If there’s one great thing about switching to a Linux-based system, it is that the word ‘FREE’ is encoded deep in its DNA. Open-source, free software is how Linux was built, and most Linux distros (whether Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora or Debian) slip onto your computer, without coming anywhere near your wallet.
Naturally enough, there’s a whole universe of free software, apps and programs out there, all jostling for your attention. But just because it’s free doesn’t make it fabulous. So, to help you sort the wheat from chaff, we’ve put together a list of the very best free software that no Linux desktop should be without. Enjoy.
GIMPshop – Linux alternative to Photoshop
First there was GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), the superb graphics package from the guys at GNU that upped the ante for image manipulation.
Now there is GIMPshop. This takes the rich graphical and image editing functionality of GIMP, and wraps it in an Adobe Photoshop-like front-end. This is a huge step forward, making GIMP much easier to use, and opening up Linux image editing to generation of Photoshop-familiar users. A must-have.
GnuCash – Linux alternative to Microsoft Money
If you’re looking to better manage your cash-flow, or even for a tool able to run small business accounting, then GNUCash could be the answer to your prayers. This software has been built from the ground up with professional bookkeeping in mind, so it has such top-end features as invoicing, stock-tracking, and double-entry accounting But is also very handy for day-to-day tracking of your personal finances, with its checkbook register.
What makes it doubly useful is that GNUCash is not an island unto itself – you can import from Quicken or Microsoft Money. Equally you can export your financial data to standard spreadsheet formats. Add in a flexible and powerful reporting tool, and you’ve got a free financial package that is hard to beat.
Chromium – Linux alternative to Internet Explorer
Google’s Chrome web browser has won plenty of plaudits, for its uncluttered interface, fast loading, synchronized bookmarks, and easy integration with Google’s growing stable of apps. But Chrome isn’t just freely available on Windows; it has an open-source, free-to-use cousin, called Chromium.
This open license means that many open software-based Linux distros now have Chrome in their base installations – including Ubuntu, one of the top Linux installations. So Chrome on Linux is well worth looking at – whether you’ve come from an Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox background. It is now fully featured, fast and stable – and real contender for the browser-of-choice for Linux systems.
Banshee – Linux alternative to iTunes
For music-lovers out there, Banshee is the program that ties all of the threads of the modern music player together. So, yes, it can play MP3 files (often a hassle with Linux distributions), as well as Ogg Vorbis and FLAC files. Yes, it can play and rip audio CDs. And yes, it has rich music library functionality, pulling play-lists and album art down for you on the fly. But Banshee does much more.
It also integrates with Amazon’s MP3 store, not mention Apple’s iTunes and Last.fm, fully interconnecting your audio multiverse. Oh, and did we say – and it can play videos too.
Ardour – Linux alternative to Garage Band (Yes I know Garage Band is Mac software)
Linux has always had a special place in the heart of music-makers, with a generous suite of open-source audio applications, developed over a number of years. Ardour builds on that tradition, offering a fully-fledged recording and mixing tool that wouldn’t look out of place in a studio.
While it is a little tricky to set up and use, it does allow you to hook up directly into your computers sound system. That ensures fast and professional sound recording. Ardour also allows you to edit soundtracks, apply filters, and mix them together; and it is indispensable for recording CDs, LPs and old-time tapes. Time to shift those old-time media into the online digital age?
LibreOffice – Linux alternative to Microsoft Office
One of the first things that ex-Windows users worry about with Linux is how they’ll cope without Microsoft Office. That turns out to be a non-issue, especially once you’ve taken a look at LibreOffice. Previously known as OpenOffice, this is a suite of productivity apps that matches MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint – and the rest – on everything except the price.
LibreOffice has a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool, which not only have similar functionality – they also share many of the menu layouts and shortcuts of the Office equivalents. They also save documents in standard open doc formats, and you have the option of reading (and creating) the typical MS DOC and XLS formats. In short, the move to LibreOffice is as painless as it is charge-free.
ClamAV – Linux alternative to McAfee Antivirus
Although Linux is often-touted as a much-more secure system than Windows, that’s not to say it’s invulnerable to viruses and malware threats. E-mail is a particular vulnerability, with the bad guys potentially being delivered through attachments. So it’s a good idea to get an anti-virus tool to lock the vaunted Linux security down that little bit tighter.
ClamAV is just such a tool, developed especially for scanning emails for malicious software. It automatically keeps itself up-to-date with the latest viruses. The one drawback is that it’s a command line tool – which some users may find scary. But once setup, ClamAV is pretty self-sufficient, and most importantly, it gets the job done.
WINE – Linux alternative to Windows
Finally, whatever the richness and breadth of free software coverage in the Linux world, there’s often a Windows tool, app or game which has no real equivalent. That’s where the WINdows Emulator (WINE) makes a very welcome addition to your Linux system. WINE has been under development for a number of years, and does an excellent job of creating a Windows ‘sandbox’ for all of those legacy Windows apps to play in. Get WINE and you’ll never have to moan about what’s missing from your Linux ever again.
This article is a guest post from Chee Seng, a blogger who writes about freeware reviews at BestFreeOnline.net/