The GNOME desktop is one of the most complete and accessible desktop environments in the Linux ecosystem. It’s the default experience in popular distributions like Fedora and Debian, and it’s one of the primary options available in most others.
Regardless of which distribution you choose, when you fire up a GNOME desktop, the default applications tend to be the same. You will likely see Firefox and LibreOffice alongside GNOME-specific applications like Gedit, Nautilus, Cheese, Calculator, Clocks, and Terminal.
There are plenty of applications to choose from in your distribution’s app repositories, but only GNOME apps will have buttons in the window border and make proper use of the application menu button at the top of the screen. Since software isn’t labeled, new and seasoned Linux users alike can have a difficult time finding additional GNOME apps. Here’s a list of several great programs that likely didn’t come pre-installed with your distribution.
GNOME’s default app for viewing images, known both as Image Viewer and Eye of GNOME, is good at its job. But if you want to do more than look at your pictures, you will need to find another app. You can opt to edit your images in GIMP, but for simple tasks like cropping and resizing, that feels excessive.
gThumb is an alternative image viewer that sits somewhere between the two. A file manager in the sidebar lets you browse your machine without leaving the window. The edit button provides tools for adjusting the size of photos and altering the colors. gThumb can also organize photos into catalogs. Altogether, this makes gThumb a solid alternative to Picasa on Linux.
Twitter clients offer a zippier experience than the website, and Corebird is no exception. This app is quick to load, and most of what you want is accessible in the upper left-hand side. There you can browse through your newsfeed, view mentions, keep track of your favorites, keep up with direct messages, manage lists, add filters, and perform searches. You can also change account settings and edit your profile. Getting to your own profile page isn’t as convenient as I’d like, but overall, this is one of the best ways to experience Twitter on an open source desktop.
3) GNOME Todo
With so many good options existing on the web or on your phone these days, you could easily do without a dedicated application for managing to-do lists. But I find that keeping work-related tasks consolidated to the place where I do my work – my computer – makes a bit of sense. I don’t particularly need nor want extensive tagging or other ways of filtering through tasks. Just give me the basics, I say, and GNOME Todo does precisely that.
The app takes what we could now consider the Google Keep approach to managing notes. Create a project, give it a color, and list off what needs to be done. You can type up notes for each task, pick a due date, assign priority, and that’s it. To me, that’s a good thing.
4) GNOME Music
Linux has a bountiful selection of music players, but only a couple integrate with the GNOME desktop environment. Right now distributions tend to include Rhythmbox. A more fluid alternative is GNOME Music. Like most of the project’s latest apps, don’t expect much in the way of configuration here. This is an app that scans your music folder, displays albums in an attractive grid, and lets you play tracks. Personally, that’s all I need my music player to do.
Google Reader went away over two years ago, and the RSS landscape hasn’t been the same since. A number of alternatives have popped up, but none have had quite the same reach. Still, if you prefer RSS to Reddit and want a decent dedicated client for your desktop, FeedReader is worth a look.
The app isn’t as fully featured as Liferea. Actually, basic functionality like adding feeds appears to be missing. But if you’re after a way to read your Tiny Tiny RSS or Feedly feeds, FeedReader can scratch that itch. Just be ready to sign back into the website when you need to edit your collection.
I’ll be frank. I’ve never been much of an IRC user. And these days, much of the conversation has shifted over to social networks. But there are still plenty of people chatting on IRC channels. Open source projects in particular find this an effective way to keep in touch. GNOME, for example, has a lengthy list of IRC channels where you can discuss specific apps, contribute documentation, or suggest ways of spreading the word about your favorite open source desktop. When you’re ready to sign in, Polari is a dedicated app for the job.
7) GNOME Web (Epiphany)
Web, formerly known as Epiphany, is the GNOME project’s web browser. The application has been around since the early 2000s, but even now, it still doesn’t ship as the default option on most Linux distributions. You’re more likely to encounter Firefox.
Firefox is a great browser with name recognition and plenty of support, but it takes a bit of work to integrate with the GNOME desktop. Web just fits in, and being based on WebKit, it loads up most websites just fine. Fonts sometimes look funny and widgets don’t always load properly, so you may still want to keep Firefox around as a backup for those times Web doesn’t act right. The rest of the time, Web is a shining example of how a browser should look under GNOME.
The Pomodoro technique is a method of managing time that consists of working for twenty-five minutes and then taking a short 3-5 minute break. The idea is to increase concentration and reduce burn out at the same time.
You can install a timer that lives in the GNOME Shell panel running across the top of your screen. Here you’re likely to see the digits every time you log in to your computer. This regular presence has helped me remember to start the countdown and make this a regular part of my routine.
Dictionary is an oldie but goodie that has been updated for the modern GNOME desktop. Its role is straightforward. You open the app, type in a word you don’t know the meaning of, and find out what it means.
Having a dedicated app that doesn’t have to load ads can be faster than loading up a website in your browser. Except Dictionary isn’t very good at looking up words that you’ve misspelled. That, admittedly, is quite the letdown. Nevertheless, it’s handy to have around.
These days many of us have switched from looking up directions on our PCs to using a smartphone. Occasionally, though, there are those times where you want to look something up at your desk. You could fire up a web browser and wait for a site to load, but you don’t have to. GNOME Maps can pull up addresses to show you where a building is located on a map.
If you don’t need live turn-by-turn directions, you can view maps on your computer without leaving the app. Alternatively, you can switch to satellite view and get the feel for a place without leaving your desk. The maps and imagery come courtesy of Open Street Map and MapQuest.
That’s Not All
GNOME is built using GTK+, and any apps made using that toolkit will function well on your desktop. Thing is, many of them continue to rely on old-fashioned menu bars and windows bars that do nothing except show the name of the application. This includes such stables as GIMP, AbiWord, and Shutter. Rhythmbox, an iTunes-style music player, straddles the line somewhere in between.
This, undoubtedly, will bother some people more than others. If you’re looking for that complete up-to-date experience, I hope some of the apps above are of use. Even if you aren’t a GNOME purist, some of this software may be just what you’ve been looking for.
What are your favorite Linux apps? Do they look great on your GNOME desktop? Share your experience in the comments below!