Switching to Linux is a great way to increase control over your digital life. But that transition doesn’t make much difference if you’re still using all the same sites and services that you used before.
Among them, Google is probably the largest and most difficult to leave behind. Alongside Facebook, it’s one of the tech giants whose data collection most intrudes on our privacy.
But ditching Google is possible. Here are some Google app alternatives you can consider on Linux. All of the desktop apps are open source, while web services are more of a mixed bag.
1. Ditch Google Search, Use DuckDuckGo
Google’s name has become synonymous with online search. But this is also Google’s largest window into the most intimate details of our lives. Through our searches, Google can almost read our thoughts. These inquiries can reveal our deepest desires and fears.
DuckDuckGo is the largest search provider that emphasizes our privacy. For starters, you don’t create an account (Google and Bing don’t require accounts, but many of us use these services while signed into Google and Microsoft regardless). DuckDuckGo also doesn’t try to personalized search results, a process that inherently requires gathering information about you.
2. Ditch Gmail, Use Kolab Now
Who have you emailed over the course of your life? What did those messages contain? Google scans every message we send in order to deliver us personalized ads. Every year the company rolls out new services that manipulate this data in different ways.
Want an alternative to Gmail that doesn’t search your email and actually takes your privacy seriously? The folks over at Kolab Now not only make those promises, but they build their offerings using open source tools and contribute back to the community.
Kolab Now accounts integrates best with KDE tools such as Kontact, KMail, and KOrganizer. Kolab Now doesn’t have ads. Instead, users pay directly for the service. Subscriptions start at CHF 4.41 (just under $5) a month.
For further alternatives, check out these secure and encrypted email providers.
3. Ditch Google Calendar, Use fruux
Many people swear by Google Calendar as a tool that keeps them sane. But it’s not the only way to keep track of dates and events online. Some companies not only provide calendars, but they offer them as their primary product. fruux is one example, and it happens to explicitly list Thunderbird, Evolution, Rainlendar, and ReminderFox as supported clients on Linux.
fruux is a great alternative to Google Calendar, and it’s free to up to two shares across two devices. More than that requires a plan starting at around $5 (prices are listed in Euros) a month. Apps are also available for Android and iOS. The company uses and contributes back to a number of open source projects.
Note: If you decide to use Kolab Now email (mentioned above), you may want to stick with that account for your calendar too. However, the calendar functionality isn’t included with the lowest priced plan.
4. Ditch Google Hangouts, Use Linphone [No Longer Available]
You don’t have to stop placing voice calls to friends, family, and colleagues when switching to Linux. Skype and Google Hangouts both support the operating system.
While you could technically swap Hangouts for Skype, Microsoft isn’t exactly more trustworthy than Google. In that case, there are a few open-source alternatives designed for Linux. Linphone has the added plus of also being available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry 10.
5. Ditch Google Maps, Use OpenStreetMaps
Google Maps, the site, has one major open source alternative. That’s OpenStreetMaps.
OpenStreetMaps can show you standard and satellite maps of most corners of the globe. Is it as detailed as Google? Sometimes it has less information, and sometimes it has more. That’s because OpenStreetMaps relies on contributions from people like you and me. On the downside, this information is harder to access because the site isn’t as good at converting addresses to GPS coordinates.
There are a few dedicated Linux apps that access OpenStreetMaps, saving you from having to open a browser. Check out GNOME Maps and KDE Marble.
6. Ditch Google Drive, Use SpiderOak
Among cloud storage, Google Drive is really an alternative to Dropbox, which is perhaps the easiest way to sync data across multiple computers over the internet. But Dropbox isn’t a big step forward if you’re concerned about your privacy. In that case, check out SpiderOak.
SpiderOak promises that not even it can access your data if you stick to only using the desktop client, which is available for Linux. That said, as a proprietary product, we can only take them at their word.
Download: SpiderOak (Plans start at $5/mo)
Prefer an open-source solution? That requires a little bit more work, but there are open-source cloud storage solutions out there.
7. Ditch Google Docs, Use ONLYOFFICE
Google Docs provides most of what people want from Microsoft Office for free. It also removes the difficulty of getting your hands on a copy. All you have to do is visit the site with a reasonably fast internet connection (which can be more of a challenge in some areas than others). As for the catch? All of your data exists on Google servers.
ONLYOFFICE is an open-source alternative office suite that puts the control in your hands. You can access the interface on someone else’s servers, or you can host a copy on your own (both options scale in price based on the number of users).
And for when internet connectivity isn’t available, you can always resort to a free copy of the desktop version.
Download: ONLYOFFICE Desktop (Free)
Is your phone your primary way of taking pictures? Does it automatically upload every snap you take? There are any number of alternative cloud services you can consider if you simply want to leave Google behind, but you also have the option to store and manage your photos yourself.
Picasa is Google’s desktop app for the job, but it’s no longer supported on Linux. Fortunately, there are many other photo managers to choose from. If you use Ubuntu, Fedora, or elementary OS, your default option is Shotwell (or a variation of it).
If it’s the cloud storage aspect of Google Photos you’re most interested in. Syncthing can keep copies in sync between your smartphone and your Linux-powered PCs. Or you can use any of the other providers linked to above.
9. Ditch Google+, Use Mastodon
Like most online social networks, Google+ comes from a single company. How we interact with the site is up to Google. The company stores every letter we type, and what it does with the information is its choice, not ours.
Mastodon is more similar to Twitter than Google+. Nonetheless, it offers a decentralized way to share thoughts, links, and images with others. No one group has access to all of the data. You can create your own Mastodon instance.
Interested? See our overview of how Mastodon works.
10. Ditch YouTube, Use DTube
YouTube is the most well-known video distribution site on the web. Yet there are reasons to dislike YouTube, and not just because it’s hip to snub what’s mainstream. YouTube is a treasure trove of data for Google. It also pays content creators relatively little money unless they’re consistently bringing in millions of views on a steady stream of videos. The site also demonetizes videos based on an ambiguous standard.
Whether you’re looking for videos to watch or want a place to host your own, a few alternatives are built on decentralized infrastructure. DTube is a blockchain-based option. Then there’s BitChute, which uses peer-to-peer technology.
With either one, don’t expect anywhere near the diversity present on YouTube. You may also see many political videos featuring content that’s less welcome on more centralized platforms. These are early days for decentralized video distribution.
It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Google
There are various reasons to have concerns about Google. Maybe you don’t like the company’s tendency to discontinue less popular services, even if they have millions of users. Maybe you have concerns over data collection and privacy, given the way Google makes its money. Maybe you just don’t like having all of your eggs in one basket.
Whatever the reason, it’s still possible to use a PC without a Google account. And you may be surprised to know you can ditch Google on your smartphone too.