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The Raspberry Pi is an awesome little computer, whose capabilities won’t stop increasing. As such, you should make sure that you have the best apps installed on it. If you’re running Raspbian Jessie 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use Following the release of Debian Jessie in July, the Raspberry Pi community has been blessed with a new release of the Raspbian variant, based on the "parent" distro. Read More  or another Linux operating system on the Raspberry Pi, these are the top 10 apps that you really need to have installed.

If you like the sound of them, just follow the instructions in each section to install the apps on your Raspberry Pi!

1. Chromium

We’ll start here, with the browser you simply need to have installed on your Raspberry Pi. Thanks to Chromium, there’s now compatibility with the Pepper Flash plugin, making it possible to enjoy Flash games, websites, streaming and more.

raspberry pi apps chromium

Because of Chromium’s close relationship to Google Chrome, many Chrome plugins are compatible, although the Pi’s hardware restricts heavy duty use. So avoid having too many tabs open! To further minimize your Raspberry Pi’s resource use, Chromium has the uBlock Origin extension pre-installed. This protects your browsing from resource-intensive pop-ups and ads.

Unlike the other apps in this list, Chromium comes pre-installed with Raspbian Upgrade Raspberry Pi's Raspbian OS With the PIXEL Desktop Environment Upgrade Raspberry Pi's Raspbian OS With the PIXEL Desktop Environment Since its release in 2012, the Raspberry Pi's Raspbian operating system has had a few revisions, but the desktop environment had remained largely the same. Pixel changes that. Read More . But only the more recent versions. So if you haven’t upgraded Raspbian recently, back up your personal data (images, documents, saved programming), run a full update and upgrade:

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sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Wait while your Pi upgrades, and when everything is done and you have restarted the computer, you should see a working copy of Chromium in the menu.

2. Synaptic Package Manager

It’s easy enough to install software via the command line, and Raspbian has its own mouse-driven Add/Remove Software tool… but what if you’re looking for something more expansive?

Unlike the native tool, Synaptic has software grouped into more specific categories, helping you to find the tools you need. In addition, Synaptic (which is one of several Linux package managers Linux App Stores Compared: Which One Is Right for You? Linux App Stores Compared: Which One Is Right for You? Windows users are being guided to an app store. macOS has had one for a while. Linux, meanwhile, has had an app store-style experience for years. But which one is right for you? Read More ) can also ensure that the apps installed on your Pi are the most up-to-date versions. All you need to do is click Reload and then Apply to run the updates.

raspberry pi apps synaptic

As well as a better user interface than Add/Remote Software, Synaptic will automatically download additional software that is required by the application you’re installing. In short, it’s superior, so why not use it?

You can install Synaptic Package Manager on Raspbian with:

sudo apt-get install synaptic

Once installed, you can run with a bash command:

gksudo synaptic

Or by launching it from the Preferences section of the desktop menu.

3. VLC Player

Back in 2013 when the Raspberry Pi was first released, the idea of playing back anything but 480p video was laughable. The first generation unit just wasn’t capable of a concerted use of system resources for video playback.

raspberry pi apps vlc player

These days, with the Raspberry Pi 3 How to Upgrade to a Raspberry Pi 3 How to Upgrade to a Raspberry Pi 3 Upgrading from an older Pi to the new Pi 3 is almost as simple as swapping out the microSD card. Almost - but not quite. Here's what you'll need to do first. Read More , things are different. Video and audio can be played on the Raspberry Pi, thanks to VLC Player, an application you may recognize. In short, VLC Player will play any media format, and is capable of additional features, such as desktop video capture, downloading YouTube videos, and file conversion. The overwhelming majority of amazing VLC Player features 7 Top Secret Features Of The Free VLC Media Player 7 Top Secret Features Of The Free VLC Media Player That VLC pretty much plays everything that you throw at it is old news. It is also a media genie when it comes to other things apart from playing movies. We looked at some of... Read More will run on the Raspberry Pi.

Installing VLC Player on your Raspberry Pi can also turn the computer into a media client. As long as you have your media stored on another computer or network storage, VLC Player can be used to browse and stream content across your local network!

You’ll find the option to install VLC Player in Preferences > Add/Remove Software.

4. USB Over IP

A very useful app that can save a lot of USB device removal and plugging in, USB Over IP can be installed on your Pi as well as any Windows or Linux desktops (see usbip.sourceforge.net for more). Its main use is to let you access data on USB drives stored on other hardware. So, for instance, you might want to access the photos on the SD card in the USB card reader on your desktop PC. With USB Over IP installed on both networked devices, this is made far more convenient.

Once installed from Sourceforge, run the following commands in the Terminal:

sudo modprobe usbip-core
sudo modprobe usbip-host sudo usbip -D

(These commands can also be run on the remote Linux box via SSH Setting Up Your Raspberry Pi For Headless Use With SSH Setting Up Your Raspberry Pi For Headless Use With SSH The Raspberry Pi can accept SSH commands when connected to a local network (either by Ethernet or Wi-Fi), enabling you to easily set it up. The benefits of SSH go beyond upsetting the daily screening... Read More .)

raspberry pi apps usb stick

After you’ve connected the USB drive to the remote device, use this command to find its ID:

usbip list -l

With the BUS ID found, you can bind it to your Pi with:

sudo usbip --debug bind -b [BUS_ID]

USB Over IP is now ready to use. Note that data sent via USB Over IP is not encrypted (our encryption explainer How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More should help you understand this), so don’t use it on an open network. Also, remember to disable it when you’re done.

5. DOSBox

The Raspberry Pi is short of games. Hardly surprising for a device launched to help children (and adults) become better at programming. Although many homebrew games have been created, mainstream titles are few and far between, beyond Minecraft Pi.

Fortunately, the Raspberry Pi can handle emulation. We’ve previously looked at how it can be used as a compact retro gaming station Retro Gaming in Style With RecalBox for the Raspberry Pi Retro Gaming in Style With RecalBox for the Raspberry Pi RecalBox brings together classic emulators with a fantastic unified user interface that makes choosing games and configuring your controllers easy. Read More , but if your preference is for classic PC games, then take a look at DOSBox.

raspberry pi apps dosbox

Capable of running games and applications alike, DOSBox is easy to use, and lets you play games released for MS-DOS throughout the 1980s and 1990s. To install DOSBox on the Raspberry Pi, open Preferences > Add/Remove Software and search for it. Once installed, head to your Home directory and create a new folder, dosgames. This is where you should save the extracted contents of downloaded games to, ready to use them.

DOSBox itself can be launched from Menu > Applications > Games > DOSBox Emulator. See our guide to using DOSBox for help on configuring the application and finding and installing games.

6. Arduino IDE

If you’re planning (or have already) to pair your Raspberry Pi up with an Arduino for some maker fun, you’ll need Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment). The IDE makes it simple to write and upload code to any Arduino connected via USB to your Raspberry Pi (some boards are wireless, however).

raspberry pi apps arduino ide

You can install Arduino IDE on your Pi via Preferences > Add/Remove Software. Once installed, launch via Applications > Programming > Arduino IDE. Use the Tools > Boards menu to select the correct Arduino model (Arduino Uno and its clones are selected by default).

From here, you can check File > Examples for some useful example scripts for the Arduino, or extend its capabilities via new libraries. You’ll find information on these at www.arduino.cc/en/Reference/Libraries. Meanwhile, our detailed guide to Arduino Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Read More will help you get started.

7. Guake

Whether you’re new to Linux (via the Raspberry Pi’s default OS) or you’re used to it, using the Terminal can be a pain. It doesn’t matter whether you’re unfamiliar with command lines or you just want to see what is going on elsewhere on the desktop. The default Terminal application is difficult to appreciate.

raspberry pi apps guake

So, what about a replacement? Among the best options is Guake, a far prettier Quake-style Terminal emulator that can be installed via the Add/Remove Software interface. After installation, you’ll find it in Applications > System Tools > Guake. Once you see the notification that Guake is running, tap F12 to summon it. Guake will drop down from the top of the screen when called.

By default, Guake has a semi-transparent window, enabling you to see what is happening elsewhere on the desktop. You can also right-click inside the Guake window to alter the Preferences, which includes tweaking the appearance.

Other Terminal emulator replacements 5 Terminal Alternatives to Linux Desktop Apps 5 Terminal Alternatives to Linux Desktop Apps The Linux terminal is rather daunting and many only use it when necessary. But it can actually prove very useful. These five terminal-based apps show you just how useful it can be. Read More are available for Linux, too. Some of which run on the Raspberry Pi, so you might try these if Guake doesn’t suit you.

8. Deluge

First things first: Deluge is a BitTorrent client. This doesn’t mean that it is illegal; BitTorrent itself isn’t illegal. Rather, the misuse of the peer-to-peer networking technology to download copyright-protected movies and games is illegal. For instance, many Linux operating systems can be downloaded over BitTorrent. This provision reduces the overhead on hosting the distribution on a dedicated server. Our guide to BitTorrent 8 Legal Uses For BitTorrent: You'd Be Surprised 8 Legal Uses For BitTorrent: You'd Be Surprised Like HTTP, which your browser uses to communicate with websites, BitTorrent is just a protocol. You could use your browser to download pirated content, just as you could use a BitTorrent client to download pirated... Read More explains this in more detail.

raspberry pi apps deluge

Why might you need a BitTorrent client on your Raspberry Pi? Well, it depends how you’re using the computer. If you utilize it as a repository for your own data, then Deluge can be employed as a means for downloading data from your Pi from another location. Full details on how to this can be found on the Deluge Wiki.

You’ll find Deluge in Preferences > Add/Remove Software. If you want to use the torrent app in headless mode, connect via SSH and run:

sudo apt-get install deluged deluge-console python-mako deluge-web

Once this is done, Deluge will be ready to run. Pi desktop users can launch it in Menu > internet.

9. DropBox Uploader

Frustratingly for Raspberry Pi users, there is no Dropbox client available. While you can access the popular cloud storage solution via the Chromium browser (and alternatives are available) a handy command line script might just come to your rescue.

Created by Andrea Fabrizi, this can be installed via the Terminal (or remotely via SSH Setting Up Your Raspberry Pi For Headless Use With SSH Setting Up Your Raspberry Pi For Headless Use With SSH The Raspberry Pi can accept SSH commands when connected to a local network (either by Ethernet or Wi-Fi), enabling you to easily set it up. The benefits of SSH go beyond upsetting the daily screening... Read More ) with:

git clone https://github.com/andreafabrizi/Dropbox-Uploader.git

Once the GIT file has downloaded, make the script executable and run it:

cd Dropbox-Uploader
sudo chmod +x dropbox_uploader.sh
sudo ./dropbox_uploader.sh

You’ll then be prompted to enter a unique key. This is where things get a little complicated.

raspberry pi apps dropbox

  1. Visit www.dropbox.com/developers and log in with your Dropbox account.
  2. Click Create your app, select Dropbox API, and Full Dropbox, then give the app a unique name (“pi-sync” preceded by your initials, for example) and agree to the Terms and Conditions.
  3. Click Create app to proceed, then copy the App key and App secret strings.
  4. Copy the key into the Terminal window where prompted, and you’ll be able to upload your files to Dropbox.

Use commands formatted like this:

sudo ./dropbox_uploader.sh upload /home/pi/screenplay.odt /docs/screenplay.odt

To summarize, this command calls the Dropbox Uploader script, uses the “upload” command, and syncs the screenplay.odt from its location on the Pi to a new location in the “docs” directory in Dropbox.

10. SD Card Copier

Finally, what app could be more useful to a Raspberry Pi user than an SD card copying utility? After all, there’s no operating system with the SD card (unless you’ve bypassed it to use a USB device How to Make Raspberry Pi 3 Boot From USB How to Make Raspberry Pi 3 Boot From USB The Raspberry Pi is a versatile piece of kit, capable of a diverse range of tasks. But it has one glaring flaw: the inability to boot from USB. Until now, that is. Read More )!

While it’s possible to create entire backups of your Raspberry Pi’s SD card using a standard desktop operating system, it’s more convenient to use your actual Pi. Pre-installed in the May 2016 update (use the update commands in the Chromium section above if you’re not using a recent version of Raspbian), SD Card Copier can be found in Accessories > SD Card Copier.

raspberry pi apps sd card

You’ll need to attach an external storage device to your Pi — for example, an external HDD, or a USB flash drive — and select it in the Copy To Device menu. Note that any data already on the drive will be deleted, as it will be reformatted. Before clicking Start, ensure that the Copy From Device menu has your Internal SD card selected.

You have various reasons to consider this app. It’s clearly a good option to create a complete backup of your Pi’s storage, but you can also use it to upgrade to a larger storage medium. Simply use a USB SD card reader, connect this with your new larger SD card to the Pi, and copy your data. This newer, larger card now contains all of the data from your smaller card, and can be used to boot your Raspberry Pi!

Which Raspberry Pi Apps Have We Missed?

With those 10 apps installed on your Raspberry Pi, you’ll find tasks are made easier, however you use the computer. It’s a shame more of them aren’t pre-installed!

What do you think? Do you have any software that you invariably install on your Raspberry Pi? Any favorites you would add to the list? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credit: ANTON NAGY via Shutterstock.com

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  1. William
    July 18, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Retro pie?

  2. Bird
    July 18, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    I also use the i3 window manager and use tmux for tiling in the terminal. this gives me a more keyboard driven operating system and makes me look like more of a geek. I also used to use links2 or links2 -g for web browsing when the raspberry pi was much slower or if I was ssh x11 forwarding to it.

    • Christian Cawley
      July 19, 2017 at 8:29 am

      Nice suggestion, I'll check it out :)

  3. Bird
    July 18, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I really like using youtube-dl (the cli version, but the gui version is great too). It makes it so easy to download a video (not just youtube videos) in the best quality, or pull just the audio from a podcast or music video.