Linux

Can You Run It on Linux? 12 Vital Apps You’ll Want When You Switch

Christian Cawley Updated 01-07-2020

There has never been a better time to switch to Linux, but you may still be hesitant. After all, you’re not sure if you can run your favorite Windows applications on Linux.

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So, let’s take a look at 10 popular Windows apps and games and see if they work on Linux.

1. Chrome Browser

Chromium browser on Linux

All major browsers (Firefox, Chrome, and Opera) are available on Linux. In fact, you’ll find a vast selection of Linux browsers The 9 Best Browsers for Linux Looking for a new Linux web browser? We've listed what we think are the best Linux web browsers---with a few surprises thrown in. Read More  to choose from, such as Epiphany.

You’ll find that Firefox, Chrome, and Opera offer the same functionality as on Windows or macOS. This means you can sign into your browsers and effortlessly sync bookmarks, passwords, and other settings from Windows.

Mozilla Firefox is preinstalled on most Linux distros, but if you want Chrome you can download it from Google. Note that you can also install the open source Chromium browser.

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Download: Chrome

Download: Chromium

2. Outlook

To take care of your email needs, you have plenty of options on Linux—although Outlook isn’t available for Linux.

Thunderbird, one of the most popular email clients, is perhaps the number one email client for Linux. The ExQuilla extension adds Exchange support, something Thunderbird has been missing for years.

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But if you need an Outlook equivalent for Linux with Microsoft Exchange support without installing an extension, try Evolution.

Of course, if you don’t need an Exchange email client, you can also easily use any web-based email interface with your preferred browser. So you can access the Outlook web app, along with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and other hosted webmail from your ISP or employer.

There’s a strong chance your Linux distro has Mozilla Thunderbird or Evolution already installed.

Download: Mozilla Thunderbird

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Download: Evolution

3. Microsoft Office

LibreOffice is a great Microsoft Office alternative

The world’s most popular office isn’t available on Linux. So, you have three options:

  • Use Office 365 on your browser
  • Run Office using Wine
  • Install LibreOffice

Office 365 is a smart option, and if you have a subscription then you still get the most out of Office.

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Alternatively, if you want Word, Excel, etc., to run from your Linux desktop, you can install Microsoft Office in Wine How to Install Microsoft Office on Linux Microsoft Office on Linux is possible. We cover three methods for getting Office working inside of a Linux environment. Read More .

But overall the best alternative for the Linux desktop is LibreOffice. Full of office suite features, you’ll get a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, database manager, and more. It is intended as an open source alternative to Microsoft Office and matches it app-for-app.

In fact, you’ll only really come across issues if you tend to use very high-level Office features such as Macros. While LibreOffice has macros too, cross compatibility with Office’s macros has room for improvement.

Apart from this, LibreOffice is a top alternative will complete document compatibility. Other open source office solutions are available, but LibreOffice has the edge.

Download: LibreOffice

4. Microsoft Project

One key problem for businesses looking to switch to Linux is finding an alternative to Microsoft Project. While you could run it in Wine, it’s not compatible with anything since Project 2013.

So, is there an equivalent Linux app for Microsoft Project?

Yes, there is. ProjectLibre is compatible with files created in Microsoft Project 2003, 2007, and 2010, and can produce Gantt Charts, network diagrams, and more. Downloaded over 4,500,000 times and translated into 20 languages, ProjectLibre is recommended as the preferred Microsoft Project alternative.

Download: ProjectLibre

5. Photoshop

GIMP Paste Face As New Layer

Photoshop also isn’t available on Linux.

While people seem to have some success at installing Photoshop on Linux with Wine How to Install Adobe Photoshop on Linux You can install Photoshop on Linux and run it using a virtual machine or Wine. Read on for all the details! Read More , that often involves installing an older version. If you want up-to-date versions of Photoshop, you’re out of luck.

However, you can easily install GIMP, which is an extremely capable image manipulation tool. Although some of the workflows may be different than in Photoshop, you can achieve virtually the same tasks. And if GIMP doesn’t provide a feature you’re looking for by default, there’s probably a plugin to help you out.

Download: GIMP

6. Windows Video Editor

Make videos on Linux with OpenShot

As of 2018 Windows 10 features a replacement for Windows Movie Maker. Packaged with the Photos tool, Windows Video Editor is a basic video editing tool.

It does the job of editing videos, supports 3D effects, text, slow motion video, and the results can be impressive. You’ll end up with something that looks like a well-produced home movie.

But can you do better on Linux? After all, a whole selection of video editing tools, from Adobe Premiere to Corel VideoStudio Ultimate are available on Windows.

If you’re looking to create very simple home videos, then look no further than PiTiVi. There’s also OpenShot for more advanced projects. Check our guide to Linux video editors The 9 Best Free Open Source Video Editors for Linux Video editing on Linux? It's easier than you think! Try these open source video editors on your Linux PC. Read More for more options.

Finally, as a professional-grade video editor there’s Lightworks, but it also asks for a professional-grade price.

Download: PiTiVi

7. Eclipse

Developers need to have a reliable IDE (Interactive Development Environment) for programming projects. Eclipse is a popular one for many developers, especially those building Android apps. Thankfully, it is also available on Linux and easily installable.

If you use a different IDE such as Visual Studio, which isn’t available on Linux, switching to Eclipse is easy. Eclipse unable to meet your requirements? That’s not a problem. Plenty of online browser-based IDEs The 13 Best Browser IDEs Every Programmer Should Know About Looking for a reliable browser-based integrated development environment? Start developing anywhere with these browser IDEs. Read More are available to fill the gap.

Download: Eclipse

8. Minecraft

Switch from Survival to Creative mode in Minecraft

One of the world’s biggest video games, Minecraft is a must for many people. Thanks to its Java roots, runs on Linux perfectly. In fact, there’s barely any difference between the Windows and Linux versions.

If you want to modify Minecraft, most mod files will work. The usual Minecraft game modes How to Change Your Minecraft Game Mode In this article we detail the various Minecraft game modes, and explain how to switch from Creative mode to Survival mode. Read More are available, Minecraft on Linux supports multiplayer—it’s all there. You can even set up Minecraft to host a multiplayer game or build a full Minecraft server with Linux.

Download: Minecraft

9. AutoCAD

Premium industrial-standard computer aided design (CAD) software AutoCAD has long resisted calls to produce a Linux version.

Fortunately, there’s a great free alternative called FreeCAD which can take care of your CAD needs. It’s also made to be modular, so you can add in extra functionality if you need it. Interested? Like many Linux apps, FreeCAD is also available on Windows and macOS, so you can try it before switching.

Download: FreeCAD

10. SketchUp

Sticking with design apps, SketchUp is also a popular option for Windows users. Rather than industrial and mechanical design, however, SketchUp is (usually) used for design and architecture.

But is there a Linux equivalent for SketchUp users?

Again, the PC gods are smiling on your efforts to switch to Linux. BricsCAD Shape is a free tool for single Linux users offering a SketchUp-like experience. It’s part of the wider BricsCAD family, which offers modeling solutions for all purposes—including an AutoCAD alternative, BricsCAD Mechanical.

Download: BricsCAD Shape

11. Steam

Install any Windows game on Linux via Steam

Steam is the ultimate PC gaming platform, a vast library of video games delivered digitally to your computer.

Developers Valve released a Linux version in 2013 which is full of AAA games that would previously have been Windows-only.

While not every single Windows game is available on Linux, the list of Linux-compatible games continues to grow. Use Steam’s filter tool to see what games are available to run on Linux and see if you own any. If gaming is important to you, having your favorite games available on Linux will ease the transition considerably.

Download: Steam

12. Spotify

The most popular music streaming service has spread itself rapidly across all desktop and mobile devices.

But is there a Linux version of Spotify?

Yes, there is! You have two options, a DEB option for Debian, Ubuntu, and their derivatives, and a Snap installer package. Spotify for Linux is a fully featured desktop player, as with Windows and macOS. You’ll be able to sign into your account as normal, access your playlists, follow your favorite artists and so on.

If for some reason Spotify won’t run on your version of Linux, don’t worry. Your Linux web browser will run Spotify’s web player just fine.

Download: Spotify

It’s Time to Switch to Linux!

With these 10 vital apps, you should be ready to tackle Linux without breaking a sweat. With all of the benefits that an open source operating system provides, and knowing that you have apps available to get work done, there’s no excuse for you to not try it out.

Don’t forget to also check out our Best Linux Software list The Best Linux Software and Apps Whether you're new to Linux or you're a seasoned user, here are the best Linux software and apps you should be using today. Read More for other great Linux apps to try out!

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, Google Chrome, LibreOffice, Linux Apps, Linux Tips, Minecraft, Spotify, Steam.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Rikaz Sheriff
    July 5, 2020 at 2:27 am

    GIMP user here. If you're planning to use it for printing artwork please remember it doesn't have CMYK mode which many printing shops require. It'll work IA but colors would be different.

  2. John Smith
    July 2, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    "6. Windows Video Editor"
    You gotta be kidding me.
    Most people, average users are not aware of it, the advanced users already use replacements.

    "7. Eclipse"
    If you are not a Windows specific developer, you already have a Linux setup, or MacBook.

  3. Oso Po
    June 13, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    What about Microsoft Project??

  4. jeff
    March 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    hi very interested in your coments on 'Lightworks', whilst the 'pro' version is at a cost (currently £100 a year), there is a 'free' version which whilst it lacks some of the very topend facilities, (4k codecs etc) all the others features are included. this is a 'professional' NLE package and there is a learning curve involved. but thier tutorials are available online/youtube to help you out. it works on windows, Linux and apple, definatly worth the effort to learn IMHO.

  5. Anonymous
    August 12, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    On linux:
    For music I will add tomahawk.
    Graphics = pixeluvo (commercial), gimp, inkscape, .....
    Text editor = Atom, sublime.
    IDE = eclipse, Jebrain IDEs
    Video = smplayer
    3D Modelling = Blender
    Animation = 3d (blender), 2d (tupi, krita)

  6. Chae
    May 15, 2015 at 1:36 am

    Krita as a Photoshop & Gimp alternative

  7. Litruv
    February 3, 2015 at 2:17 am

    God damn GIMP is a terrible alternative.
    Really nothing like Photoshop whatsoever

  8. jafd
    January 29, 2015 at 6:59 am

    ClipMate (www.thornsoft.com) ???

  9. JC
    January 19, 2015 at 1:16 am

    We have 3 Apple music players at home. It would be nice if there was a good iTunes killer on Linux. Any suggestions there? Otherwise, my last Microsoft Windows machines will transition this year to Linux! Good bye, Microsoft.

  10. John Dawson Sr
    January 12, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I like Inkscape to replace Illustrator and Cinelerra as a video editor.

  11. Michael Allen
    January 12, 2015 at 3:54 am

    wow! eclipse, minecraft, steam and spotify all have native linux apps. Perchance, you should do a bit of digging first ;)
    Eclispe and Steam are avaliable on at least Mint and Ubuntu from the repository, and Spotify has a official ppa (which you add to the repository for easy updates). Mineraft is just a jar file which java of the free java alternative will play, which you download staright off there site.
    http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2013/01/how-to-install-spotify-in-ubuntu-12-04-12-10

    • dragonmouth
      January 13, 2015 at 12:06 am

      If one uses a non-Ubuntu based distro, one is SOL since only *buntus can use ppa's.

  12. rod
    January 12, 2015 at 12:06 am

    What is keeping me from trying linux ?
    Every instruction is full of acronyms telling me to pick options I don't have.
    when I do manage to follow the steps, nothings happens, I don't know why, and I spend the next 3 hrs searching forums that never had my problem.
    Sorry if I sound disgruntled, I just spent 3 hrs trying to find why my jobs list says 3 jobs completed that never printed.

  13. Wishwas
    January 11, 2015 at 10:19 am

    I had tried Thunderbird but I would like to know how to transfer Outlook PST files to Linux.

    • Carlos
      January 22, 2015 at 11:07 pm

      If you still have a Windows XP with Outlook Express.
      You can install a copy of MS Outlook that runs in XP (office 2007 or 2010) and then import from within Outlook Express.
      After this Thunderbird can extract the information from Outlook Express if i am not mistaken.

  14. Sean Robertson
    January 10, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    PHPStorm (and it's cousins) is MUCH better than Eclipse, but it also isn't free (unless you're developing primarily (exclusively?) for open source projects). If you're doing even remotely serious web development work, it's a major step up and well worth the moderate expense. I've pushed all of our other devs at work to standardize on it because it's cross-platform, more powerful, and doesn't suffer from Eclipse's more obnoxious bugs, like ending up with files with mixed windows and unix line endings even when properly configured as a result of copying and pasting on Windows (ARRRRGH!!!! WTF?!?).

    I do have one developer and a brother in law who swear by NetBeans, though. ;-)

  15. SHou
    January 10, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    For Linux games, try GOG.com. They have a myriad of old and new PC games, some have both OSX and Linux installations, too. GOG.com is Also DRM free.

    I personally like Linux, especially Ubuntu, but from an enterprise standpoint, it is much harder to make this switch across the enterprise. Some MS Servers can be be replaced with a Linux equivalent, e.g. web (Apache vs. IIS), IBMl/Lotus Domino, file servers, etc., but serious considerations must be taken to ensure your production environments won't be adversely affected or cause compatibility issues.

    I grew up in the technology "revolution" and saw Novell NetWare (one of the best NOS's) lose marketshare to MS Servers, and now it practically is a non-contender. I would love to see Linux gain marketshare away from Microsoft, but until enterprises can truly embrace Linux, this unfortunately will not happen any time soon.

    This being said, it's up to us to push the Linux agenda.

    -Cheers & Happy New Year's, Everyone.

    • dragonmouth
      January 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      "I would love to see Linux gain marketshare away from Microsoft, but until enterprises can truly embrace Linux, this unfortunately will not happen any time soon."
      The problem is that "You won't get fired for buying Microsoft."

  16. Anon
    January 10, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    "Now has never been a better time to switch to Linux"... I don't think that line came out the way you meant it to.

  17. Alex
    January 10, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Thank you for the article! I switched to Linux (Ubuntu) a year ago and I have found that all tasks I did with Windows can be perfectly done here. Moreover, both OS and applications I use are free so I do not have to worry about updates and viruses! I would like to add two great programs for photography that are continuously developing and have a extremely high level. They are Darktable (the equivalent to Adobe Lightroom in Windows) and RawTherapee (a kind of Adobe Camera Raw equivalent). I strongly recommend them to users who want a powerful photography workflow in Linux.

    • Joseph
      January 10, 2015 at 11:15 am

      I agree with you 100%, Alex.
      I don't think I will ever go back to MS. UBUNTU is simply great!

  18. Lee Funkhouser
    January 10, 2015 at 12:58 am

    I don't know where you got the idea that Kdenlive and Openshot aren't under active development. The latest release of Kdenlive is only a couple of months old, and while Openshot hasn't released a new version in quite a while, the developer is working on a total re-write of the program which will provide a Windows (and possibly Mac) version as well as a new Linux version.

  19. David
    January 10, 2015 at 12:58 am

    Was good to find out about Pixlr. Except for install process/issues (which I've never tried installing, as I tested on Mac), I prefer Pinta over GIMP. http://pinta-project.com/download.ashx. Worth a try in addition to GIMP.

    • Mihir Patkar
      January 10, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      +1 for Pinta>GIMP

  20. Ed
    January 10, 2015 at 12:42 am

    For MS Office, a better web based alternative than Google Docs would be the online version of MS Office for compatibility anyway.

    Chromium browser is even easier to install and update on Linux than on Windows.

    Love GIMP, but it still has issues with Photoshop files.

    For coding, Sublime Text is cross platform and a great code editor.

    Bottom line. As much as I am ideologically drawn to Linux, file compatibility issues on most fronts, in addition to graphics driver, printer and scanner driver issues that are harder to deal with than in Windows or Mac, makes Linux not quite as practical as a full time desktop solution.

    For specific use cases though, it can be great. Linux servers run the internet, I love crouton on my chrome book, I love my kodibuntu xbmc box. But give me Windows on my full time desktop.

    Choice is great. Thank you Linux and Microsoft for choice.

    • dragonmouth
      January 10, 2015 at 2:45 pm

      To paraphrase Henny Youngman "Take my Windows, please!"

    • Sean Robertson
      January 10, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      For me, at least, OS X offers the best of both worlds, IMO. As a senior Drupal developer, I refuse to waste the time to get and keep a proper dev environment running on Windows with no native tools, but at the same time I like decent looking applications (I love me some SourceTree and Sequel Pro) and occasionally need Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. Plus, the hardware is just plain beautiful. ;-)

    • B-Dub
      January 11, 2015 at 11:53 pm

      Likewise for Outlook. Outlook.com enables access to Outlook mail through the browser, so no need for the Gmail as the "online alternative."

  21. Meena Bassem
    January 9, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    if you think libre office is good, try wps office

    • Dan
      January 9, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      If you think WPS Office is good, try Softmaker FreeOffice.

    • Dan
      January 9, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      When you work in construction industry, you will have to get used to designers and architects; contractors and sub-contracts; and clients and consultants, sending you files in DWG format created by AutoCAD. I've tried FreeCAD, LibreCAD, DraftSight, SketchUp, etc., and they all have one problem or another in opening files created by AutoCAD.

      I am using Linux in my laptop because, thankfully, I don't open DWG files anymore. I don't need replacements for Photoshop, and Softmaker FreeOffice has pretty good support for opening MSOffice-format files. We also use GoogleApps for our email system so we can live with Thunderbird. As for browsers, sometimes there is one or two government sites that don't play nice with non-IE browsers, so I still have to use a Windows machine from the office to access them.

  22. rle1121
    January 9, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    The biggest drawback for me is printer drivers.... I tried the dual boot configuration and when in Linux had serious trouble with printer/scanner drivers (among others).

    • ozmark
      January 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      The best linux support I've seen so far is from Epson, also had great experience with HP's. To see how your printer fares, use the ranking list out on http://www.openprinting.org/printers - use the "List by Manufacturer" droplist. I steer clear of manufacturers that don't provide support.

    • likefunbutnot
      January 9, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      In my experience, if a printer doesn't work with CUPS or a scanner doesn't work with SANE, it was a poorly-chosen purchase in the first place.

    • glthesun
      January 9, 2015 at 11:22 pm

      I agree with likefunbutot. Usually the only printers that don't function well are the consumer-grade ripoff printers the manufacturers push in WallyMart and the Bullseye logo stores. Drivers for most printers can be found right on the http://www.openprinting.org website. CUPS is an excellent system to use, especially on networks with a bunch of printers.

  23. likefunbutnot
    January 9, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Outlook? Really? If your organization actually requires Outlook, there's probably an Exchange server someplace with Outlook Web Access configured. Outlook by itself is a textbook example of how consistently terrible Microsoft software can be with its aggravatingly fragile database for mail storage and the nine different places it keeps aspects of its configuration (and that's only counting the registry once).

    The good news is that MS Office runs just fine in WINE and for that it's fairly trivial to get Xen or Virtualbox running on a Linux machine if you have a reasonable amount of RAM and a couple extra CPU cores. That also applies to Photoshop and AutoCAD albeit with the further need for even more RAM and CPU cores.