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Standards, Methodology, And The Legend

Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Communications Apps

In order to include the best cross-section of apps, and by popular demand by you, the Tom's Hardware readers, I've opened up the test bed to include the top three distros: Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora. This is a collection of easy-to-install applications intended for those making, or even thinking about making the switch from Windows to Linux. This essentially means that these applications must fall in line with the realistic expectations of an average end-user in either a home or office desktop implementation. The three main criteria for these apps are: usability, quality, and popularity. For an app to even appear in this article, it has to be available in one of the top three distro's official repos or as a DEB or an RPM from the software vendor's official Web site. Apps that had too many bugs, crashes, or failures 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 has fewer issues with compatibility. Therefore, popularity greatly influenced 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 I applied to the applications, please reference the Standards and Methodology page from the previous segment.

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. If you really want to know more about virtualization of Windows apps in Linux, check out How To: Windows XP Mode In...Ubuntu 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.

Test System Specs:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2.0 GHz
Biostar NF61S-M2 TE
4GB DDR2-800
Nvidia GeForce 6100, integrated, 128MB shared memory
250GB SATA 3 Gb/s, 7,200 RPM
Virtual Machine Specs:
Sun Microsystems' VirtualBox 2.1.4 OSE
AMD-V and Nested Paging enabled
Base Memory
Video Memory
64MB, 3D Acceleration enabled
8GB, dynamically expanding
Alsa Audio Driver


   An application's logo links to it's home page (for example, Firefox =

indicates availability in the default Ubuntu repos (via Synaptic).

indicates availability in the Ubuntu repos if KDE is installed (still runs in GNOME).

indicates availability in the default openSUSE repos (via YaST2).

indicates availability in the default Fedora repos (via YUM).

links to an available .deb package download.

links to an available .rpm package download.

indicates that the app has no official 64-bit binary (though source/shell may work).

links to an available Windows download.

links to an available Mac download.

indicates that the application is a retail product.

Note: the deb and rpm icons used in this article are part of the hydroxygen icon set by deviantdark. It is hosted on along with a host of other high-quality theming elements.

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