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cross platform appsAfter perusing our must-have Windows apps page, a plucky MakeUseOf reader emailed us suggesting that we put together a list for both Windows and Linux users.

When I originally switched from Windows to Ubuntu 5 Reasons A Disgruntled Windows User Should Consider Using Ubuntu 5 Reasons A Disgruntled Windows User Should Consider Using Ubuntu Read More I was very interested in these cross-platform apps. After more than 10 years loyalty to Bill’s operating system, I had built up a trusted roster of often used software – but some of it was Windows only.

Here’s a selection of quality free software that works on both Linux and Windows machines.

Multimedia

VLC

cross platform apps

The media player that just works. Most of the Internet has harped on about how good VLC is for years now, despite the program remaining fairly unchanged and well….a bit plain. Don’t let that put you off – simplicity is the key for this powerhouse of a video and music player.

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If you’ve got a movie to watch or an album to listen to, rest assured, regardless of operating system, VLC will run it. A lightweight, codec-rich media solution that you should already have installed.

SMPlayer

cross platform application

An alternative to VLC, SMPlayer also does a stellar job of providing smooth, simple playback of your media. A frontend for the popular MPlayer, SMPlayer offers a slightly fancier interface and an improved playlist over VLC.

Features like automatic file resuming, a video equalizer, filters, sync control and the ability to search Open Subtitles directly within the program make this a very impressive package.

Boxee

cross platform application

Justin can’t get enough of Boxee Boxee Beta - The Best Media Center App for Your TV Boxee Beta - The Best Media Center App for Your TV Read More , and I’m beginning to see why. Not to be confused with the set-top box you plug into your TV (that’s the Boxee Box) Boxee is a free media centre application for your Windows, Linux or even Mac computer.

Once installed you can simply use it as a front-end for accessing your local media, or plug your PC into your TV and access everything in your living room. You could even make your own dedicated Boxee Box out of an old PC. Fancy that, the Internet has arrived on your telly!

Web & Communication

Chrome / Firefox

cross platform application

Rarely do I group such applications together – especially when there’s fanboys lurking in the shadows, but Chrome and Firefox Google Chrome vs. Firefox [Poll] Google Chrome vs. Firefox [Poll] Read More are two awesomely cross-platform browsers.

Chrome now keeps all your bookmarks 3 Cool Tips To Get More Out of Your Bookmarks in Chrome 3 Cool Tips To Get More Out of Your Bookmarks in Chrome Read More synchronized with your Google Account, meaning you can log in from either OS with all your favourites intact. The Firefox 4 Beta Test Run: First Impressions of Firefox 4 Beta Test Run: First Impressions of Firefox 4 Beta Read More offers a new feature called Firefox Sync which does the same thing.

Both Firefox and Chrome perform well under Windows or Linux (I find Chrome even faster on Linux), although you’ll need to install your extensions again.

Thunderbird

cross platform

Especially useful to those who dual boot between Windows and Linux who demand a powerful email client, Thunderbird is the perfect solution. As modern Linux distributions can easily access data stored on a Windows NTFS partition, Thunderbird can be told to store all data on your Windows partition which in turn can then be accessed from a Linux environment.

This means you will never be out of sync with your email, even if you reboot your PC into another operating system. Clever, huh?

Deluge

cross platform

One of the better cross-platform BitTorrent clients out there, Deluge is available for all 3 major operating systems. It has an interface reminiscent of uTorrent, and includes support for full encryption, a remotely controllable Web UI, plugins and more.

You can even control multiple instances of Deluge across the network, making it a very powerful BitTorrent solution for those that need it. Check out our full low-down Deluge - An Awesome But Unappreciated Cross-Platform BitTorrent Client Deluge - An Awesome But Unappreciated Cross-Platform BitTorrent Client Read More for more information.

Pidgin

cross platform

If you’re after an all-in-one instant messaging client for your PC, then give Pidgin a go. Formerly known as GAIM (way back when), Pidgin offers support for a startling amount of IM services.

These include AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, MSN and Yahoo as well as some more obscure platforms and an IRC client if you’re that way inclined. As Digsby 5 Reasons Digsby's A Must-Have IM Client 5 Reasons Digsby's A Must-Have IM Client Read More ‘s not ready for Linux yet, Pidgin fills its boots nicely.

[NO LONGER WORKS] Adobe Air & Java

Technically not apps at all, Adobe Air and Java both work on Windows and Linux to provide cross-platform compatibility with a multitude of programs 4 Ways To Make Linux Compatible With Even More Software 4 Ways To Make Linux Compatible With Even More Software Read More . As these programs use a framework, there is no need for separate Windows and Linux versions – they should just work.

With great apps like Tweetdeck at your disposal, you’re bound to find something you like. We’ve got some great Adobe Air picks right here 8 Adobe AIR Apps That DON'T Suck 8 Adobe AIR Apps That DON'T Suck Read More , and more information on the Java platform here The Wonder & Beauty Of Java Applets [Technology Explained] The Wonder & Beauty Of Java Applets [Technology Explained] Read More .

Office & Graphics

OpenOffice

It doesn’t have the “next-gen” interface seen in Microsoft’s latest Office suite Office 2010 - Is It Any Better Than Office 2007? Office 2010 - Is It Any Better Than Office 2007? Read More , but OpenOffice gets the job done. For those of you with the simple demand of an Office suite that opens a multitude of file formats (including all Microsoft Office files) then look no further.

There are 5 programs included in the suite:

  • Writer – A simple yet powerful word processor.
  • Calc – A spreadsheet program.
  • Impress – A presentation application.
  • Draw – For creating diagrams and graphics.
  • Base – A database management tool.

Funnily enough, I’m using OpenOffice Writer for this very article.

GIMP

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and it is the Linux equivalent of Photoshop. The interface can be tricky at first, especially if you’re used to Adobe’s efforts but there’s plenty of guides and documentation to help you on your way.

For those of you who would prefer a more Adobe-like interface from the get-go, then try GIMPShop, a hack that alters the interface to make GIMP more closely resemble Photoshop.

InkScape

cross platform apps

For vector artists on a budget 4 Great Applications for the Graphic Designer on a Budget 4 Great Applications for the Graphic Designer on a Budget Read More , InkScape steps up to the mark. Essentially a free equivalent to Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator and Xara X, InkScape is a community developed and driven project with versions for Windows, Linux and even Mac OS X. InkScape uses the W3C standardised Scaleable Vector Graphics format (.SVG) to save files, and as such is compatible with a wide range of advanced features.

Do you have any favourite software that works cross-platform? Maybe you’re searching for a Linux equivalent to a much loved Windows program? Get it off your chest in the comments.

Thanks to reader Robert Backlund for suggesting this article. Have you got an article you would like to see? Why not get in touch? Don’t forget MakeUseOf Answers for those tough techie questions!

  1. Dan
    December 28, 2010 at 8:04 am

    I use InfanView a lot on Windows and recently moved over to Ubuntu, but have found what's on offer not what I am used to..so, does anyone know of something out there that is the same or as close to InfanView as you can get..aside from running it under WINE..which seems a bit of a task for me ( I'm in no way a tech guy and using code in Linux).

    Dan

  2. Dan
    December 28, 2010 at 9:04 am

    I use InfanView a lot on Windows and recently moved over to Ubuntu, but have found what's on offer not what I am used to..so, does anyone know of something out there that is the same or as close to InfanView as you can get..aside from running it under WINE..which seems a bit of a task for me ( I'm in no way a tech guy and using code in Linux).

    Dan

  3. Blowfish
    December 22, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Blender 3D modeling, animation and physics simulation is great piece of work too.

    • Tim Brookes
      December 22, 2010 at 11:05 am

      It is! I did an article about Blender last month, you can read it here if you're interested.

  4. Shimmy
    December 21, 2010 at 12:19 am

    i found that there is no cross platform mp3 player, like winamp and aimp....

    i mean u have audacious and rhythmbox, but i mean cross-platform, songbird got droped from support

  5. Shimmy
    December 21, 2010 at 1:19 am

    i found that there is no cross platform mp3 player, like winamp and aimp....

    i mean u have audacious and rhythmbox, but i mean cross-platform, songbird got droped from support

  6. Aibek
    December 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    make sure to check out our recently published Dropbox guide, http://www.makeuseof.com/pages...

  7. kabbala
    December 17, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Most of them are on Mac, too!

  8. seenu
    December 17, 2010 at 6:45 am

    Deluge is new for me among all the 10+ apps

  9. Ivan kolevski
    December 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Clementine is awesome audio player. Have been watching the development and the dev guys are very much on the ball. I still use fb2k, but Clementine is very promising. Put DeVeDe and HandBrake on the list as well.

  10. Rackmount LCD
    December 16, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Hey, i know about all except inkspace and gimp.

  11. Tim Brookes
    December 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I chose to leave Dropbox out as I thought it was already pretty well known.

    It is a great app though, definitely worth the download if you have a need for it.

  12. Jayarathina Madharasan
    December 16, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Hmmm Where is Dropbox?? Thats one of my favorite..

    • Tim Brookes
      December 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

      I chose to leave Dropbox out as I thought it was already pretty well known.

      It is a great app though, definitely worth the download if you have a need for it.

    • Aibek
      December 17, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      make sure to check out our recently published Dropbox guide, http://www.makeuseof.com/pages/downloads#dropbox

      • Jayarathina Madharasan
        December 17, 2010 at 12:51 pm

        Thanks. It was really helpful. Especially chapter 7. I learned several new tricks from it.

  13. Vivek Parmar
    December 16, 2010 at 5:20 am

    already have all of them and it would be great if photoshop also included in it :(

    • Tim Brookes
      December 16, 2010 at 10:21 am

      Tell me about it!

  14. Paul Schaefer
    December 16, 2010 at 12:45 am

    I already have most of them.

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