Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Office Applications

Standards, Methodology, Test System Specs, And Legend


What follows 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 environment. The three main criteria for these apps are: usability, quality, and popularity.

As usual, I've opened up the 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 distros' 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 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 compatibility issues. 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, please reference the Standards and Methodology page from Internet Apps.

Exclusion #1: Web Apps & 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 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. For a guide on setting up VirtualBox (a popular VM application) in Ubuntu, see 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.

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 third of five (or so) in Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup, and my production machine has undergone a few upgrades since the series began. The new hardware configuration is in the table below. However, the software has changed as well. I started out with Ubuntu 9.04, but switched to Kubuntu 9.10 over the holidays. Therefore, some of the versions may have been from Jaunty and not the newer Karmic repos. Also, some screenshots are GNOME and others KDE.

Test System specs:

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Host OS 1Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope (64-bit)
Host OS 2Kubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala (64-bit)
CPUAMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ @ 2.0 GHz (dual core)
MotherboardBiostar NF61S-M2 TE
Memory4GB DDR2 @ 800MHz (2 x 2GB)
GraphicsEVGA GeForce GTX 260 (896MB GDDR3)
StorageWestern Digital WD2500KS 250GB SATA 3 Gb/s, 7,200 RPM, 16MB Cache
OpticalAsus DVD-RW 1814-BLT-BULK-BG
Power SupplyCorsair TX750W (750W max)

In order to determine Ubuntu compatibility, I used a fresh and updated virtual machine (VM) installation of Ubuntu 9.10 (32-bit), with the default GNOME graphical user interface (GUI). To check openSUSE and Fedora compatibility I used openSUSE 11.2 (32-bit) with the KDE GUI, and Fedora 12 (32-bit) with GNOME.

Virtual Machine specs:

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VersionOracle VirtualBox 3.0 OSE
Guest OS 1Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala (32-bit)
Guest OS 2openSUSE 11.2 (32-bit)
Guest OS 3Fedora 12 Unite (32-bit)
CPU2 CPUs - AMD-V and Nested Paging enabled
Base Memory2,048MB
Video Memory128MB - 3D Acceleration enabled
Storage10GB - Dynamically Expanding
AudioALSA Audio Driver

In order to test drive 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 Kubuntu 9.10. 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 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.


   An application's logo links to its 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 icons used in this article were borrowed from the hydroxygen icon set by deviantdark and hosted on along with a host of other high quality theming elements.

  • ksa-_-jed
    And don't bother looking for any anti-virus becuase you don't need it or cracks for your software becuase almost all app are free !!!!!!!
  • DjEaZy
    ... for my laptop @ work the only licensed thing are win7hp and KAV... all other apps are free... infrerecorder, inkskape, OOo and so on...
  • bloody llama
    Open Office and the other open source software are great for what they are, but try replacing Access 2007 or 2010 with something open source, and you'll be tearing your hair out.
  • jsowoc
    I assume that OO 3.0.1 is what you have in the repositories - was that the reason for testing the older version (version 3.2 came out two months ago)?
  • JonathanDeane
    bloody llamaOpen Office and the other open source software are great for what they are, but try replacing Access 2007 or 2010 with something open source, and you'll be tearing your hair out.
    This is very true, I love Open Office and for my home use it does 100% of what I would use MS Office for, that being said if I had to run a business on it I am afraid it would be worth it to pony up the dough for an MS product.
  • ejmarkow
    Tom's Hardware omitted the best performing, most comprehensive, free and Open Source Accounting ERP software available for download. It's called "xTuple ERP PostBooks Edition" and utilizes PostgreSQL. This software is capable of running anything from a small to large business. Link:
  • killerclick
    We installed Linux and OOo into one of our offices (sort of an experiment to cut costs) and it was a riot. Not that Linux and OOo are bad, it's just that the power of habit is too strong to break when Windows and Linux are concerned. Windows and OS/X... not so much apparently.
  • Open Source is the future. ...... companies that profit millions or billions off of proprietary software. They are what hold us back.
  • randomizer
    killerclickWindows and OS/X... not so much apparently.Well it's not like Office on Windows and Mac are vastly different, I'd hope that users would feel comfortable using the exact same software...

    I must attest to the uselessness of OOo Calc though. It needs a ground-up rewrite. It's slow to load and process even a small to moderately sized amount of data and charts are slow to redraw when altered. I have not tested GNUMeric enough to comment on that but it's supposedly alot faster.

    I'm interested in looking at those project management programs. There's also OpenProj to add to the list.
  • haplo602
    hmm ... not my area of software, I try to avoid office apps as much as I can, but last time I worked in Writer/Calc it was slow and unresponsive. The best thing in Writer was the TeX like equation editor, way better than what MS had to offer. I think they made some progress on OOo since that time, so I'd have to test.