Can You Run It On Linux? 10 Vital Apps You’ll Want When You Switch

Danny Stieben 09-01-2015

Now has never been a better time to switch to Linux, but you may still be hesitant about it because you’re not sure whether your favorite applications from Windows will work on it. To help answer your questions, we’ll take a look at 10 popular Windows applications and whether you have options for them in Linux or online.


With this list, you should have more confidence when trying to make the switch.


Except for Internet Explorer, all of the major browsers (Firefox, Chrome, and Opera) are all available on Linux. There are even several lesser-known browsers that are available on Linux such as Midori. These browsers give you plenty of choice and loads of features, so you should be able to access any content that you wish with no problems whatsoever.

Native Official App: Yes
Best Linux Alternative App: Chrome or Firefox
Best Online Alternative App: N/A


To take care of your email needs, you have plenty of options on Linux as well — although Outlook isn’t one of them. Thunderbird, one of the most popular email clients, is also available there. If you need an email client that has great support for Microsoft Exchange accounts like Outlook has, then Evolution may be better for you. Otherwise, you can also easily use any web-based email interface with your preferred browser, including Gmail and much more.

Native Official App: No
Best Linux Alternative App: Thunderbird or Evolution
Best Online Alternative App: Gmail


Microsoft Office

The world’s most popular office suite doesn’t have an offering on Linux, and people who try installing it with the Wine compatibility layer for Windows software tend to have mixed results at best. Instead, the best alternative for the Linux desktop is LibreOffice, which is still full of features and offers surprisingly good compatibility with Microsoft Office formats LibreOffice 4.2 Brings Major Changes To The Popular Microsoft Office Alternative LibreOffice (Version 4.2) offers better performance and better interoperability with MS Windows, and further lays claim to its title of the best free office suite for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Read More . In fact, you’ll only really come across issues if you tend to use very high-level Office features such as Macros; LibreOffice has macros as well, but they aren’t compatible with Office’s macros.

Native Official App: No
Best Linux Alternative App: LibreOffice
Best Online Alternative App: Google Drive


Photoshop also isn’t natively available on Linux, and although people seem to have relatively decent success at installing it via Wine, and that process usually 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 GIMP: A Quick Walkthrough Of Everyone's Favorite Open Source Image Editor Read More . Although some of the workflows may be different (and sometimes longer) 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 a good chance that there’s a plugin to help you out.

Native Official App: No
Best Linux Alternative App: GIMP
Best Online Alternative App: Pixlr


Windows Movie Maker

As you might expect, Windows Movie Maker and iMovie are both meant only for their respective platforms and therefore not available on Linux. However, there are a couple of Linux alternatives that you can choose from. If you’re looking to create very simple home videos Video Editing on Linux Just Got Better With PiTiVi PiTiVi, a video editor that has historically been in the "simple home user" category, has gained several features since its early days. Read More , then look no further than PiTiVi. There’s also OpenShot and Kdenlive for slightly more advanced projects, but they haven’t been in active development for a while. Finally, as a professional-grade video editor there’s Lightworks, but it also asks for a professional-grade price.

Native Official App: No
Best Linux Alternative App: PiTiVi
Best Online Alternative App: WeVideo


Developers need to have a trusty IDE (Interactive Development Environment) by their side to help with all of their programming projects. Eclipse is a popular one for a lot of 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, then you may need to switch to Eclipse. Additionally, if you’re looking for a lightweight IDE/code editor Geany - A Great Lightweight Code Editor For Linux Surprisingly, Linux doesn't offer that many good IDE's (Integrated Development Environments). I believe this is because back in the day most Linux programmers took out good old Notepad (or gedit in this case), and started... Read More , then I’d suggest Geany. If I’m working on simpler projects (such as for school assignments), then I prefer to use Geany as it doesn’t have excessive functions that I don’t need.

Native Official App: Yes
Best Linux Alternative App: Geany
Best Online Alternative App: N/A



Arguably the most popular indie game available, Minecraft, is a must for a lot of people, and thanks to its Java roots, it can run on Linux as well. In fact, there’s pretty much no difference between the Windows and Linux versions whatsoever. The only difference would be that some add-ons or mods come packaged in .exe installers that won’t work on Linux, but they also tend to provide the files in a .zip file, so you shouldn’t have to miss out on anything.

Native Official App: Yes
Best Linux Alternative App: Minetest
Best Online Alternative App: N/A


A common complaint about Linux is that there isn’t good software for some more specific tasks, including CAD sofware. While you can’t get AutoCAD onto your Linux system, 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. If need be, you can also try out FreeCAD on Windows or Mac OS X before you make the switch to Linux so you’ll already feel comfortable with it.

Native Official App: No
Best Linux Alternative App: FreeCAD
Best Online Alternative App: Tinkercad



Steam is a popular platform for finding, getting, and managing/updating games. Since early 2013, Valve has been pushing to turn Linux into a viable gaming operating system Is SteamOS a Good Choice for a Gaming System? Can you rely solely on SteamOS with good performance, or should you still keep that dual-boot with Windows? Let's take a look. Read More , and after approximately two years you’ll find quite a few games on Steam that work on Linux as well. You’ll still have to skip out on huge titles like Battlefield and Call of Duty (although Battlefield expressed interest in Linux), but there are other AAA titles already available on Linux such as Civilization V. The list of Linux-compatible games is only going to grow, so you should check out Steam’s listing of games and see which ones you want run on Linux. Alternatively, you can always try to get a game by itself (not via Steam) and use Wine to get it to run. Your success will vary widely from game to game.

Native Official App: Yes
Best Linux Alternative App: Wine
Best Online Alternative App: N/A


The most popular music streaming service has spread itself rapidly with easy access on mobile devices and desktops via a web player and a desktop client. If you run a Linux distribution which uses .deb packages (such as Debian, Ubuntu, or derivatives of either), then you can install the beta Spotify client for Linux. Alternatively, you can also just access Spotify from their web player via your browser.

Native Official App: Yes
Best Linux Alternative App: Atraci Atraci Offers 60 Millions Songs For Free Without Ads Can't find a particular song on Spotify or Rdio? Try Atraci, a Windows, Mac and Linux music player powered by YouTube with no ads and no need to sign up for an account. Read More
Best Online Alternative App: Spotify Web Player, Google Play Music

Time to Switch!

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!

What’s still an issue that’s keeping you from Linux? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Door concept Via Shutterstock, Cardboard boxes Via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Adobe Photoshop, LibreOffice, Minecraft, Spotify, Steam.

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

    What about Microsoft Project??

  2. 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.

  3. 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)

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

    Krita as a Photoshop & Gimp alternative

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

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

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

    ClipMate ( ???

  7. 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.

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

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

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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. ;-)

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

    For Linux games, try They have a myriad of old and new PC games, some have both OSX and Linux installations, too. 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."

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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. Worth a try in addition to GIMP.

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

      +1 for Pinta>GIMP

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

  19. 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.

  20. 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 - 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 website. CUPS is an excellent system to use, especially on networks with a bunch of printers.

  21. 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.