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Commercial operating systems try to reserve their best software as exclusives. This isn’t the case with Linux. Many of the most well-known and capable applications have ports for Windows. GIMP is a wildly popular alternative to Photoshop on any platform, and it began on Linux.

The nature of open source software encourages people to port programs to whichever operating systems they like. So, are there any Linux exclusives out there? Of course!

Don’t expect this list to include cross-platform heavyweights such as Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, and VLC. We have a separate one for that The Best Linux Software The Best Linux Software Linux is full of awesome apps, both open source and proprietary. People new to Linux and even seasoned Linux users tend to find new and useful software quite often. Here's what we love. Read More . Here I’m going to highlight some of the smaller projects out there that have chosen to call Linux home.

Where to Find These Exclusives

On Linux, you don’t open a web browser to install most software. You open a package manager. These take many forms and go by many names. Some are similar to app stores, such as GNOME Software, KDE Discover, and AppCenter. Others are more complex and powerful.

linux exclusive apps appcenter

Whichever one you use, none of them are available for Windows, and there’s a decent chance you will miss them when you find yourself hunting for an EXE in internet Explorer or buying Microsoft Office on Amazon. You could consider these package managers the first Linux exclusives you won’t find on Windows.

You won’t be able to find all of the programs below in your distribution’s package manager, but most should be in there. Now, let’s get to it.

1. GNOME Web (Epiphany)

You could describe Epiphany as Safari for Linux. It’s a lightweight, focused browser that isn’t bogged down by all of the add-ons and features baked into Chrome and Firefox. As an official GNOME project and the new default in Elementary OS, Epiphany is currently the best-supported, Linux-only web browser.

linux exclusive apps web

Many people view Chrome and Firefox’s extensions as must-haves, so Epiphany is by no means for everyone. Then again, the same is true on Windows. How many of your friends (that know how to install a new browser) use Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge?

2. Geary / Pantheon Mail

I’ve used Microsoft Outlook. I’ve used Thunderbird. Geary and Pantheon Mail are easily my favorite. Why? Because finally a desktop client feels as simple as webmail.

linux exclusive apps geary

I don’t want to leave a tab open in my web browser, and I like that desktop clients let me load and scroll through mail more quickly. But they also feel more complicated. Geary and Pantheon Mail are the first I’ve used that I want to recommend to less technical users.

To clarify, Geary and Pantheon Mail are essentially the same application. When Geary’s development ceased, Elementary OS took the code and renamed the project as Pantheon Mail. Since then, someone else has stepped up to continue Geary as a GNOME project GNOME Explained: A Look at One of Linux's Most Popular Desktops GNOME Explained: A Look at One of Linux's Most Popular Desktops You're interested in Linux, and you've come across "GNOME", an acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment. GNOME is one of the most popular open source interfaces, but what does that mean? Read More . The two programs may differ in the future, but right now the biggest difference between them is the desktop environment they’re designed for 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 .

3. Vocal

I love listening to podcasts, but for the past few years, that’s something I’ve done only from mobile devices. Vocal is so cool that I’m listening from my laptop again. The program integrates perfectly with my Elementary OS desktop while managing to stand out thanks to its vibrant purple toolbar.

linux exclusive apps vocal

You can add RSS feeds manually, browse the top podcasts on iTunes, or have Vocal search for the specific one you want. Vocal will then auto-download new episodes of audio and video feeds alike. In short, it’s a one-stop-shop.

4. GNOME Boxes

There are so many versions of Linux out there that no one blames you for wanting to try them all — but your PC might not like it. So rather than abusing your hard drive with repeated wipes, run that new distribution in a virtual machine instead.

This may sound complicated. I know. I put off learning how to do this for years because it sounded like so much work. GNOME Boxes changed that Gnome Boxes: An Easy Way To Set Up Virtual Machines in Linux Gnome Boxes: An Easy Way To Set Up Virtual Machines in Linux Gnome Boxes is a simple virtualization tool that prefers ease and convenience over numerous customization options. Read More . All you do is select an ISO file and watch the desktop boot up inside a window. That’s it. You’re done. Enjoy.

linux exclusive apps gnome boxes

5. Rapid Photo Downloader

Rapid Photo Downloader does exactly what the name says, and more. You can copy photos from an SD card, USB stick, or local folder. In the process, Rapid Photo Downloader will rename files to your preferences and stick them in beautifully organized folders.

linux exclusive apps rapid photo downloader

Unless you automatically upload your images to the cloud 5 Tools to Sync & Auto-Upload Photos from Android to Cloud Storage 5 Tools to Sync & Auto-Upload Photos from Android to Cloud Storage Nothing is more convenient than taking a photo on your phone and automatically having it be backed up to the cloud. Read More for someone else to manage, having your own system in place is how you stay sane when managing photos. For this reason, Rapid Photo Downloader is one of my first installs whenever I set up Linux on a new computer.

6. Simple Scan

Linux is known as an operating system for techies. Ironically, a great deal of work goes into making open source applications intended for first-time computer users. The idea is to make using a PC easier than it is anywhere else. Simple Scan is an example of what can come from that vision, and comes pre-installed with most distros.

linux exclusive apps simple scan

Gone are the days of installing a manufacturer’s specific printer software. Forget waiting for bulky applications to load. Plug in your scanner for the first time, watch Linux auto-detect it, then fire up Simple Scan and make copies of documents with a single click. Why can’t peripherals always be this easy?

7. Okular

KDE offers some of the most feature-rich default applications KDE Explained: A Look at Linux's Most Configurable Desktop Interface KDE Explained: A Look at Linux's Most Configurable Desktop Interface What does Linux look like? Sometimes, Unity; other times, GNOME. Oftentimes, though, Linux runs KDE. If you're not using the erstwhile K Desktop Environment on your Linux PC, now is the time to change! Read More you will find on any operating system, and Okular is no exception.

This PDF reader loads quickly, and it lets you leave highlights as you go. Or you can write comments or draw lines and shapes. Okular also lets you create bookmarks so you can find where you left off, and it’s willing to make your life easier by reading text aloud.

linux exclusive apps okular

8. Shotwell

Shotwell came from the same developers that brought us Geary, and similarly, it’s now a default program for Elementary OS and a GNOME project. It’s also a useful and speedy photo manager regardless of which version of Linux you use.

linux exclusive apps shotwell

Shotwell scans your hard drive for photos and organizes them by date and tags. When you view an image, you have the option to perform basic tweaks and touch-ups. The application can handle Raw photos and, if you’re interested, videos.

Shotwell is one of many photo managers 8 Picasa Alternatives Made for Linux 8 Picasa Alternatives Made for Linux You may have heard that Google is closing Picasa, but of course, Google stopped supporting the Linux port of Picasa years ago, so we've plenty of great alternatives already available! Read More you can install on your Linux desktop.

9. GParted

GParted, short for the GNOME Partition Editor, is well-known know for helping to repair a botched operating system.

linux exclusive apps gparted

You can create a Linux live CD with GParted installed to edit your PC’s partitions, even if you aren’t a Linux user. Someone has created a distribution of Linux just for that The GParted Live CD: A Quick Way To Edit Your Primary Partitions [Linux] The GParted Live CD: A Quick Way To Edit Your Primary Partitions [Linux] Edit your partitions from outside your operating system. The GParted Live CD is a simple Linux distro you can use to change the size of your partitions – or wipe a drive entirely. Built around... Read More .

Interestingly enough, GParted isn’t GNOME’s default partition editor anymore. That position has shifted over to GNOME Disks. Both are Linux exclusives, for what it’s worth. Which one you prefer is up to you.

10. Shutter

Most Linux distributions let you take a screenshot using the Print Screen key. Many have a shortcut for capturing parts of the screen. But when the time comes to do more, you have to open your screenshot in an image editor.

Shutter saves you from that separate step. This program captures screenshots and performs many of the functions you would like to perform immediately afterward, such as cropping or pixelating private information. As someone who works on the web, the latter is a reason enough to keep Shutter around.

linux exclusive apps shutter

What’s Your Favorite Linux Exclusive?

You’ve heard it before. You may have even said it yourself: “I would switch to Linux, but I need Windows or Mac for the apps.”

Well, the opposite is true, too. Yes, Linux isn’t known for having superior desktop applications than you find on commercial desktops — but there are some programs that will leave you not wanting to switch back to anything else.

I haven’t. I’ve used Linux for the past several years (including some time on Chromebooks), so I’m not aware of what software people use on Windows these days. I’m not saying these programs are better than what you can find on Windows. That’s always a subjective debate, and I haven’t used Windows recently enough to know.

It’s also disingenuous to call these applications Linux exclusives. You can run many of them on other UNIX-like operating systems 3 UNIX-Like Operating Systems That Aren't Linux 3 UNIX-Like Operating Systems That Aren't Linux Recently, people started to confuse "UNIX" with "Linux." Linux was influenced by UNIX, but UNIX systems have no relation to Linux. Here are some important UNIX-based systems worth knowing about. Read More , too.

Have more applications to add to this list? Please give them a mention. And if you want to educate me on a particular Windows alternative, I’m listening in the comments below!

Image Credit: Smart_Monkey via Shutterstock.com

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  1. David Bobb
    January 17, 2017 at 1:32 am

    Kate Editor. It's a powerful but streamlined text editor and has some useful features for project management and find/replacing text in entire projects.

    Meld. A visual and useful diffing/file comparing software for projects.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      January 18, 2017 at 8:48 pm

      I've come across Kate, but Meld is new to me. Thanks!

    • Christopher Wortman
      January 21, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      Kate can be installed on windows

      • Heimen Stoffels
        February 11, 2017 at 5:53 pm

        And to add to that: (based on the article) Epiphany has also been demonstrated recently on Windows and Okular can also be installed on Windows...

  2. Radoslav Georgiev
    January 12, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Qalculate.. it got me through school with its unit base conversion and the likes...

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      January 13, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Hadn't heard of that one. Thanks for the mention!

  3. Mordalo
    January 11, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Darktable

    • Kevin Brown
      January 12, 2017 at 1:55 am

      Cool! Thank you!

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      January 13, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      I've heard great things about Darktable, but for this list I excluded apps that are also available for macOS.

  4. William Vasquez
    January 11, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    My favorite Linux only app is Pithos. It is the best way to listen to music on your Pandora account with no ads. There is nothing like it on Windows. I like Minitube as well for that same reason. Watch Youtube without ads popping up all the time.
    I know, I know....Minitube is available on Windows and Mac. But you have to pay for it on those platforms, it's free on Linux only.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      January 13, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Man, I forgot about Minitube. Haven't used it in years. Checking it out again now.

    • Alex
      January 18, 2017 at 9:26 pm

      Easy-to-use audio-recorder is also a nice app.
      Look for Audio-Recorder PPA on Launchpad . net