I've discovered while using Evince is an apparent problem working with editable PDF files.

12- Gnash: Like most people, I'm not a big fan of the Flash plugin for my browser. It's slow, CPU intensive, and even recent fixes leave much to be desired, as it's still a stability issue for many Linux users. The alternative is known as Gnash. It's designed to offer much of the same functionality as Adobe Flash player.

Yet I'd remind you that it's still a pretty young project and not necessarily going to meet with all of your expectations. I'd instead put most of my focus on HTML5 in the future. I think Gnash isn't really going to be the answer to Flash we had all hoped for.

13- K3b: Having used a number of disc burning programs available on the Linux desktop, I'd suggest that K3b is the best available at this point. Those who are familiar with Nero from their Windows desktop will feel at home using K3b. Much of the same file/music/ISO burning functionality is found here.

Based on my usage, the only thing I'd love to see added is a Blu-ray burning option. Not asking for the playback of DRM content, rather ripping data to Blu-ray discs instead. Considering Nero for Linux offers this option, I'd love to see K3b offer the same if possible.

14- Inkscape: Because not everyone is ready to use an Adobe product, users of the Linux desktop are left to think outside of the box. This means that instead of using Adobe Illustrator, for example, you’re more likely to find Inkscape providing much of the same functionality. Like with anything, there are going to be different approaches between the two software programs. But for someone not schooled heavily in Adobe, learning to use Inkscape is very simple.

As for possible disadvantages, the only thing I would point out is that Inkscape is much "simpler" than Adobe Illustrator.

15- BlueGriffon: Microsoft Expression is a popular option among those on the Windows desktop, but Linux users might be wondering what the closest thing to it would be for them. Having looked at half a dozen different options, I've found that BlueGriffon is best suited for HTML5, has decent extensibility options and just generally provides a good new-user experience.

The only real issue I found with this Expression alternative is that it's still very young. Just make sure to update often and grow with the project for best results.

16- Ekiga: Skype is a must have for many people out there looking to video chat with their contacts. And why not? – there is a working Skype client for all three major platforms, including Linux. But with Skype now owned by Microsoft, it might be time to begin looking more closely at Ekiga as a viable alternative.

The single biggest buzz-kill I know of with Ekiga is the lack of real client support for OS X. Software listed as compliant with Ekiga is either dead in development or simply doesn't work all the way.

17- FreeMind: Windows users have found MindManager to be very effective in making sure that creative ideas are brought forth in a visual sort of way. And thanks to FreeMind for Linux users, this goal can be accomplished without the extra price tag or needing to be run a non-Linux operating system.

Like many advanced applications that are run on Linux these days, FreeMind is run with Java. To most people this is not a problem, but to others looking for mind mapping software, Java is a show stopper.

18- Filezilla: Running SmartFTP is common among the Web designers on the Windows platform, but cross-platform Filezilla does so much of the same thing that it almost seems silly to use anything else. I've actually found that Filezilla seems more reliable than the other FTP clients I’ve used on Windows.

Add to it that it looks the same on any platform, and my feelings aren't hurt at all. Some users will likely be able to help me out with this, but I haven't been able to find anything I dislike about Filezilla in its recent releases. It has everything I could want from a decent FTP client.

19- Empathy: Only a year or two ago the world was ablaze about Digsby being the greatest instant messenger client out there. Back on the Linux front, I've found that Empathy works just fine for my needs. Not only that, but I can keep my social network logins in a separate client called Gwibber instead of piling them all into one. For me, perhaps the biggest advantage to using Empathy over Digsby is being able to use video chat.

20- Gufw: Like Windows, both the Gnome and KDE desktops have a number of great tools to set up the best firewall settings the user could need. And while Windows users have the Windows built-in firewall, Linux distributions such as Ubuntu offer something called ufw. By itself, it's easy to use from a command line. However, I've found tossing in the Gufw front end can go a long way toward making firewall control even easier.

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