Standards, Methodology, Test System Specs, And Legend
This is a collection of easy-to-install applications intended for anyone considering a 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 environment.
The three main criteria for these apps are: usability, quality, and popularity. As usual, I've opened up our test bed to include the top three distros: Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora. For an app to even appear in this article, it has to be available in one of the top three Linux distributions' official software repositories (repos), 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 that had too many bugs, crashes, or other general 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, don't worry about a relaxation of standard; 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 naturally have the most complete sampling of users, in turn producing an even better title. Also, because support is mainly handled by the community, popular software naturally has more documentation and fewer compatibility issues. Therefore, popularity greatly influences the order in which equally usable apps of similar quality are listed. This includes extra weight given to multi-platform applications. For a more comprehensive explanation of the standards we apply to the 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 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.
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; only client-side.
This article is the fourth of seven parts in Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup and my main production machine has undergone a few upgrades since I began the series. The new hardware configuration is listed in the table below.
64-bit Desktop Test System Specs
|Host OS||Ubuntu Studio 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" (64-bit)|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-750 @ 2.80 GHz (quad-core)|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-P55-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 Barracude 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, I used a fresh and updated virtual machine (VM) installation of Ubuntu 10.10 (32-bit) with the default GNOME graphical user interface (GUI). To check openSUSE compatibility, I used openSUSE 11.3 (32-bit), with the KDE GUI. For Fedora, I used Fedora 14 (32-bit) with GNOME.
Virtual Machine Specs
|Version||Oracle VirtualBox 3.2.10 r66523|
|Guest OS 1||Ubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" Desktop Edition (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||1532 MB|
|Video Memory||128 MB--3D Acceleration enabled|
|Storage||8 GB--Dynamically Expanding|
|Audio||PulseAudio Audio Driver|
In order to test the feature sets of these applications (and to determine 64-bit friendliness) I fell back on my host OS, a native (non-VM) and fully updated installation of 64-bit Ubuntu Studio 10.10. When an application was not available for the 64-bit architecture, I used the 32-bit VM installation of Ubuntu. The version number that I evaluated appears in parentheses 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.
An application's logo links to its homepage (e.g. Firefox = mozilla.com/firefox).
indicates availability in the default Ubuntu repos.
indicates availability in the default openSUSE repos.
indicates availability in the default Fedora repos.
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.