DIY Linux

5 Great Apps to Make Your Raspberry Pi Really Useful

Christian Cawley 07-02-2018

While the Pi might be best known as a programming and projects computer, it’s also a fully functioning device, even capable of replacing a desktop. As such, a wide range of applications and utilities are available, some of which can expand your Pi’s abilities.


Although tools like the open-source office suite LibreOffice 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 are preinstalled in Raspbian Stretch, some other user software is omitted. If you want to get the most out of your Pi as a desktop device, here are five great apps that you should consider installing.

Most of these you’ll find via the Add/Remove Software tool, though other methods of installing software on the Pi 5 Ways To Install Software On Raspberry Pi To do anything with a Raspberry Pi, you'll need to know how to install an operating system, and software to run on it. If you're new to Linux, this can be daunting. Read More are available. We’ve also included command line instructions.

1. Vivaldi Browser

You shouldn’t need any convincing to switch to Vivaldi 9 Reasons to Switch to Vivaldi Browser Today Chrome rules, but Vivaldi can be the backup browser of your choice. Here are nine compelling reasons to try it out. Read More . It was developed by Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner, and like the old version of Opera, Vivaldi attempts to redefine the web browser.

apps that make raspberry pi useful

To install on the Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to use wget to download it to the right folder.

cd ~/Downloads/
wget ""

With this done, unpack the DEB file to install.

sudo dpkg -i /path/to/deb/file

Finally, install with

sudo apt-get install -f

Once installed, you’ll find Vivaldi in Menu > Internet. Unfortunately, you cannot currently install Vivaldi from the Add/Remove Software tool. But it’s worth using the command line as this is a feature-packed tool that brings some great new features to your browsing. These include advanced tab management, a screenshot tool, and a built-in note-taking tool.

If you want to find out more about the Vivaldi browser, we’ve looked at how much of a difference it can make on Raspbian Is Vivaldi the Best Browser for Your Raspberry Pi? The Vivaldi browser is great on any platform, but it really stands out at a Raspberry Pi browser. Read on to find out why you should use Vivaldi on your Pi. Read More .



Perhaps the most ridiculously named application ever developed, GIMP is intended for image creation or retouching. Often cited as a replacement for Adobe Photoshop (it resembles an earlier version), GIMP is compatible with the Raspberry Pi.

apps that make raspberry pi useful

You’ll find GIMP in the Add/Remove Software tool. For command line users:

sudo apt install gimp

Once installed, you’ll be able to use it for a number of image editing tasks. Whether you’re retouching photos or creating graphics from scratch, GIMP is ideal. While it might not actually be Photoshop, it is almost as powerful. Even if you can’t find the right tool, there is probably an extension that will add the feature.


Admittedly, a Raspberry Pi isn’t the ideal hardware for efficient image manipulation, but the end results should be good. Even if they do take a little longer to achieve!

Why not check our detailed guide to editing photos with GIMP An Introduction to GIMP Photo Editing: 9 Things You Need to Know GIMP is the best free photo editing app available. Here's everything you need to know about editing photos in GIMP. Read More ?

3. IceDove

If you’ve taken our advice and are planning on using the Pi as a desktop 7 Tips for Using a Raspberry Pi 3 as a Desktop PC with Raspbian The Raspberry Pi 3 makes an ideal desktop replacement for productivity purposes. But are you getting the best performance? Try these seven tips to improve the experience. Read More , you’ll need an email client. While Claws Mail is pre-installed, IceDove offers better customization. Based on the Mozilla Thunderbird email client Get The Most Out Of Your Email With Mozilla Thunderbird 5 Mozilla's at it again. Not only has Firefox been upgraded to version 5, but so has Thunderbird. In fact, in order to keep up with the new version and development scheme that it has set... Read More , IceDove manages your email, provides access to Newsgroups on Usenet, RSS feeds, and even supports chat. If you use Google Hangouts, IceDove is ideal. There is also support for Filelink, the large file “sending” service (it actually links to a cloud-based copy).

apps that make raspberry pi useful


Once installed from the Add/Remove Software tool, you’ll be able to tweak IceDove to your own requirements.

sudo apt install icedove

To launch IceDove, look in the Other folder in the desktop menu. You’ll find it labeled IceDove -> Thunderbird. No email client is complete without a calendar, so why not add the iceowl extension, to start organizing your time? Meanwhile, Enigmail allows email encryption.

You can also liven up the default interface. Several themes are available. Just open Tools > Add Ons to see what suits you.

4. Pidgin

You’ve probably heard of the cross-platform messaging app Pidgin. Handily, it’s able to unify chat accounts like Google Hangouts, Yahoo Messenger, and more into a single interface. Better still, plugins are available that bring Skype and WhatsApp into the application as well.

While you probably don’t already use a chat application on your Raspberry Pi, Pidgin nevertheless does the job well. It’s ideal if you’re planning to use your Pi for desktop purposes (or just like to chat while programming).

apps that make raspberry pi useful

Install Pidgin via the Add/Remove Software tool. For command line installation in the Terminal:

sudo apt install pidgin

You’ll find a bunch of useful plugins for Pidgin in its dedicated library. These are quite wide ranging, and in many cases useless. However, you might find something useful. The OTR (Off the Record) plugin will encrypt your conversations, for instance. PaintBoard will let you share a whiteboard with your chat partner. Facebook Chat lets you replace the built-in (but deprecated) Facebook XMPP plugin.

Pidgin can also be themed. Thousands of themes are available from the Theming Pidgin library. Installing one of these will deliver a new collection of icons, emoticons, fonts, and backgrounds.

5. Calibre

Want to read ebooks on your Raspberry Pi? If you’re using the device for programming for the first time, this might prove useful. Whether you have coding books in a traditional ebook format, or have them in your Kindle library, you can use Calibre to read them. In the command line, install Calibre with:

sudo apt install calibre

Alternatively, you’ll find it in Add/Remove Software. After installation, you’ll find Calibre listed in Applications > Office > Calibre.

apps that make raspberry pi useful

With Calibre running on your system, you’ll be able to convert books into a suitable format, and import from Kindle. Important data like author name, publisher, year, page length, genre, and more is stored, enabling you to easily find the books you want to read.

Our full guide to Calibre A User's Guide To Calibre eBook Manager Easily manage, convert and transfer your books using Calibre, the swiss army knife of eBook software, and a variety of related programs. Read More will tell you everything you need to know about this superb application.

What Else Would You Use?

We’ve previously looked at the best apps for the Raspberry Pi The 10 Best Apps to Install on Your Raspberry Pi Looking for the best software to install on your Raspberry Pi? Here are the best Raspberry Pi apps to install today. Read More , but these five tools will make your computer really useful.

Alternatives may be available for some of these tools; you should take the time to install the 7Zip-compatible utility too. If you’re looking for other apps and tools, take the time to get familiar with the Add/Remove Software tool, and you should find what you need.

What do you think? Which apps make your Raspberry Pi really useful? Tell us in the comments.

Related topics: Linux, Raspberry Pi.

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  1. Bert Sierra
    December 11, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    This is a great article and I'm in full agreement with your app picks. IceDove (aka Mozilla Thunderbird) is a really powerful mail client which my company standardized on for our Windows XP users years ago as thinner and less problematic than Microsoft's default mail client at the time.

    The one thing I'd add is that there is a GIMP plug-in registry that you really want to install with GIMP, whether on Raspbian or Debian where I found it. The plug-ins support important things like the ability to run "File > Export..." to PNG, JPEG and other useful foreign file interfaces.

    To install the plug-in registry with GIMP, use the following command line:

    sudo apt-get install gimp gimp-plugin-registry

    This is a pretty obscure thing: I've yet to run across an article which recommends GIMP and makes mention of installing the plug-in registry.

  2. NjB
    February 16, 2018 at 9:39 am

    you forgot OpenELEC wich is a great application

  3. Lee
    February 15, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    Cool gadget love it,

  4. Lee
    February 15, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    Coool gadg love it,