This is a collection of easy-to-install applications intended for those making, or even thinking about making the switch from Windows to Linux. These apps must fall in line with the realistic expectations of an average end-user in either a home or office desktop environment.
The three main criteria for the applications are: usability, quality, and popularity. Our test bed includes the top three Linux distributions (distros): Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE. For an app to even appear in this article it has to be available in the official software repositories (repos) of one of these distros, or as DEB or RPM files from the software vendor's official Web site.
If you need a refresher, please reference Desktop Linux for the Windows Power User for an explanation of package management. Apps with too many bugs, crashes, or fails were left out. The quality of an app is determined by comparing its feature set to the industry-leading title in that category (whenever one exists). In the event that there are no clear industry-leading apps to compare against, don't worry. Anything that looks like it came out of a Win9x time-capsule doesn't pass.
Since Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is in a constant state of bug reporting and fixing, the most popular apps will have the most complete sampling of users, in turn producing an even better title. Also, because support is mainly handled by the community of users, popular software naturally has more documentation and fewer issues with compatibility. Therefore, popularity greatly influences the order in which equally usable apps of comparable quality are listed. This includes extra weight given to multi-platform applications. For a more comprehensive explanation of the standards applied to these applications please reference the Standards and Methodology page from the first segment: Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Internet Apps.
Exclusion #1: Web Apps & Online Services.
Almost every article showcasing Web-based apps and online services is applicable to Linux as well as Windows, even if not specifically stated.
Exclusion #2: Windows Apps
Though we will include a page on virtualization and emulation, it is to showcase the actual virtualization/emulation software. We do not go into details for getting any specific Windows apps running in Linux.
Exclusion #3: Preferences
User preferences like 3D desktop effects, screen savers, panels, and launchers are not covered in this series. There is a planned how-to piece for preference options.
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. This means desktops and notebooks; not servers.
This article is the fifth part in Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup and the test system has gone through a few upgrades since the series began. The latest hardware and software configurations are listed in the tables below.
64-bit Desktop Test System Specs
|Host OS||Ubuntu Studio 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" (64-bit)|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-750 @ 2.80Ghz (quad-core)|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD7 (F7 BIOS)|
|Memory||8 GB Crucial DDR3 @ 1333 MT/s (2 x 4 GB)|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 4870 Reference Board (512 MB GDDR5) PCIe 2.0|
|Storage||Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500 GB SATA 3 Gb/s, 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache|
|Power Supply||Corsair TX750W (750 W max)|
|CPU Cooler||Scythe Mugen 2 Revision B|
In order to determine Ubuntu compatibility we used a fresh and updated virtual machine (VM) installation of Ubuntu 10.10 (32-bit) with the default GNOME graphical user interface (GUI). For Fedora, we used Fedora 14 (32-bit) with GNOME. To check openSUSE compatibility, we used openSUSE 11.3 (32-bit), with KDE.
Virtual Machine specs:
|Version||Oracle VirtualBox 3.2.10 r66523|
|Guest OS 1||Ubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" (32-bit)|
|Guest OS 2||Fedora 14 "Laughlin" (32-bit)|
|Guest OS 3||openSUSE 11.3 (32-bit)|
|CPU||1 CPU--AMD-V, and Nested Paging enabled|
|Base Memory||1536 MB|
|Video Memory||128 MB--3D Acceleration Enabled|
|Storage||8 GB--Dynamically Expanding|
|Audio||PulseAudio Audio Driver|
In order to test drive the feature set of the applications (and to determine 64-bit friendliness), we fell back on the host OS, a native (non-VM) and fully updated installation of 64-bit Ubuntu Studio 10.10. The version number that we looked at appears in parenthesis next to each application's name. This may not necessarily be the latest version, or the same version available via your distribution's software repository.