15 Must-Have Linux Desktop Apps

Monday Mar 7th 2011 by Matt Hartley
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Linux downloads for work and play, from document sharing to music-video to communications.

Recently it was brought to my attention that all the desktop Linux hoopla in the world doesn't mean squat without compelling applications to get the end user interested. To address this need, I’ve rounded up fifteen powerful Linux applications that reflect the best that Linux has to offer the desktop user, both in and out of the enterprise environment.

This is not meant to diminish any excluded apps. Instead my goal is to showcase applications that I’ve found to be really powerful for the typical Linux user.

1. Kontact – Even though I'm partial to the GNOME desktop and many of the applications found within it, there is something amazing about certain KDE applications. One of the best is actually a bundle of applications known as Kontact. Out of all of the components provided, the three most used pieces included with the suite are Kmail, KaddressBook and Korganizer. Each of these components provide users with a visually appealing way to tackle their daily duties with email, schedules and so forth. Other tools to note within the suite include KNotes and Akregator, both of which are very capable and powerful programs within their own right.

2. Amarok – If function and "cool visuals" are a must with your music experience, then Amarok is for you. With smart playlists, lyric retrieval and podcast subscription support this software knows no bounds. The addition of user created scripts provides for functionality not found in other jukebox applications, which puts Amarok into a league all its own.

Oh and perhaps my all-time favorite feature, bookmarking your music tracks; as in being able to come back to where you left off.

3. Clonzilla – Having used a lot of partition/drive cloning software over the years, I have yet to find myself with a data loss due to a bad data recovery attempt using Clonezilla. If your data means anything to you then Clonezilla is a must-have bootable CD for your IT toolbox. Clonezilla allows you to copy either the entire target drive or simply choice partitions. Recovery of each backup works the same way, but in reverse.

4. OpenShot – I have used many Linux compatible video editors in the past and have had mixed success with each. Sadly, most developers felt quite disinterested when it came to addressing the issues in the specific applications and ensuring a decent user experience. Oddly, once OpenShot became popular, I noticed those "other apps" magically making more of an effort to keep up.

In the end though, I found that the OpenShot development was more in tune to what people actually wanted from a video editor. So it was less about the features and more about actually being heard. All that said, OpenShot is not lacking for any amazing functionality. With 3D titles, key frame animation, digital zooming and rotoscoping, the feature list is fairly extensive.

5. Audacity – Most audio editing tools for the Linux platform are powerful and capable, so there's no point in claiming otherwise as it would be untrue. Yet at the same time, many of them are entirely too complex to use. They lend themselves to audiophiles rather than typical human beings. This brings me front and center to an application called Audacity.

Designed to be simple to use without leaving out needed functionality, Audacity is easily one of the most compelling audio editing tools I've ever had the pleasure of using. For those looking to gain instant control over waveform edits, Audacity provides you with easy clipping, great filters and the option to export the finished product into the audio container of your choosing including MP3.

6. WinFF – With all of the great ways of generating video content on the Linux desktop, it can be frustrating when services like YouTube aren't supporting the OGV file container for video uploads. The real comedy ensues when open source friendly Google has better support for patented video container options versus the truly open source ones.

Thankfully a tool called WinFF has been flawless in ensuring I can convert my media into something more commonly accessible. Not only is WinFF very fast and simple to use, but I can convert both video and audio with it. Powered by the wonders of FFmpeg, the software installs and converts media right out of the box.

7. Sweet Home 3D – While this application isn't likely to end up in the software toolbox of most Linux enthusiasts, it's considered to be incredible nonetheless. Enter Sweet Home 3D. This app helps you create a simulation of your existing home or provides a whole new layout from which to build, all while providing an amazing visual result once the project is rendered.

8. Subsonic – I've been using Subsonic to listen to music on my iPhone 4 for a few months now, as each new iOS update continues to kill off any music syncing progress made with Linux. Not to worry though, Subsonic has come to the rescue and delivers all my music to my iOS devices thanks to the locally installed Linux software and the app for the iPhone itself.

This allows immediate access to your music library from anywhere in the world with either 3G or wi-fi access. Subsonic even supports playlist creation and management, which is a must for any music loving Linux enthusiast.

9. OneTeam – Because Skype and AOL instant messengers aren't always a great fit for the enterprise realm, OneTeam fills the gap with a locally managed messenger solution. In addition to providing enterprise level control over messenger events, OneTeam remains compatible with most IM networks. OneTeam is a smart fit for most businesses with virtual conference rooms, voice/text chat and SSL or VPN security.

10. DomotiGa – Designed to be home automation software, I see no reason why DomotiGa wouldn't also be a natural fit for businesses looking to make the work environment a bit more efficient with local automation. Setup correctly, DomotiGa could potentially become an "extra pair of hands" in dealing with a number of tasks throughout the office. You can even rely on X10 compatible devices for common automation needs such as controlling the lights, monitoring the temperature, monitoring the UPS battery(ies) status on attached PCs, plus countless other duties.

11. Webilder – Most of the available wallpapers for modern Linux distros are fine, but they're not likely to be seen as all that exciting by most people. The real problem is there hasn't been any real interaction from the end user as to what they'd like to see in the way of wallpapers. Webilder fills this gap nicely with their software for the Linux desktop. Webilder is designed to provide access to wallpaper "channels," where you can subscribe to images based on interest.

12. GNOME Do – If there was a single must-have application for me, it's GNOME Do. Think of this utility as cross between Alt-F2 and common keyboard shortcuts on steroids. Perfect for not only instantly finding practically anything on your Linux desktop but also launching software with only a few clicks of the keyboard. KDE enthusiasts are encouraged to check out Katapult as an alternative to GNOME Do. There’s no sense in leaving out KDE users in the joys of powerful keyboard shortcuts, after all!

13. Gitso – Remote tech support is a needed component for anyone working in IT who is in charge of making sure all the work stations are in working order. But for those in situations not running with compatible solutions, this can be a bit tricky. Thankfully there is a fix to this with a tool called Gitso. While I wouldn't say this is something I would trust outside of the LAN, Gitso is fine for providing remote desktop help within a secure local environment. Out of the box, the software requires both parties to be at their computers for it to work. Some might even argue that this feature is an added layer of security.

14. Dropbox Nautilus integration – Love using Dropbox, but wish there was better file management support for Linux users? Not to worry, Dropbox has a solution for GNOME users with Dropbox Nautilus integration. Just install the appropriate software package and away you go. Transfer files easily from one location to another without having to bother with network file sharing or SSH. Just let Dropbox do the heavy lifting for you.

15. Epiware Document Management – Those companies looking for a good Enterprise Document Management system need only look to Epiware Document Management for a solution. Providing everything needed in an enterprise level document sharing suite, this web-based solution allows enterprise users to collaborate on a number of levels, including a shared calendar, local company news, check in/check out, groups, folder control, access history and of course...document sharing.

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