Leaving Windows behind means losing Microsoft’s desktop apps and plenty of third-party software. Thankfully not all companies choose to only support Windows.
Google, for example, recognizes that there are other operating systems out there. You could even say it has a soft spot for Linux. Chrome OS and Android are both Linux-based. Many Google developers also use the open source desktop behind the scenes.
If you’ve switched to Linux, much of Google’s software remains available to you. You can still browse the web, explore the planet, listen to music, and video chat with people using your favorite Google services.
1. Google Chrome
Google’s web browser is as easy to install on Linux as it is elsewhere. Head to the Chrome website and hit the download button.
A .deb or .rpm is available, depending on whether you’re an Ubuntu person or have a preference for Fedora or openSUSE. Installing either is akin to running an .exe on Windows. Either file will add the Chrome repository to your package manager so you get future updates.
Google Chrome looks and feels the same on Linux as on Windows. Plus the functionality you depend on is still available. You can view your synced bookmarks, history, passwords, and other data stored in your Google account. Your browser will also download your apps from the Chrome Web Store, so you can hit the ground running.
2. Google Earth
It may be hard to believe, but Google Earth has been around for 15 years! The desktop app lets you spin the world around like a virtual globe. You can zoom in close enough for Street View or zoom out enough to look at the Moon or Mars.
When Earth first hit the scene, Google Maps offered 2D maps and directions. Now the latter offers a satellite view similar to Google Earth’s. But there are still uses you can’t get from Maps. Try geeking out by looking at historical changes or following the progression of sunlight.
Earth provides higher resolution images and is better for exploring without a destination in mind. Plus the experience can be smoother than running Maps inside a browser.
As with Chrome, you can install Earth using a .deb or .rpm. Unfortunately, while there are many cool things you can do with Google Earth Pro, that’s a separate application that isn’t available for Linux.
3. Google Play Music Manager
Online streaming services provide music on demand for a monthly free. Local music players play the songs you’ve purchased over the years. Google Play Music sits somewhere between the two.
With Google Play Music, you can listen to music you don’t own by getting a subscription. Or you can upload your own personal library instead. To do the latter, you need the Google Play Music Manager.
This app’s one job is to upload songs to your Google account. You can upload and store up to 50,000 songs for free. There isn’t an official desktop client that lets you listen to your music outside of the browser, but there’s a third party method floating around.
Again, Google provides .deb and .rpm files, depending on your distro. There are 32-bit and 64-bit options for both.
4. Google Hangouts
Hangouts not only works on Linux — you may find yourself using it more than you did on Windows! That’s because while Skype works on Linux, the client is old and outdated. Newer features haven’t made their way over to the open source desktop (though that could be about to change).
Hangouts on Linux requires the same easy steps as other platforms. Simply install the necessary plugin and you’re good to go.
You can send instant messages, place audio-only calls, or open up a video chat window. Group conversations and Hangouts On Air both work just fine, as you can see from the videos on Canonical’s Ubuntu OnAir YouTube channel.
5. Google Web Designer
Create apps for the web? You could enjoy a tool designed to make interactive HTML 5-based designs and graphics. Google has one that makes your interface adapt to PCs and mobile devices alike.
Google Web Designer helps you build web experiences without having to know code. Though if you want to get hands-on, you can.
You Don’t Have to Give Up Google
Do you rely on Google services for much of your computing? Fortunately, Google is the kind of company that wants you to use its products, regardless of platform. And it helps that most Google services remain available inside a browser.
Are you glad you can use these Google apps on your Linux desktop? What have you had to give up? Share your thoughts here, and maybe someone will Google them later…