New to Linux? 5 Apps You Didn’t Know You Were Missing

Akshata Shanbhag 10-05-2015

When you moved to Linux, you went straight for the obvious browsers, cloud clients, music players, email clients, and perhaps image editors, right? As a result, you’ve missed several vital, productive tools. Here’s a roundup of five umissable Linux apps that you really need to install.



Synergy is a godsend if you use multiple desktops. It’s an open-source app that allows you to use a single mouse and keyboard across multiple computers, displays, and operating systems. Switching the mouse and keyboard functionality between the desktops is easy. Just move the mouse out the edge of one screen and into another.


When you open Synergy for the first time, it will run you through the setup wizard. The primary desktop is the one whose input devices you’ll be sharing with the other desktops. Configure that as the server. Add the remaining computers as clients.


Synergy maintains a common clipboard across all connected desktops. It also merges the lock screen setup, i.e. you need to bypass the lock screen just once to log in to all the computers together. Under Edit > Settings, you can make a few more tweaks such as adding a password and setting Synergy to launch on startup.


BasKet Note Pads

Using BasKet Note Pads is somewhat like mapping your brain onto a computer. It helps make sense of all the ideas floating around in your head by allowing you to organize them in digestible chunks. You can use BasKet Note Pads for various tasks such as taking notes, creating idea maps and to-do lists, saving links, managing research, and keeping track of project data.

Each main idea or project goes into a section called a basket. To split ideas further, you can have one or more sub-baskets or sibling baskets. The baskets are further broken down into notes, which hold all the bits and pieces of a project. You can group them, tag them, and filter them.

The left pane in the application’s two-pane structure displays a tree-like view of all the baskets you have created.



BasKet Note Pads might seem a little complex on day one, but you’ll get the hang of it soon. When you’re not using it, the app sits in the system tray, ready for quick access.

Want a simpler note-taking alternative Try These 3 Beautiful Note-Taking Apps That Work Offline If you want an uncomplicated note-taking app, Simplenote is not the only noteworthy (excuse the pun) option available to you. Read More on Linux? Try Springseed.


How do you ensure that your computer doesn’t go to sleep right in the middle of an interesting movie The Most Popular Apps, Movies, And More According To Google Read More ? Caffeine is the answer. No, you don’t need to brew a cup of coffee for your computer. You just need to install a lightweight indicator applet called Caffeine. It prevents the screen-saver, lock screen, or the Sleep mode from being activated when the computer is idle, only if the current window is in full-screen mode.

To install the applet, download its latest version. If you want to go the ppa way What Is An Ubuntu PPA & Why Would I Want To Use One? [Technology Explained] Read More , here’s how you can:


$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:caffeine-developers/ppa
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install caffeine

On Ubuntu versions 14.10 and 15.04 (and their derivatives), you’ll also need to install certain dependency packages:

$ sudo apt-get install libappindicator3-1 gir1.2-appindicator3-0.1

After finishing the installation, add caffeine-indicator to your list of startup applications to make the indicator appear in the system tray. You can turn Caffeine’s functionality on and off via the app’s context menu, which pops up when you right-click on the tray icon.



Easystroke makes an excellent Linux mouse hack 4 Astounding Linux Mouse Hacks Ever since its invention, the mouse has become an extremely useful tool that makes using a computer much easier to learn when coupled with a graphical user interface. However, some of you may feel like... Read More . Use it to set up a series of customized mouse/touchpad/pen gestures to simulate common actions such as keystrokes, commands, and scrolls. Setting up Easystroke gestures is straightforward enough, thanks to the clear instructions that appear at all the right moments when you’re navigating the UI.


Begin by choosing the mouse button you’d like to use for performing gestures. Throw in a modifier if you like. You’ll find this setting under Preferences > Behavior > Gesture Button. Now head to the Actions tab and record strokes for your most commonly used actions.


Using the Preferences and Advanced tabs, you can make other tweaks like setting Easystroke to autostart, adding a system tray icon, and changing scroll speed.


I saved my favorite Linux find for last. Guake is a dropdown command line modeled after the one in the first-person shooter video game Quake. Whether you’re learning about terminal commands 4 Ways to Teach Yourself Terminal Commands in Linux If you want to become a true Linux master, having some terminal knowledge is a good idea. Here methods you can use to start teaching yourself. Read More or executing them on a regular basis, Guake is a great way to keep the terminal handy. You can bring it up or hide it in a single keystroke.

As you can see in the image below, when in action, Guake appears as an overlay on the current window. Right-click within the terminal to access the Preferences section, from where you can change Guake’s appearance, its scroll action, keyboard shortcuts, and more.


If KDE is your Linux desktop of choice The 12 Best Linux Desktop Environments Choosing a Linux desktop environment can be difficult. Here are the best Linux desktop environments to consider. Read More , do check out Yakuake [Broken URL Removed], which provides a similar functionality.

Name Your Favorite Linux Discovery!

There are many more super useful Linux apps Linux Treasures: 11 Sublime Native Linux Apps That Will Make You Want To Switch Why should you use Linux? To use some of the best applications made for any platform. If you don't believe me, here's a list of great Linux apps. Read More waiting to be discovered. Rest assured that we’ll keep introducing you to them.

Which Linux app were you happiest to learn about? Which one do you consider a must-have? Tell us in the comments.

Image credits: treasure chest Via Shutterstock, Workstation by Picography

Explore more about: Linux, Linux Desktop Environment, Notepad.

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  1. Anonymous
    June 8, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    have to say guake was. happy to see it on the list.

  2. MickeyM
    May 23, 2015 at 1:19 am

    I just read a MUO article that MS is forcing AdAware on Win7&8 users to try and sell them Win10. That is why I am moving from Windows and learning Linux.

  3. CT
    May 16, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Now if it only had more useful stuff to us to use , and a easier way to install things so we dont have to spend 10 hours of research to install a program. Spent 4 days trying to find a gpu temp meter and a bandwidth meter on linux mint. after about 25 different apps an desklets an programs with all fails i gave up. After spending about 2 an half weeks on linux mint with fail after fail trying to get stuff to work i sadly crawled back to the ugly crappy world of windows. Unless your to cheap an poor to buy windows i dont see how anyone would want choose linux over it. why wold anyone want to use something that has so many complicated steps to install something over an os that installs easily in 1 click and has 1000's more programs that work easily. with how long linux as been around for youd think by now to install stuff would be simple as windows an not having to rely on commands in a terminal , we did that like over 25 years ago on prehistoric computers. Linux might look nice an be faster an more secure. but for everyday tasks its way way way behind.

    • Anonymous
      June 8, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      because its loads easier once you used to it

    • Anonymous
      June 13, 2015 at 11:36 am

      I opened the Software Center, typed the word "temperature" into the search bar on the top left...

      The second result on the list was "Psensor - Temperature Monitor for Linux"....

      A quick Google search for the phrase "cpu temp monitor for ubuntu" would've rendered similar results...

      Switching from Windows to Linux requires some getting used to. The first thing you should remember is that Linux is NOT windows. It's an alternative Operating System. I experienced the same frustration back in the early 2000's whenever I upgraded from one version of Windows to the next. Almost nothing stayed exactly the same and I had to learn new ways of doing things I used to do a certain way for years - and the changes were not for the best...

      That is why I switched from Buggy, impossible Windows 98 to Linux back in 1999, and haven't looked back since.

      Linux is SO much easier and simpler than Windows:

      No need for an Anti Virus and Anti Malware apps that eat up resources
      No need for installing hundreds of megabytes of apps
      No need for buggy drivers - connect the device, and it works!

      I can go on and on....

  4. rc primak
    May 14, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    XBMC is now subsumed under the Kodi umbrella. Good substitute for Widnows MEdia Center (soon to be discontinued for Windows 10). Kodi will be all that Widnows users will have left.

    Some of my favorite Ubuntu Linux apps which most new users could probably master fairly quickly:

    LinSSID and WiFi Radar for identifying WiFi interference and finding WiFi hotspots. Also, Softperfect WiFi Guard to see who's stealing your WiFi.

    XnView (IrfanView for Linux).

    SMPlayer for media playback and screen recording.

    Pinta, nearly identical to Paint .NET, but without the .NET Framework mess.

    Transmageddon for converting memdia to almost any format.

    XSANE, Master PDF EDitor and PDF Shuffler for those who deal with PDFs, scanned documents and PDF Form filling.

    Classic Menu Indicator -- restore the old GNOME drop-down Menu of Everything to the Top Panel. Loke having a GodMode for Linux.

    Shutter for screenshots.

    Thunderbird for email.

    System Monitor App-Indicator.

  5. springc
    May 13, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    BeyondCompare (not free)

    most of which is just a frontend to another package or can be done in a terminal but we're listing guis right?

    • Akshata
      May 13, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Useful is all that matters, springc :) Thank you for sharing your list of favorites.

  6. JB
    May 13, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Very useful list. I'm not sure why some of these folks are complaining, I've been using Linux since 1997, and it's easy to continue doing things the hard way, because you don't realize there are newer apps available that make tasks easier and more productive. In addition, some old favorites (Guake) are occasionally forgotten, especially when you move to a different distro.

    Not everyone wants to spend hours stepping through tens of thousands of repository items, and looking up each online to see how it can be used. If the repository description doesn't make it obvious, or doesn't use a search term I'd use to find similar packages, useful apps may languish in obscurity, until someone like the author points them out to a larger audience.

    This benefits the community as a whole, even if a few snobs think the apps mentioned are "obvious" or beneath their self-appointed guru status.

    • Akshata
      May 13, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Thank you, JB. I'm glad you found the list useful. Quite a few Linux apps I have come across have that in common. They can be difficult to look for, but once you find them you can't imagine giving them up :)

  7. Tom
    May 13, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    for me gcolor2 is one of the most important tools i discovered - as well as photivo

    • Akshata
      May 13, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Thank you, Tom, for bringing those up. If it wasn't niche, I would have loved to add gcolor2 to this list.

  8. Pierre-Paul
    May 13, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    RadioTray for webradio nice tool I can do without now......

    Midnight commander coming from windows it's remind me the good old Norton Commander...
    very fast handy tool

    I become fan of Amarok music player :-)

    K3b for burning CD or DVD or ripping FLAC :-)

    VLC for multimedia

    GParted partition creation & managing NOT for newbie.....

    • Akshata
      May 13, 2015 at 6:33 pm

      I see you love your multimedia apps, Pierre-Paul :) Thanks for sharing them with us!

  9. Indy Janner
    May 13, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    What if you started with Debian or arch or even Gentoo? Yakuake is much cooler than guake. But if you really miss something from windows, you should look in the net for substitutes. There plenty. What's really cool about Linux distributions is, that what ever you want you can look it up on wiki sites and then install it easily with your package manager.

    • Akshata
      May 13, 2015 at 6:31 pm

      That's true, Indy. There is sufficient information available if you want to experiment with apps. Linux is not as "hard to get" as I once thought it was, and I love it when I stumble upon tiny utilities while browsing.

  10. Teo
    May 12, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    The Vim code editor is freaking powerful. Coders should learn it!

  11. Coll Penguin
    May 12, 2015 at 3:05 am

    I love Qmmp, it's a clone of old-school basic winamp. you can pick up skins and a really cool visualization add-on called 'Project M." There are versions for windoze now but for years it was solely for *nix.

    • Akshata
      May 12, 2015 at 5:17 am

      Thank you for sharing that, Coll.

  12. Josh
    May 12, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Nice list. I'll give these a try. Thanks for sharing.

    • Akshata
      May 12, 2015 at 2:17 am

      You're welcome, Josh. I hope you find something that works out well for you from the list.

  13. Tiago Fernandez
    May 11, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Hey Akshata, elementary os freya as been released!

    • Akshata
      May 12, 2015 at 2:16 am

      I'm already using it, Tiago. Have you given it a try?

  14. b
    May 11, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Here would be my five softwares:
    LMMS - Music creation clone of fruity loops, but free and Linux only.

    Openshot - Video editing streamlined, it's formatted like windows movie maker but loads more powerful, Linux only.

    Terminator - Great terminal emulator with loads of features like window splitting and highlighting.

    WM (Workspaces) - I don't know how I got anything done before them.

    Anything from the KDE tool kit, especially Ksnapshot for easy screenshots or the Kgames like reversi and battleship.

    Honorable mentions
    XBMC - Not a Linux native, but runs on many flavors and is a great multimedia software.

    • Akshata
      May 11, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      That sounds like a useful list. Thank you for sharing it. I must give Ksnapshot a try.

    • Doc
      May 11, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      LMMS is available for Windows, Linux, and OS X:

  15. Rusty Gnome
    May 11, 2015 at 6:21 am

    I have the impression that the author has very limited experiences in using Linux systems. For example it dies not even occur to him that some oft bis recommendations simply won't work on all systems. Maybe one Mord case oft "hey, look, I used Ububtu! I know Linux now! "...

    • Akshata
      May 11, 2015 at 6:35 am

      Hi Rusty,
      Linux has so many flavors that it's not feasible to give detailed instructions for each one. Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distros are the ones new Linux users (as it says in the title) seem to gravitate toward, so I thought it best to focus on them. Once you know of an app, you can always find out if it's possible to install it on the distro of your choice and how to go about doing that.

    • dragonmouth
      May 11, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      "Linux has so many flavors that it’s not feasible to give detailed instructions for each one"
      While you are right in that statement, MUO article titles often equate Linux with Ubuntu. The title says "Linux", implying that whatever is written in the article applies to all or most distros. Only upon reading do we find out that the article is exclusively about Ubuntu. I wish MUO would title their articles truthfully.

      "Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distros are the ones new Linux users (as it says in the title) seem to gravitate toward"
      How can they help not "gravitate" towards Ubuntu when that is the distro written about and recommended in the vast majority of articles. Every once in a great while somebody will write an article about Fedora. New Linux users come to MUO for advice from its experts. When the experts push Ubuntu to the exclusion of any other distro, new Linux users will install Ubuntu to the exclusion of all other distros. Reminds me of the days when "new PC users" were similarly convinced that AOL was the Internet.

      "Once you know of an app,.............................distro of your choice"
      If you re-read that sentence carefully, you will realize how logically wrong it is. If I am using a distro other than *buntu, I will never get to know the app. OTOH, if I got to know the app, I don't need to find out how to install it on another distro because I am already using Ubuntu.

    • Doc
      May 11, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      Many of these apps would likely also work on Debian (Ubuntu's upstream source), as well as Mint, Kubuntu, Elementary, and other Ubuntu derivatives. That covers a wide swath of Linux users, and anyone not using a Debian distro is likely to be able to compile these from source if needed, or use a converter (DEB to RPM, for example).

  16. llamanerds
    May 11, 2015 at 3:08 am

    I use synergy every single day at work... between Windows and Mac. It's not a Linux app, so much as just an awesome piece of software, and you should check it out if you regularly use multiple computers on a single desk.

  17. Jerica
    May 10, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you for the caffeine applet! I was adjusting my computer's sleep mode timing so that it wouldn't go to sleep during a movie/show. This is so much more convenient!

    • Akshata
      May 11, 2015 at 4:22 am

      You're welcome, Jerica. It is quite handy. And lightweight, too!

  18. namen
    May 10, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    This gal is back with stupid post and there is one more here that publish infographic no matter what it has got

    • Ajith
      May 10, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      This post was very helpful. Your manners are stupid.

    • namen
      May 11, 2015 at 10:19 am

      @Ajith u r a cartoon

  19. Swami
    May 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    For Windows users, Microsoft's utility "Mouse Without Borders" does the same as Synergy. As someone using 3 PCs at home, this tool is godsend.

    • Akshata
      May 10, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you for the recommendation, Swami!

    • Adian
      May 12, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      Yep Great! If you only have MS windows!
      System Requirements
      Supported Operating System

      Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Vista, Windows XP Service Pack 3

      .Net 2.0/4.0 and Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP SP3 (32/64 bit).

      D'OH :)

  20. kt
    May 10, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Synergy looks pretty sweet.

  21. Slashee the Cow
    May 10, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    If you're running GNOME Shell you can easily install Caffiene as a shell extension ( and the Drop Down Terminal extension ( isn't really as configurable as Guake but it's really easy to set up.

    If you use GNOME Shell you should probably look through the popular extensions, there's bound to be something you'll like. And if you don't use GNOME Shell... well it's a bit late for me to tell you now you can ignore this comment.

  22. dvous
    May 10, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    agree tyotally

  23. dragonmouth
    May 10, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    You're right. These 5 are unmissable, I don't have them installed and I don't miss them. :-)

    • See
      May 10, 2015 at 11:55 pm

      Must be so cool to be you?

    • dragonmouth
      May 11, 2015 at 11:28 am

      You got that right! I'd rather be me than you. :-)

    • alex
      May 11, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      do you understand the meaning of commenting under an article or not?
      grow up and start providing the masses with some useful insights and thoughts bro!

    • Doc
      May 11, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      Dragonmouth has posted a great many useful comments on MakeUseOf (and a few critical ones, but even so...) There's very little of these apps I would find useful, either.

    • dragonmouth
      May 12, 2015 at 12:30 am

      OMG, people! Loosen up! You all need to download a "sense of humor" app.
      It was a JOKE. See those three characters at the end of the line? They are called a "smiley." A smiley indicates that the preceding statement was not meant to be serious.

    • Navanski
      May 12, 2015 at 9:43 am

      It's OK. I understood the comment. It's just a variation on the advert for Anadin headache remedy. 'Nothing works faster then Anadin'

      So take nothing.