Migrating To Linux? Use These Open Source Apps

Published on: July 10, 2007
Last Updated: July 10, 2007

Migrating To Linux? Use These Open Source Apps

Published on: July 10, 2007
Last Updated: July 10, 2007

The single biggest argument against a smooth migration to one of the popular desktop Linux distributions is the belief that key applications are not available on the Linux platform.

However there are a multitude of fantastic open source alternatives that are easy to install and free to use.

In this article, we’ll examine ten of these applications, with the understanding that both browser and email clients will not be in this list.

The reason being is that default browser and email clients are already installed in nearly all desktop Linux distributions.

1.) Open Office

Open Office is the default office suite that comes pre-installed with most popular Linux distributions today.

Based on its flexibility with working with Microsoft Office formats and the fact that it is completely functional for day-to-day office activities, Open Office remains king of the jungle in the world of open source office suites.

Why You Need It

Computing today without a robust office suite borders on the impossible. Unless your computer is simply for gaming and nothing else, the need for word processing and occasional spreadsheet access are must haves, regardless of your background.

2.) Rhythmbox/ Amarok

Depending on your decision to use one desktop environment over another — such as GNOME vs. KDE — both of these music players are robust and will make the transition from Windows to Linux music an easy one.

Each music application offers important features like drag-and-drop play list management, podcast subscription support, and the option for additional plugins.

My reasoning for using these applications stems largely from the ease of use they present, support for lyrics display and cover art, along with the drag-and-drop functionality that so many Windows users have come to expect from their music players.

Why You Need It

There are other lightweight music players designed for Linux that make sense for basic music playback. But for robust, Windows Media Player-like functionality, you will be happier with Rhythmbox or Amarok.

3.) Glipper/ Klipper

On a Windows desktop, copy and paste is a fairly basic process. On desktop environments in Linux, however, these applications provide a far superior experience as you have a clear visual copy and a paste “history” to pull previously copied content from whenever you like.

On the GNOME desktop for instance, you would install a utility known simply as Glipper.

This application sits quietly on either the bottom right or left of your screen, recording whatever you copy using either your mouse or your keyboard shortcuts.

When you wish to paste something previously saved, you can click on the small applet running and choose what you wish to paste from its contents.

Then use your mouse or keyboard shortcut for pasting those selected contents to the chosen destination. Klipper works the same way with the same basic usage principles, but for the KDE desktop environment.

Why You Need It

The temporary clipboard memory will not remember what you copied for any substantial amount of time. Running any distribution without one of these clipboard applications installed is maddening at best when working with moving text back and forth.

4.) Guarddog/ Firestarter

Even though Linux distributions are not yet big targets for nasty problems such as computer viruses on the same level as seen in the Windows world, locking down access to your Linux box remains critical, regardless of which operating system you choose to run.

Guarddog for instance, is best suited for those using KDE related distributions, while Firestarter is the preferred option on distributions using GNOME, such as Ubuntu.

Why You Need It

Security should be the cornerstone of any new operating system installation. And starting with a decent firewall just happens to be one of simplest and most effective entry points in secure computing, even with Linux.

5.) aMSN

Even with the growing number of instant messenger clients out there supporting nearing every protocol under the sun, Live Messenger remains king of the jungle for most Windows users.

Designing a messenger that feels very much like Live Messenger from Windows, while allowing the migrating user to take his contacts with them, makes the instant messaging transition a whole lot easier rather than trying to relearn the user interface of another client such as Pidgin.

Why You Need It

Most instant messenger users working on Windows today employ Windows Live Messenger to chat with friends, co-workers, and family.

Rather than asking users to learn another application that feels completely foreign, utilizing aMSN creates a friendly user experience that will make any Live Messenger user feel right at home.

6.) Envy

Nothing comes close to the effective, logical proprietary video driver installation provided by a fantastic little utility appropriately called Envy.

Envy is unique, because it is self-contained, fully GUI-friendly with clear, no-excuses assistance for setting up your NIVIDA or ATI proprietary graphics drivers. Most importantly, the application is fully licensed under the GPL.

Why You Need It

Even considering the argument that video driver installation is not “that difficult” with today’s latest Linux distributions, the fact remains that getting your video card setup afterward to meet your needs remains hit and miss.

If you’re new to Linux, and considering using a distribution such as Ubuntu or Debian, I cannot recommend Envy enough.

The time you save can be better spent working on current projects rather than tracking down broken X-configuration problems.

7.) Evince

Working with PDF file formats in Windows means that you’ll be subjected to the bloated application known as Adobe Reader.

With today’s Linux distributions, however, you actually have a number of lightweight solutions that will open any PDF file you happen to throw at it.

The best of the bunch is Evince. It’s lightweight and easy to install on most distributions, and you will not see your PC’s resources being sucked down to nothing just because you tried to use Evince to read a PDF document.

Why You Need It

Due to the availability of Adobe Reader for Linux, you may consider sticking with the more familiar application despite its inherent bloat and usability flaws.

After trying Evince for a couple of days, however, I believe wholeheartedly that opening up a PDF document with anything else will seem counter productive by comparison.

8.) Automatix

One thing that makes or breaks the usability of a particular Linux distribution is the ease of access for proprietary media codecs, Flash, and DVD playback.

Even considering the “fuzziness” behind the legality of using these proprietary goods (U.S. users only) without the go-ahead from their creators, it remains common practice amongst most Linux users to install the codecs regardless. (In the end, it’s a personal choice — I am not able to give legal advice on the matter.)

Automatix comes into play by providing the end user with the option of installing proprietary codecs quickly, easily, and all at once.

Why You Need It

In addition to proprietary codecs, Automatix includes lesser-known software such as Gyachi, along with various Google apps. Automatix has been designed to work with Debian, Simply Mepis, or Ubuntu.

(Editor’s note: I must point out that Automatix requires that changes be made to your application repository list. This means that Automatix is adding software sources to your existing listing of sources. Because some users in the past have expressed concern with this, I wanted to make sure you were aware of it before installing the utility. If there is a concern here, then by all means, use apt-get, YaST, or whatever else you have for installing software packages, if you prefer.)

9.) Scribus

Breaking the Publisher dependency can be done with help from the Scribus publishing software. Scribus may not offer many user templates, but it doesn’t lock its users down with proprietary file formats, either.

Why You Need It

Simply put, Scribus is the best open source publishing software out there today. As a matter of fact, it’s even better than many of the closed source alternatives offered on the Windows or OS X environments.

10.) GIMP

Simply put, GIMP provides Photoshop functionality in a free software package that is free.

Designed to make graphic editing and manipulation as simple as possible, anyone who has used advanced graphic editors will not have any problem becoming familiar with it.

Why You Need It

Because it’s simple to use, well laid out, and a completely free download, this quick-starting Photoshop alternative became a must have, even with the most basic photo/image manipulation work.

Even when considering other open source options out there, nothing holds a candle to the functional power provided by GIMP for the average to professional user alike.

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Written by Bobby

Bobby Lawson is a seasoned technology writer with over a decade of experience in the industry. He has written extensively on topics such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, and data analytics. His articles have been featured in several prominent publications, and he is known for his ability to distill complex technical concepts into easily digestible content.