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Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Internet Apps

Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Internet Apps
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If you caught my last article, you should now understand how to prepare a system, set up, and install a fresh copy of Ubuntu Linux, even if you've never touched the operating system before. I also walked you through updates and explained how to install software. Like the G.I. Joe public service announcement goes, “now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”

But what about the other half? Now that you know how to install software, what is available for Linux? Could you really ditch Windows and completely migrate to this foreign OS? If you do everything through Web-based apps, then your operating environment of choice doesn't really matter as much. But without a handful of titles able to replace their Windows counterparts, you'd probably remain tethered to the familiar.

But don't write Linux off that quickly. You may be surprised to find that many of your favorite third-party apps from Windows have native Linux installations. Mozilla Firefox is the second most popular Web browser in the world, for example, and the default in most modern Linux distributions. Sun Microsystems' OpenOffice.org is growing in popularity across all platforms as a viable (free) alternative to Microsoft Office. The VLC Media Player, which is a favorite third-party media player for Windows, is also a top app in the Linuxphere.

Unfortunately, not all of your applications are going to have Linux versions available. Some industry-leading apps, such as Quicken and Excel, do not install natively in Linux. This means you are going to need to replace some of your Windows apps with a Linux equivalent.

The first step in this process is to stop thinking about your computing needs by the specific applications that you use. Instead, begin thinking in terms of the task that you use those apps to complete. Take the aforementioned Quicken and Excel, for example. The tasks that you are completing are personal finances and spreadsheets (respectively). Once you define what you actually use your PC for, you can begin looking for alternative Linux apps. After you find one, make sure that it contains the same critical features as it's Windows equivalent. I've included links to download the Windows and Mac versions of these apps when available, so you are encouraged to try them out for yourself. If the feature sets are comparable, then you are well on your way to getting up and running, free of charge!

For those who believe that there isn't as much software available for Linux as there is for Windows, let me enlighten you. There is a ridiculous amount of software available for Linux. In fact, this piece began as an article and quickly turned into a multi-part series. Even as massive as it is, it still is not a complete listing of every available Linux application by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I had to seriously reign in the scope:

Exclusion #1: Web Apps And Online Services

  • Almost every article showcasing Web apps and online services is applicable to Linux as well as Windows, even if not specifically stated.

Exclusion #2: Windows Apps

Though I will include a page on virtualization and emulation, it is to showcase the actual virtualization/emulation software. I do not delve into the details of getting any specific Windows app running in Linux.

Exclusion #3: Preferences

User preferences like the alluring 3D desktop effects, screen savers, and panels/launchers are not covered in this series. There is an upcoming How-To piece for the different preference options, though.

Exclusion #4: Games

Native casual games, free games, indie games, retail games as well as virtualized platforms and emulation will be covered in a future rundown of Linux gaming.

Exclusion #5: Servers

This is a follow-up to the first article and therefore concentrates on Linux as being an alternative OS for consumers. Nothing server-side this time, only client-side.

This is not one of those played-out "Essential Apps" articles, which simply tend to list a browser, a basic office suite, and a media player, leaving the user with only the most basic functionality appropriate for a netbook and nothing more. Besides, I already covered those bases a few paragraphs up. Also, let me be clear that this is a roundup, not a shootout. I didn't do an exhaustive review of every app that appears within. Instead, I spent about a day with each.

What this guide will do in its entirety is highlight traditional, locally-installed applications running the gamut from the ubiquitous Web browser to specialist uses, such as ISO-mounting tools. If all you care about is surfing the Web and recording audio, this series will showcase those apps. If all you want to do is communicate via email, occasionally using VoIP with a webcam, this series will catalog the available software. If you just need a basic office PC with additional project management and flowchart software, it's all here. This guide is intended to be a reference resource, not simply a linear story to be read from intro through conclusion. Each article features an overall category of applications (office apps, for example), and each page features a different type of application (like spreadsheets). So, if you don't care about video editing or DVD encoding, feel free to skip those pages and move on to what interests you.

The first part in our comprehensive Linux App Roundup covers Internet Apps. In this segment, we'll be looking at Web browsers, RSS readers, podcatchers, FTP clients, download managers, BitTorrent clients, and a slew of other file sharing solutions. There's also a spotlight on Miro Internet TV, a piece of software that defies category. This does not include apps used to communicate with other specific people, but simply to retrieve content from the Web. The next segment will feature Communications Apps, and will include those titles.

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  • 15 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 6:39 AM
    tacoslavemy web machine runs on linux and i find the experience to be quite satisfying but i still game on windows.

    I run Linux on my old notebook and the experience is more than just satisfying. In fact most of the office work I do on that notebook is now done in linux an Win are used only to play. If linux only got some more games...
  • 12 Hide
    charlesxuma , September 15, 2009 7:04 AM
    allow me to say this in a simple minded manner ...

    for the dumb there is OS X
    for the weak there is windows
    for the rest there is LINUX

    If u find my statement offensive, then DO something about it dont just sit there winning about it. (LEARN) Remember we were all DUMB ONCE.

    p.s : GAMERS NOT INCLUDED :) 
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    tacoslave , September 15, 2009 6:29 AM
    my web machine runs on linux and i find the experience to be quite satisfying but i still game on windows.
  • 15 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 6:39 AM
    tacoslavemy web machine runs on linux and i find the experience to be quite satisfying but i still game on windows.

    I run Linux on my old notebook and the experience is more than just satisfying. In fact most of the office work I do on that notebook is now done in linux an Win are used only to play. If linux only got some more games...
  • 12 Hide
    charlesxuma , September 15, 2009 7:04 AM
    allow me to say this in a simple minded manner ...

    for the dumb there is OS X
    for the weak there is windows
    for the rest there is LINUX

    If u find my statement offensive, then DO something about it dont just sit there winning about it. (LEARN) Remember we were all DUMB ONCE.

    p.s : GAMERS NOT INCLUDED :) 
  • 4 Hide
    Hellbound , September 15, 2009 7:19 AM
    CharlesXumaallow me to say this in a simple minded manner ... for the dumb there is OS Xfor the weak there is windows for the rest there is LINUXIf u find my statement offensive, then DO something about it dont just sit there winning about it. (LEARN) Remember we were all DUMB ONCE.p.s : GAMERS NOT INCLUDED


    ding fries are done....
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2009 7:21 AM
    For FTP you can also simply use nautilus, the file manager. Just click file->connect to server (or in the menu bar places->connect to server)
  • 1 Hide
    cybrcatter , September 15, 2009 8:12 AM
    CharlesXuma:
    You truly covered all of you bases in that post.

    I was hoping that with the recession, perhaps companies who were really trying to make more efficient use of their capital would start to look at Linux as a tempting prospect.
    I wounder if there are any intriguing statistics about this.
  • 1 Hide
    mitch074 , September 15, 2009 8:26 AM
    I'm a Linux user. I'm not a big gamer.

    Still, that Nexuiz thingie gives my RadeonHD 4850 a workout. Chromium B.S.U. might be old but it's nice looking and addictive. And TORCS is not for the faint of heart. And...

    Well, if you go and dig into the results of 'linux games' in Google, you can find nice stuff.
  • 1 Hide
    dragoon190 , September 15, 2009 9:15 AM
    Thought you can run most of the games through wine
  • 0 Hide
    charlesxuma , September 15, 2009 9:42 AM
    u actually can run most of your games through wine, however if ur a hardcore gamer that installs and plays many (as in 20+) new games, wine still needs development for these kinds of users, your better off having windows os on the side, for that task in particular.

    There is an exception, but it will cost you a monthly fee, that hooks wine on to a software that updates installation and compatibility on a regular basis.(for the ones who can't configure wine themselves.)
  • -2 Hide
    crash27 , September 15, 2009 9:46 AM
    The mouse lag drives me nuts.
    got a gmae server up but it took so long I reinstalled windows and hit the install button. Server was up in less than 2 minutes.

    Linux is great if you have hours and hours to get it all working......
    oh and if you don't mind waiting to se where you moved your mouse all the time.
    No wait move it back just a little.....
  • 1 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 9:55 AM
    cybrcatterCharlesXuma:You truly covered all of you bases in that post.I was hoping that with the recession, perhaps companies who were really trying to make more efficient use of their capital would start to look at Linux as a tempting prospect.I wounder if there are any intriguing statistics about this.


    I'm afraid that for the most companies "efficient use of their capital" means outsourcing (and "downsizing" the number of workers).
    As for companies SWITCHING from Windows to Linux there are many obstacles, like in the process of doing so the working process in the company would be affected or even partially halted; employees often don't like to change the software they are used to work with (although working with most software packets in Linux is not so much different than in Windows - especially office applications); possible hardware compatibility problems; but most of all the biggest problem is Windows licensing: you can hardly buy a computer without Windows already installed - if you switch to Linux you "throw away" the money paid for the license.

    The interesting statistics would be how many of NEW FOUNDED companies are using Linux as they don't all the problems mentioned above and are also strapped of cash.
  • -7 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 9:59 AM
    cybrcatterCharlesXuma:You truly covered all of you bases in that post.I was hoping that with the recession, perhaps companies who were really trying to make more efficient use of their capital would start to look at Linux as a tempting prospect.I wounder if there are any intriguing statistics about this.


    I'm afraid that for the most companies "efficient use of their capital" means outsourcing (and "downsizing" the number of workers).
    As for companies SWITCHING from Windows to Linux there are many obstacles, like in the process of doing so the working process in the company would be affected or even partially halted; employees often don't like to change the software they are used to work with (although working with most software packets in Linux is not so much different than in Windows - especially office applications); possible hardware compatibility problems; but most of all the biggest problem is Windows licensing: you can hardly buy a computer without Windows already installed - if you switch to Linux you "throw away" the money paid for the license.

    The interesting statistics would be how many of NEW FOUNDED companies are using Linux as they don't have all the problems mentioned above and are also strapped of cash.
  • -4 Hide
    ibnsina , September 15, 2009 10:33 AM
    No doubt Linux is more stable and reliable than Windows, however where it falls behind is graphics user interface and usability. A simplified and cut down version of Linux should be made for the mass market, with a smooth user-friendly GUI that can match Windows.

    Even then it would be still unlikely Linux can threat windows, because the dollar rules, major software companies are here to make money.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2009 10:59 AM
    Linux developers need to learn how to design a efficient user interface. The fact that a commercial Unix (OS X) has the most usable interface between the hundreds of linux/unix distros is a testament of their flawed philosophy of "open software is always better"
  • 0 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 11:22 AM
    Quote:
    ibnsinaNo doubt Linux is more stable and reliable than Windows, however where it falls behind is graphics user interface and usability. A simplified and cut down version of Linux should be made for the mass market, with a smooth user-friendly GUI that can match Windows. Even then it would be still unlikely Linux can threat windows, because the dollar rules, major software companies are here to make money.


    There already is an cut down version of Linux with a smooth user friendly GUI - it is called OS X (the mass market aspect is questionable though) :) .

    As pretty much everything with Linux the graphical interfaces come in various shapes and sizes (so to say). In Windows you are pretty much locked in AERO GUI but there are several different GUI's.
    Most popular are GNOME and KDE - and at least they don't lack in usability compared to Windows.
  • 1 Hide
    sanctoon , September 15, 2009 1:05 PM
    ibnsinaNo doubt Linux is more stable and reliable than Windows, however where it falls behind is graphics user interface and usability. A simplified and cut down version of Linux should be made for the mass market, with a smooth user-friendly GUI that can match Windows. Even then it would be still unlikely Linux can threat windows, because the dollar rules, major software companies are here to make money.


    My Jaunty GUI is much more efficient than any windows one. Thats the beauty of it all, the customizability. If you ever think, oh it would be nice if my GUI could do that or look like this, chances are, with a bit of google you could do it.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2009 1:08 PM
    Thanks for the list toms!
    If this where an article that covered all programs it wouldn't be up by 100%, but 100x.
    There are nearly 1000 free apps for Linux, and a couple of hundred payed or semi payed apps.

    It also greatly differs from which version of Linux. Most apps talked about here work in a gnome/denian based Linux. There's also Slaxx, or redhat based linux.
    Programs that work in Ubuntu may not always work in Mandriva, or DSL.

    But it's a good list of options in case I would want to switch to a Buntu style Linux.
  • 3 Hide
    syedcdp , September 15, 2009 1:15 PM
    At last, I see an article related Linux after a very long time on TH. Did I miss any articles btw?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2009 2:11 PM
    pepe_2: I assume you're completely ignorant to Linux, Linux is very, very useable, but the UI isn't dumbed down to MacOSX levels, and I wouldn't want it to be. I take it you're a Mac user, is that 2-button mouse a bit too complicated for you?


    PS: Nice article, I appreciate the attempts to spread awareness. I use Linux as my main OS, and I would never go back to Windows now, most people don't switch just because they don't realize that Linux can do everything they need it to. Kubuntu9.10 is just amazing, I tried the alpha live CD, with the new video driver, it runs fast even on my crappy 5 y/o Intel IGP.
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