Having an app store of its own has really brought Elementary OS to life. No longer does this feel like a beautiful Ubuntu derivative dependent on a series of Personal Package Archives for third-party apps. Now it’s growing into its own platform.
Earlier I wondered if AppCenter could motivate more developers to create software for Linux, and so far, the answer seems to be Yes.
I feel a glow of excitement whenever I open up AppCenter every week or so, as I don’t know what new apps await me. I’ve been using Linux for years, and I’ve never seen new software roll in this fast.
Part of my joy stems from being someone who writes content for the web. The kind of tools I use are precisely the kind that are easy to program. I’ve already added quite a few to my workflow. While it’s possible to run them on other versions of Linux, they’ve already kept me running Elementary for longer than I expected.
A few apps on this list have been around since before AppCenter, but the majority of these are new. I’ve also excluded software that comes pre-installed, such as Epiphany and Geary (both of which I use heavily).
With that out of the way, here are 10 AppCenter apps that help me get work done. And if you find value in them, please be sure to toss the developers a couple bucks.
Note: These app links only work if you’re running Elementary OS.
Notes-Up is a note-taking app that encourages you to write in Markdown — my favorite way to format content online and off. Unlike some of Elementary’s other Markdown apps, Notes-Up lets you view how your document looks inside the app.
You separate notes into notebooks, each with their own color. I have one notebook dedicated to this site and others for my own personal writings.
The experience isn’t perfect. There isn’t yet a way to rearrange the notes within a notebook, which I consider to be a huge drawback. I would like to be able to sort pages in alphabetical order or move them around manually, rather than having to view them in the order that they were created. I would also love to see the option to display a word count.
Want a to-do app that is as basic as pen and paper? Agenda is that app. You can enter tasks and rearrange them. Nothing else. I like that.
Most of the tasks I enter don’t have an explicit due date. I don’t need tags, and I find the the process of ranking priority to be more stressful than helpful. Agenda doesn’t do any of those things, and the developer has expressed a desire not to add that functionality. That makes the act of using Agenda straightforward enough that I actually stick with it.
Think Agenda was simple? Notejot is a virtual sticky note. You can keep one at a time. No more, no less. When you need a new one, hit the trash can icon in the corner to erase everything that you’ve currently written.
Notejot has become my go-to place to jot down things I want to remember that aren’t formal enough to be a to-do in Agenda or fleshed out enough to be a full-fledged note in Notes-Up.
Quilter is a simple writing app with very few distractions. It places even more of an emphasis on Markdown than Notes-Up. Unless you know Markdown, there’s no visual way to format your writing. I love it.
While Notes-Up saves all of its content in a local database, Quilter can open plain text and Markdown files saved anywhere on your computer. Even better, it autosaves.
Except the autosave can cause issues if you have one Quilter window open and you open a second by clicking on a document in the file manager. Often enough, I’ve had one or the other overwritten. This has led me to use Quilter similarly to how I use Notejot, for quick work that I don’t expect to leave sitting around on my computer for long (both apps happen to come from the same developer).
Don’t use Elementary? Here are some other Markdown apps for Linux.
The Pomodoro time management technique is a great way to stay focused. Work for a set period of time (e.g. 25 minutes), take a break (e.g. five minutes), and repeat. I utilize this method when I need to stop idling opening tabs and start banging out a piece of writing. Something about seeing the ticking time in the window, or the progress bar on the Tomato dock icon, makes me want to beat the clock.
When not on Elementary, I use the Pomodoro GNOME Shell extension. But I prefer the way Tomato doesn’t take up a spot on my panel, even though its location on the dock clearly takes up more screen real estate. We all have our preferences.
Tranqil is an ambient noise app that, like Tomato, helps me focus while writing. There are three sounds to choose from: outdoors in the daytime, outdoors at night, and the beach. The app window has a nice image to represent each, which you click to start playing and click again to stop. That’s it really. I appreciate the simplicity.
Sure, you could always download music to use in the same way, but it’s nice having an app that removes all the extra overhead.
7. Color Picker
Color Picker lets you pick any color on the screen and provides you with the hexadecimal code. This is functionality you often see in image editors, but those are sometimes limited to only selecting from colors within the app itself. They also may not be helpful if you want to enter that color elsewhere, such as in a web browser. Color Picker is a universal tool I can use anytime I want to grab a specific color.
Swatches is a supplement to Color Picker. I haven’t actually used it yet, but I love the concept. Enter a color and receive a list of the many various shades.
Using Swatches is the digital equivalent of visiting the paint section of a hardware store. I often utilize various colors on my own personal sites, and this is a tool I would love to have had sooner.
Sometimes the apps I depend on come with an outdated icon or category tags that don’t quite make sense to me. When that happens, AppEditor lets me change them. Both Color Picker and Swatches installed in the Graphics and Programming categories. I don’t program, and these apps don’t particularly strike me as tools I would use to do so (though I’m sure a programmer could disagree).
I’ve used AppEditor to limit both apps to the Graphics section, where I expect to find them. As for app icons, you can find cool Elementary-themed options for third-party apps within the Elementary+ theme.
Elementary OS doesn’t come with a system monitor app. Surprising, I know. That just goes to show the youthfulness of the project. But rest assured, Monitor is the native app you’ve been waiting for. You can see which apps or processes are hogging up all of your memory and end them with a click of the mouse. Satisfying.
What AppCenter Apps Have You Found?
Elementary OS has gained dozens of apps in a handful of months. That’s not a staggering number considering what we see in mobile app stores, but it’s a relatively high amount of new content on a Linux desktop. Are these apps better than what you find elsewhere? Maybe, maybe not. But they’re fun, and I enjoy having them around. They’ve made the latest version of Elementary, Loki, an even more well-rounded release.
Do you use Elementary OS? What apps have you found in AppCenter? If you don’t use Elementary, do any of these apps make you want to check it out? I’m curious, so let’s chat in the comments.