Linux must-have essential software 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Whether you're being new to the world of Linux or not, at one point or another, you're going to periodically re-question the software that's already installed on your station.
As a beginner user, you will be haunted by the quest of ever trying to find new alternatives or best, to find copycats of the programs you used to have on... you know. But once you have gained significant experience, you will love digging the net for even more of that great software you already have and use, that is, not just to kill time though.
So here is my 2014 list of all Linux software I believe all of us (or almost) should have, hoping this will help you achieve even more and meet greater challenges through your PC, at least complement your current installation.

Tux trying to figure out the software he needs on

Note about my own personal setup: I am running Fedora 19 with Gnome 3.8.4,  so it is possible some of the programs listed bellow are more Gnome/Fedora-friendly than your PC would like to hear about. Have faith though - the vast majority of them, if not all, should run perfectly on your system too - consistent to whatever your goals are.

./ Productivity

- LibreOffice/OpenOffice: Quite frankly, there isn't much difference between those two. Let alone visual identity and the louder opensource propaganda like message LibreOffice tries desperately to convey, the only difference I find between them, product-wise is that the folks at LibreOffice tend to work faster and have taken some advance already. Other than that, who does not need a productivity suite? You got it, next one...

- Gedit: Shipped by default with Gnome 3, but just in case, I will talk about it now, Gedit is more than what notepad is to Windows. Yes, that's right, if Notepad can act as a programming editor...oh boy, raise a hand who truly loves a barely customizable, eye-breaking white background equipped editor with neither line numbering support, nor bracket completion capabilites and it goes without saying that current line highliting rhymes with UFO here. Furthermore, beside being totally usable for most coding projects, Gedit can still act as a light notepad-like program you can use on the fly the same way you would use a memo, textbook, info gathering tool, you name it. No arguing here, a Linux station without Gedit is simply a sad station.

- p7zip: Being as widespread as they are nowadays, it's likely sooner or later you will need some kind of utility to extract 7zip archives. Speaking of Gnome and as of now at least, there's no built in support to extract 7z files, so you would have to install p7zip, the Linux version of 7z to achieve your goal. It can totally be installed using yum, so no panic.

./ Remote access

- Filezilla: You don't have to be a Web Developer to have to use an FTP client, sometimes, you just need to connect to an FTP ressource. I have used Gftp in the past and loved it, but the problem is it will not support connecting through port 22 (ssh) the way WinSCP does. Filezilla does a great job as an FTP client, the only minus I see though with it, being the lack of space while manually interacting with its window panes, the right one especially, even if can be resized.

- openssh/putty: If you need to connect to anything using SSH and Linux, why reinventing the wheel? Chances are near to absolute that an openssh client came natively with your distribution and it only takes a small command to connect to whatever server you need to reach, plus typing the needed password. The nice thing about a command line SSH client is you will not have to cope with invisible whitespace issues triggered by attemps to copy-paste your password into say....Putty's GUI.

./ Time management

- Hamster: Preoccupied by how quick you can blindly waste your precious time? Hamster is for you. This software can be installed using yum too.

- Rachota: This program in essence does not differ from what Hamster does, but while the latter does not have a particular strategy in mind for you, this one is specially taylored for per-project needs. In plain English, if you just need to monitor your work on a single project, use Rachota, but if you wish to meter your life endevours whatever the hour of the day, use Hamster.

./ CD-DVD burning-authoring

- Brasero: I know there are so many good CD/DVD burners out there and you probably have one you like most already, but I could not help bringing this one up, Brasero does the job and it does it well, in Gnome at least.

- DVD Styler: I have waited a long time to get to write about DVD Styler. I do not work for them, but wow, DVD Styler IS awesome. You're on linux and need to produce a professionally authored DVD in no time? easily and for free? DVD Styler is your answer - hush. The interface is so intuitive, from selecting the content you wish to have appear on the DVD to building custom menus/layouts, all the way up to directly burning the DVD disc that you will actually be able to play in any living-room, DVD Styler makes it a child's play. And it can be installed using yum.
The day I have installed it, I could not believe it. DVD Styler has a gift to make you forget about the times when we all had to mount our cd drives manually or spend countless hours trying to install a media player program that would never play everything correctly anyway - no names revealed. This piece of software is awesome and I recommend it to all of you.

./ Communication

- Firefox: Just because Chrome has a known tendancy to gpu-accelerate your hardware til your windows manager (pressured by your graphic driver) reboots without asking, and also because the Opera folks do not seem to be too excited at the thought of investing extra hours to create a worthy bookmark manager anyone can use, Firefox is the one browser I will be advising here, plain and simple. Having said all that, I admit, from my experience at least, that Google-based Web plateforms work best under Chrome. So that, if you are a Google type of guy and you spend your days juggling between Blogger, Google WebMaster and Analytics, you then had better installed Chrome, next to Firefox.

- Thunderbird: There's no doubt in my mind that anyone looking for the best free alternative to Outlook that ever existed should install and use Thunderbird. Importing Outlook profiles is not always easy or quick for everyone, but there are so many tutorials out there to help you succesfully migrate that if you can read then you can't fail.

- Skype for Linux: If you have a Skype handle then you'll want to install Skype for Linux. Oh yeah. Now Reaching version 4.3, still not 5, I know.... but the Microsoft folks made a nice effort repackaging visual identity for its Linux users, to the point Windows users will start envy us eventually. Anyway, who needs group video calling capabitlites? Your processor certainly doesn't. If anything, Skype installs as easily as on Windows, in 2014 at least.

- Transmission: Lots of Windows users, while migrating to Linux, seek, to have uTorrent work there too. But for what it's worth, Transmission has all it takes to make you forget about uTorrent. Shipped with Gnome 3.

- Xchat: If you plan to hang out on IRC channels, then you need an IRC client. Though not the only one in its field, Xchat is one everyone likes and uses. So you could too.

./ Multimedia - Sound/Image authoring

- VLC: If you ask me, those are the three most powerful letters in the nowaday's Linux Multimedia Scene. That's right, talking above the old days like I did earlier, what a ride! VLC can now play any format, does not come clouding your day with codec error messages, worse, shaming you in front of your friends who came watching a dvd on your new linux box. VLC can do anything, just name it. Playing, recording or serving any type of feed under any type of weather, VLC takes care off it all. Next.

- pavucontrol (Pulseaudio volume): If you're into amateur sound engeneering as I am, very soon you will need to install pavucontrol on your box. This program simply gives you great control over any sound source that traverses your system - that Pulseaudio can detect at least. In some circumstances, Gnome users may benefit much from installing gnome-alsa-mixer too.

- Audacity : Did I mention I was into amateur sound engeneering? Well, that will only help me better introduce Audacity to you, which can help a great deal even if you're not into recording/processing music/vocals or whatever. You might use it only to convert sound files if you'd wish to. If there's only one great free piece of sound engeneering software accessible to anyone and that can still be called professional, that's Audacity. But the one recommendation I have for you here is to install the 'freeworld' version. What's that freeworld version about? Because of copyright issues having to do with FFMpeg/Lame not being protected under exactly the same type of licence as Audacity is, a freeworld version started being shipped, with which you do not even have to install Lame and FFMpeg. Apart of that, the two versions are genuinely identical. Great, isn't it?

- FFMpeg / WinFF: Probably because RecordMyDesktop never worked on my PC, let alone crashing it, I once had to turn to FFMpeg to be able to produce quality screecast that would not take 1G per minute of recording. Cmon' a little command line operation, you won't regret it! Since this kind of operation is very much hardware-dependant, there is no point showing examples here. On top of that, WinFF uses FFMpeg to allow you converting from multiple types of sources to...multilple types of sources. Probably a good tool to have on your Linux program shelf.

- Gimp: I challenge anyone to recommend a free Linux alternative to Photoshop that works as efficiently as the Gimp does. I, don't know any. So if you're considering doing some serious image-editing on your Linux box, Gimp will come to the rescue.

- Shutter:  This is a good reliable screen image capture program that does what it's told. I have never had issues with it and it provides, for free, at least as much functionality as the paid Fastone Image Capture program does on Windows. Installs with yum.

- MComix : Not everyone enjoys reading comics on an electronic device, but if you do, MComix will come in handy for you. MComix...let's put it this way, is like Comix but without the bugs, and with many more improvements. Although, I have used Comix before, and never encountered any noticeable bug there...

- TuxGuitar: Not everyone enjoys composing guitar/music parts on a PC, but if you do, TuxGuitar will come in handy for you. Easy intro wasn't it? TuxGuitar is surprisingly the copycat of Guitar Pro 5 that runs on Windows, so if you freshly come from Bill Gates's paid circuitry heaven and are sure there cannot exist anything that ressembles Guitar Pro on Linux, hang on, there IS. I haven't spent a great deal of time tinkering with it, but from the little testing I did, this piece of software attempts to offer everyone exactly what Guitar Pro (up to version 5) has inside, but does that for free. Guess what, you can install it with yum too.

- Gpick: If you have to pick a color anywhere for whatever the reason, Gpick is a great small free utility that will help you achieve what you need in this case. Yum accepted, again.

./ Personal Finance

- gnucash: Money, there's not a single place on earth, that I can think of at least, where you will not be hearing about money. Money talks hit everyone, and they hit the Linux world too, with the help of GNUCash, a great...the greatest personal finance program you will ever be able to find on Linux. Do I even dare to write GNUCash is the only serious Linux alternative to Quicken there is? Yes I do. I threw in the word personal finance, but this software can easily help you set up accounting for your business, as long as you're not the Chairman of the Bank of America of course.

./ Hardware monitoring

- xsensors: Is your comp running hot easily nowadays, making noises as you would hear on an airport, just by launching a single program? Then you might want to check your hardware's temperature using xsensors. It comes with a nice little dialog box that dynamically shows the current temperature of all your processor's bodies. If you ask me, it does not use untolerable cpu resource, so even if you feel your machine is constantly on the threshold to forced shutdown, you could still install it, assess the situation and ultimately.... open your hardware to clean ventilation everywhere possible, remove old thermal paste from top of processor and add some new...

./ Electronic simulation

- qucs: Last and probably least, but for those who have an interest in electronic circuit simulation, there is qucs. Great free piece of software, not the only one in its field, but even as a beginner, I've found the learning curve to be pretty smooth. It can be installed from yum, so if you have never dealt with electronic circuit simulation before on Linux and are looking for the logical, widespread option everyone chooses, then opt for qucs.

Now time to conclude my review of the must-have Linux software for 2014. I hope this helped you either find out about new cool software you still did not know existed or complement/replace/renew the stock of applications you already use, for the better. Stay tuned for more on!


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