The Best Linux Software
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Updated by Bertel King, Jr. on December 6th 2017

You’ve made the switch from Windows or Mac OS X, and now you’re looking for applications to install. Or maybe you’re a long-time Linux user who’s keeping an eye out for what’s new. Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

You’ve already picked a Linux distro The Best Linux Distros for First Time Switchers from Windows and Mac The Best Linux Distros for First Time Switchers from Windows and Mac Linux has an intimidating image, making it seem like it would be difficult to start using it. But the switch from Windows and Mac is actually pretty easy, if you can ease yourself into it. Read More and have settled on a desktop environment It's Your Choice: The Top 10 Linux Desktop Environments It's Your Choice: The Top 10 Linux Desktop Environments From Gnome to KDE, from MATE to Unity, there's a lot of choice out there. Where should you start? Overwhelmed? Start here. Read More . Those are the big choices that determine what software you start with and what will run best on your machine. But now it’s time to delve through your distro’s app repositories to see what’s worth installing.

Most of the software below is free and open source. Some applications are proprietary, and one on this list costs a good deal of money. The vast majority only require you to open up a package manager (such as Ubuntu Software, GNOME Software, Muon Discover, or YaST) and perform a search. Or you can dish out a few commands Which Linux Package Manager (and Distro) Is Right for You? Which Linux Package Manager (and Distro) Is Right for You? A key difference between the main Linux distros is the package manager; the differences are strong enough that it can influence your choice of distro. Let's look at how the various package managers work. Read More .

A few require you to download an installer from a website. If a link below doesn’t take you to a giant download button, then there’s a good chance the first approach will work just fine. So without further ado, here are the apps.

Browsers

Firefox

The Best Linux Software BestLinuxApps Firefox

With the new Quantum update, Mozilla has given people reason to check out Firefox again. Linux users in particular may be happy to see support for client-side decorations, which makes Firefox feel more at home in desktop environments such as GNOME and Elementary OS Pantheon. Mozilla bakes in privacy options that don’t come with Chrome, one of several reasons to consider using Firefox instead 9 Reasons to Switch From Chrome to Firefox 9 Reasons to Switch From Chrome to Firefox The days when Chrome was the best browser are long gone. People are returning to Firefox! Is it time to switch (back)? Here are several reasons that may convince you. Read More .

 

Chrome/Chromium

BestLinuxSoftware-Google-Chrome

By some measures, Chrome is now the king of the hill. The browser has become so powerful that you can buy a Chromebook and do most of your computing without needing another app How to Decide If a Chromebook Is Right For You How to Decide If a Chromebook Is Right For You Is a Chromebook for everyone? In a word: No. There is a time and a place for a Chromebook. If you are contemplating this laptop replacement, there are a few things you should consider first. Read More . All of this functionality is available on Linux. You need to download Chrome from Google’s website, but you can download Chromium directly from many Linux repos.

Opera

BestLinuxSoftware-Opera

Opera isn’t open source, but it is free. You won’t find the web browser in your distro’s repos, but the website offers DEBs and RPMs for Linux. Opera isn’t nearly as popular as Chrome or Firefox, but it’s the third most mainstream browser you can install on your Linux desktop. And since Opera continues to need ways to differentiate itself, the latest version contains a built-in ad blocker and a VPN.

Web (Epiphany) Browser

BestLinuxSoftware-Web

There aren’t many browsers developed explicitly for Linux. GNOME Web browser, also still known by its original name — Epiphany — is one of the older ones around. Later versions offer the best integration you will find with GNOME Shell. It lacks the add-ons found in mainstream browsers, but some users will like the minimalism, the speed, and the tab isolation that prevents one misbehaving site from crashing the entire browser.

QupZilla

BestLinuxSoftware-Qupzilla

None of the above browsers look quite at home on the KDE Plasma desktop. If visual integration is important to you, then I would suggest QupZilla. Support may not be as solid as the above browsers, but it will get you across most of the web. In the past I would have recommended rekonq, but that browser hasn’t seen a major update in a few years. QupZilla remains under steady development.

Email

Thunderbird

BestLinuxSoftware-Thunderbird

Thunderbird is the email client from Mozilla. While it doesn’t have quite the name recognition as Firefox, it is perhaps second only to Outlook in the world of dedicated email clients. This cross-platform tool operates the same on Linux as it does elsewhere, so there’s a decent chance new Linux users will find it familiar.

Geary

BestLinuxSoftware-Geary

Geary isn’t the default GNOME email client, but it looks the part. This app comes from Yorba, a now defunct developer of open source apps that also brought us the Shotwell photo manager. The Elementary Project has since forked Geary and changed the name to Pantheon Mail, but it promises future updates will remain compatible with other distros.

Evolution

BestLinuxSoftware-Evolution

Evolution is the official email client of the GNOME project. It has grown long in the tooth, but in terms of features and stability, Geary doesn’t quite compare. Plus Evolution comes with a built-in calendar, address book, and to-do list.

KMail
BestLinuxSoftware-Kmail-KDE

Want a client that feels at home on the KDE desktop? This is the one. KMail is part of the larger Kontact suite Linux Desktop Email Clients Compared: Thunderbird vs. Evolution vs. KMail vs. Claws Mail Linux Desktop Email Clients Compared: Thunderbird vs. Evolution vs. KMail vs. Claws Mail Read More , but you can use the application independently for a more lightweight experience.

Claws Mail

BestLinuxSoftware-ClawsMail

Claws Mail is a great choice for a lightweight app that doesn’t have the heavy dependencies required by most of the alternatives. This makes it a good fit on lean desktops such as XFCE and LXDE. With a lengthy list of features, you get to keep most of the functionality you expect.

Instant Messaging

Pidgin

BestLinuxSoftware-Pidgin

Pidgin is a cross-platform instant messenger that has been around for decades and attracted millions of users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Pidgin a perfect score on its secure messaging scorecard in summer 2015, so you don’t need to have friends spread across numerous messaging services to have this app installed.

Empathy

BestLinuxSoftware-Empathy

Empathy is the default client for GNOME. As a result, it comes pre-installed on many distros that utilize that desktop environment. In addition to text, you can communicate using audio and video on protocols supported by the telepathy framework.

KDE Telepathy

BestLinuxSoftware-KDE-Telepathy

This is the KDE community’s new approach to instant messaging. Compared to other options, KDE Telepathy offers better integration with the Plasma desktop. It replaces Kopete, KDE’s previous default instant messenger for many years.

Finances

GnuCash

As the name would suggest, GnuCash is part of the GNU Project. It’s a free and open source alternative to Intuit Quicken 3 Ways to Manage Your Finances Using Linux 3 Ways to Manage Your Finances Using Linux Quicken won't work on Linux, but you have several options open to you for spreadsheet and accounting app alternatives. Here's how you can use Linux to stay on top of your finances. Read More . The app can handle personal or small business accounting, with the ability to import a number of formats, keep track of your stocks, and present your information in reports and graphs.

KMyMoney

If you prefer the Plasma desktop, GnuCash won’t quite feel at home. In that case, check out KMyMoney. It’s a well-established app that similarly packed with features. The layout even brings a bit more color into what can be a very dry task.

Skrooge

Skrooge is an alternative option for KDE fans. If KMyMoney doesn’t import your existing files or you don’t like the way it presents information, give Skrooge a look. It may just be what you’re looking for.

HomeBank

HomeBank is a GTK-based tool that wasn’t designed with any particular desktop environment in mind. It offers perhaps the simplest presentation of any accounting app on this list. It’s also available on whichever operating system you want, so if you hop back and forth between PCs and MacBooks, this may be the way to go.

Office Suites

LibreOffice

BestLinuxSoftware-LibreOffice

LibreOffice is the best office suite you can find on Linux. It’s so capable of taking on Microsoft Office Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? LibreOffice is the king of free office suites. It's unlikely to replace Microsoft Office in a business environment, but it's an excellent alternative for casual users. Here's what's new in LibreOffice 5.1. Read More that millions of people install it on Windows. Without spending a buck, you get most of the features you could want and great compatibility with Microsoft Office’s document formats.

GNOME Office

BestLinuxSoftware-AbiWord

LibreOffice is a massive suite, so it can feel heavy at times. GNOME offers a range of applications built explicitly for free desktops 10 Productive GNOME Office Apps You Need in Your Home Office 10 Productive GNOME Office Apps You Need in Your Home Office GNOME Office doesn't exist... or does it? These ten apps don't form a cohesive office suite, but they come close, and are likely to help you be productive from your Linux desktop. Read More , and they take up fewer system resources. If you don’t need quite as many features and aren’t as concerned about maintaining compatibility with Microsoft Office, you may find you prefer AbiWord and Gnumeric to LibreOffice Writer and Calc.

Calligra Suite

BestLinuxSoftwrae-Calligra-Words-KDE

Calligra is an office suite that feels at home on KDE. The interface is designed with wide-screen monitors in mind, and like the Plasma desktop as a whole, it’s very customizable. Calligra isn’t as mature as LibreOffice or GNOME Office, but it’s worth using if you prefer to stick with QT applications.

WPS Office

Maybe you simply want something that looks and feels like Microsoft Office WPS Office For Linux Looks As Good As MS Office, Performs Even Better WPS Office For Linux Looks As Good As MS Office, Performs Even Better Read More . WPS Office does, and it’s available for Linux. This isn’t open source software, but for many Linux users, that isn’t always a priority.

Multimedia Editors

Ardour

Audacity is a great place to start, but if audio is your bread and butter, you may want to step up to Ardour. This is a full-blown digital audio workstation intended for professional use. Ardour isn’t the only tool of its kind for Linux, but it does happen to be the foundation other tools such as Mixbus are based on.

Audacity

BestLinuxSoftware-Audacity

Audacity is a popular tool for recording and editing audio. Want to record an album or make your own podcast? Audacity is an easy recommendation across Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X alike.

GIMP

BestLinuxSoftware-GIMP

GIMP is the most mature and feature-rich image editor available for any open source desktop. It’s also the best free application of its kind across any operating system. GIMP is an alternative to PhotoShop, and more than capable of holding its own. Some people may prefer the Adobe interface, but with the addition of a single window view several years back, GIMP may feel more familiar than you think.

OpenShot

OpenShot is a great video editor for creating a home video to preparing a recording for YouTube. It first launched in 2008,but it became much better after version 2.0. While this isn’t the kind of tool you will find in production studios, with 3D animation, compositing, audio mixing, and more, there are plenty of advanced features at hand.

PiTiVi

Just want the basics, such as the ability to trim clips, insert transitions, and add a few effects? PiTiVi has you covered. It’s not very advanced, but for home use, it’s a capable tool Video Editing on Linux Just Got Better With PiTiVi Video Editing on Linux Just Got Better With PiTiVi PiTiVi, a video editor that has historically been in the "simple home user" category, has gained several features since its early days. Read More .

Kdenlive

Again, the KDE project has an option of its own. Kdenlive is more powerful than PiTiVi, making it a great alternative to OpenShot. Start here if you use a QT-based desktop, though you may still want to try it even if you aren’t.

Lightworks

Ready to get serious? Lightworks is arguably the best video editor on the Linux desktop. It’s good enough that several Hollywood productions have used this app to produce feature films. But there’s a cost — a big one. The pro version of Lightworks will cost you hundreds of dollars. Fortunately the free version gives you all of the same tools, as long as you’re fine with exporting to MPEG-4 at 720p.

Media Players

VLC

BestLinuxSoftware-VLC

If VLC can’t play the file you want to watch, there’s a good chance it can’t be played. This app is so good at it’s job that it’s one of the first installs you see on many Windows machines. The interface can feel cluttered or outdated, but you won’t be disappointed by the functionality.

Videos (Totem)

BestLinuxSoftware-Videos-Totem

The default video editor for the GNOME desktop is simple by design. It plays any media formats supported by GStreamer. The options aren’t the most thorough, but it does a great job of staying out of the way so you can focus on what you’re watching.

Vocal

BestLinuxSoftware-Vocal-Podcasts

Vocal is a podcast client developed for Elementary OS. That means it comes with all the simplicity and style common to that distro’s apps. The software is in an early stage, but this is one of the more exciting podcast-related developments Linux has seen since Miro How To Publish Your Video To Miro & Why You Should How To Publish Your Video To Miro & Why You Should Read More , which hasn’t seen an update in three years.

Music Players

Rhythmbox

The Best Linux Software BestLinuxSoftware Rhythmbox

Rhythmbox is a classic. If you’ve used iTunes, you know how to navigate your way around this one-stop-shop of a music player. Access your library, listen to podcasts, and download new music from Creative Commons online stores. The app hasn’t changed much in the past decade, but it consistently gets the job done.

Lollypop

The Best Linux Software BestLinuxSoftware Lollypop

While Rhythmbox looks out of place on a default GNOME desktop, Lollypop feels right at home. It takes design cues from the simple GNOME Music player, but it doesn’t skimp on features — showing that following GNOME guidelines doesn’t require an app to be basic.

Amarok

The Best Linux Software BestLinuxSoftware Amarok

Amarok is the juggernaut of the KDE music scene. It also manages to pack the same features of Rhythmbox (and more) without looking like an iTunes clone. You can thoroughly tweak the interface and add plugins to make Amarok fit your tastes. If I could only recommend one music app on the Linux desktop, this would be it.

Clementine

Clementine takes its inspiration from the Amarok of old. In the many years since its debut, the app has grown into is own. These days you can stream music from a number of online sources and control the player using the Clementine Android app.

Photo Managers

digiKam

Not only is digiKam the best photo management application available for Linux, you could argue that it’s the best option on any desktop operating system, period. If you’re a professional photographer looking to switch to Linux, this is the place to start. DigiKam will import RAW files, manage metadata, apply tags, create labels, and turn your terabytes of photos into something manageable. All the while, it’s simple of enough for casual users to embrace, too.

Gwenview

The Best Linux Software BestLinuxSoftware Gwenview

Gwenview is the default image viewer on a KDE Plasma desktop, but it also makes for a great photo manager. You can browser folders and make simple edits to files without having to install any extra software. Thanks to the wide range of plugins, that’s hardly the limit to what you can do. Gwenview is compelling enough that you may want to use it even if you’re not a fan of KDE.

gThumb

The Best Linux Software BestLinuxSoftware gThumb

Like Gwenview, gThumb is an image viewer that can double as a photo manager. It also happens to be the most feature-rich option that looks at home on the GNOME desktop. It offers an ideal blend of functionality and simplicity that make it great for casual use, but it’s probably not the kind of software you’d want to build a business with.

Shotwell

Shotwell is the most straightforward photo manager for GTK-based desktop environments. It imports your photos from a camera, gives you a number of ways to group them, can apply tags, open RAW files, and make edits. It loads more quickly than digiKam and provides much of the same core functionality.

Text Editors

Gedit

BestLinuxSoftware-Gedit

GNOME’s default text editor is one of the most feature-packed apps of its kind gedit: One Of The Most Feature-Filled Plain Text Editors [Linux & Windows] gedit: One Of The Most Feature-Filled Plain Text Editors [Linux & Windows] When you think of plain text editors, the first thing that may pop into your head is Windows' Notepad application. It does exactly what its job description states - plain features for a plain text... Read More . It’s also a great way to type up basic notes. However you want to use it, it gets our recommendation.

Kate

BestLinuxSoftware-Kate-KDE

Kate is the default text editor for the KDE desktop environment, and it’s no slouch either. Since this is KDE we’re talking about, much of the advanced functionality is easy to find in the many application menus. Plus you can tweak the interface until your heart’s content.

Sublime Text

Not all Linux applications are open source, and Sublime Text is one example. This proprietary text editor is cross-platform, having gained plenty of users on Windows and macOS. Distraction-free writing, the ability to edit two files side by side, and an expansive set of shortcuts all make the Linux version as compelling as those on other operating systems. Plus there’s a large pool of community-supported plug-ins that can make the experience your own.

Terminals

GNOME Terminal

GNOME Terminal comes with the GNOME desktop, so it’s the one you’re going to first encounter on Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora. Fortunately, it happens to be a good tool for the job. You can hide the menubar, adjust font and background colors (including make the window transparent, and rewrap text on resize.

Konsole

As the default terminal for KDE, Konsole makes an appearance in any KDE app that displays its own terminal window. This level of integration between apps is part of what makes the Plasma desktop so appealing. That also means there’s less reason to install Konsole if you’re not all that invested in the KDE ecosystem, though having split terminals is pretty nice.

Terminator

That said, if you really want to view multiple terminals in one window, you can do much better than two. Terminator can stick four terminals in a grid. If that’s not enough to give you a headache, try doubling that number to eight. Terminator doesn’t mind.

Guake

Don’t want your terminal occupying its own window? Or does launching a separate app simply slow you down? Either way, you may prefer Guake, a terminal that drops down from the top of your screen. Assign it a keyboard shortcut and you will always have a terminal handy. As for the name? It’s inspired by Quake, a video game that lets you access the terminal in this manner.

Yakuake

Yakuake does what Guake does, only for KDE. You know the drill by now. When you’re not using a GTK-based desktop, it’s nice to have an alternative option. Yakuake is a top-down terminal written in QT.

Development

Eclipse

BestLinuxSoftware-Eclipse

Eclipse is the go-to IDE on Linux, but it’s widely used on other operating systems too. It has a large community and plenty of plugins. As a result, there’s a good chance that Eclipse has the features you need.

Atom

BestLinuxSoftware-Atom

Atom is a text editor developed by GitHub. The goal was to design a hackable text editor for the 21st century. People have developed so many plugins that Atom makes for a great development tool. You can even use it as an IDE.

Geany

BestLinuxSoftware-Geany

Geany is neither a text editor nor a full-blown IDE. It’s a code editor Geany - A Great Lightweight Code Editor For Linux Geany - A Great Lightweight Code Editor For Linux Surprisingly, Linux doesn't offer that many good IDE's (Integrated Development Environments). I believe this is because back in the day most Linux programmers took out good old Notepad (or gedit in this case), and started... Read More . You can compile and run software, view a list of defined functions in the current file, and more.

Maintenance

GNOME Tweak Tool

BestLinuxSoftware-GNOME-Tweak-Tool

Despite GNOME’s focus on simplicity, the desktop is very customizable. With the right combination of extensions 8 GNOME Shell Extensions that Improve the Interface 8 GNOME Shell Extensions that Improve the Interface After using GNOME for a while, you may wish to change a few things about the overview mode, or even tweak the panel. These eight extensions help you do just that! Read More  and a few extra apps, you can change many aspects of your computer’s interface. GNOME Tweak Tool is one of those extra apps. Want to change fonts or toggle the extensions you’ve installed? This is the place to be.

Unity Tweak Tool

BestLinuxSoftware-Unity-Tweak-Tool

Unity Tweak Tool is a similar app, but it’s designed with Ubuntu’s Unity interface in mind. The core concept is the same. Download this app to edit virtual desktops, adjust animations, and tweak other aspects that Ubuntu doesn’t let you do by default.

BleachBit

BestLinuxSoftware-BleachBit-Ubuntu

Linux doesn’t need the kind of regular system maintenance that Windows requires, but there are times when we might want to give parts of our machines a powerwash. BleachBit can do that. This tool securely deletes files and “cleans” a large list of applications.

Is That All?

Hardly! There are plenty more apps where that came from. Linux has great options for handling finances, chatting over IRC 5 Amazing Linux IRC Clients to Keep You Chatting 5 Amazing Linux IRC Clients to Keep You Chatting While it's certainly past its prime, IRC is still alive and kicking today – so alive, in fact, that dozens of clients are still being actively developed. Read More tapping into your creative side 7 Apps That Prove You Don't Need Adobe Creative Suite on Linux 7 Apps That Prove You Don't Need Adobe Creative Suite on Linux Adobe has refused to make its Creative Suite compatible with Linux, so how do you edit photos, movies, and audio, create vectors, and more? Well, you create your own open source creative suite! Read More , and so much more! These days, you can even turn a Linux PC into a decent gaming machine Not All About SteamOS: Other Great Linux Distros for Gamers Not All About SteamOS: Other Great Linux Distros for Gamers SteamOS certainly isn't a requirement for Linux gaming, as games can be played on virtually any distribution. But what SteamOS alternatives are out there, ready to download and install? Read More  filled with big budget AAA titles 5 Games That Prove Linux Is Now a Serious Gaming Platform 5 Games That Prove Linux Is Now a Serious Gaming Platform Big-budget games are coming to Linux, thanks to graphic driver improvements and the arrival of SteamOS. Here are five, top-tier games which undeniably demonstrate the potential of Linux as a platform for gaming. Read More  and open source freebies alike 10 Great Games Hiding in Your Linux App Store 10 Great Games Hiding in Your Linux App Store Linux gamers have some real gems available - if you know where to look! These 10 games aren't new, but if you're a Linux newcomer, they'll offer some great, free gaming experiences. Read More .

We could add many apps to this list, and we intend to do so in the future. Until then, why don’t you shout out your favorites in the comments below?

Original article written by Danny Stieben

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  1. Markus Rieder
    July 3, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    No Netbeans in your list??

  2. Stone Forest
    July 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Has Ubuntu suddenly discontinued the Unity DE?

    FYI, SparkyLinux has recently gone stable, in conjunction with Debian Stretch.

  3. Mike Walsh
    June 30, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Just wanted to add to the comments about the GIMP. Personally, I've been using the two side-by-side for some time, and have no problems switching back & forth between them; they're both simply raster graphics editors, after all.

    If you wish to make the GIMP look more like Photoshop, because you're more used to it, Deviant Art contributor 'Doctor Mo' has produced a theme pack for the GIMP, which 're-skins' it. It's very easy to install, and details can be found here:-

    http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2016/08/make-gimp-look-like-photoshop-easy

  4. adam felson
    February 7, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    I just discovered the world of recording studio / musician software. Take a look at the kxstudio distribution to get a glimpse. Mind is blown.