10 must-have apps for Linux users

This is a long overdue post, and I thought I'd finally get down to writing it, inspired by my discovery of this brilliant music player - Guayadeque. All the apps can be installed from your distro's package manager. (Most of them should be available in Ubuntu's universe/multiverse repository, though you might have to manually add a ppa for some. If you're on Arch Linux, use an AUR helper like packer or yaourt, and installing them should be a breeze.)

Most of the apps use the GTK+ framework, meaning they might look slightly out of place if you're using KDE. They'll look just fine on GNOME / Xfce. Moreover, I haven't included apps that are pre-installed in most distros, such as web browsers or office suites.

I. Utilities:

1. Zeitgeist and Activity Journal - While not an 'app', Zeitgeist is a daemon (meaning it silently runs in the background) that logs all of your activity in a non-creepy way. Apps can leverage this information to provide a slew of features including smart jumplists, and lightning-fast search results, while factoring things like when the operation was performed, for how long, by whom etc. Activity Journal simply provides a graphical front end to Zeitgeist.

2. PDFMod - A nifty little utility for editing pdfs, it allows you to add/remove pages, rotate or reorder the pages and manage bookmarks within the document. After you're done editing, you can export your work to a new pdf file.

3. CoverThumbnailer - Provides thumbnail images for folder icons, giving you a glimpse into the contents of the folder. It can show cover art from your music folders as well as a photo-album view with scattered pictures from a folder containing images. It doesn't solve any major problem, but it's great fun to be able to view your music folder as a collection of CDs.

II. Productivity:

4. Synapse - An application launcher that is by far the fastest and easiest way to start an application, open a file, play a video/song, perform simple calculations, look up words on a dictionary and search the web. Synapse is invoked by a key combination (Ctrl+Space by default) and comes with a whole bunch of plugins and takes advantage of the data logged by Zeitgeist.

5. Docky - The best 'dock' app for linux, Docky provides an OS X style dock that can be configured with plugins, themes and uses data from Zeitgeist to provide smart jumplists.

6. Xpad / Basket Note Pads - Note taking apps for Linux. Xpad is a sticky-note app similar to its Windows 7 equivalent while Basket provides functionality similar to Microsoft Office's OneNote, sans the ability to sync your notes.

III. Media Players / Viewers :

7. Guayadeque - Hands down, the best music player on Linux. I'm very fussy when it comes to music players so I've tried almost all of them, and Guayadeque provides all the features an audiophile can demand. It automatically fetches cover art, lyrics and  metadata, has support for Last.fm scrobbling and music recommendations, generates smart playlists, plays online radio streams and manages your podcasts. It also has support for Jamendo and Magnatune streams. But most important of all, all of this works in-spite of a draconian proxy server with LDAP authentication! (Banshee doesn't)

8. VLC Media Player - Quite a no-brainer. Works the same as on Windows. One of VLC's lesser-known and underused features is its ability to convert between different file formats. Easiest way to convert videos to an iPod-friendly format, or to extract the audio from a video file.

9. Viewnior - A lightweight image-viewer that can perform basic image editing (rotating, cropping, flipping an image), can set an image as wallpaper, view the images as a slideshow or open the image in another app (like GIMP) for more advanced image-editing.

IV. Others:

10. Hotot - Fully-featured, native Twitter client that manages to look great at the same time. Too good to be true? It follows a Tweetdeck-like approach and uses multiple coloumns for your Timeline, Mentions, Direct Messages, Lists, Favourites etc. Other handy features include URL shortening, inline image previews, a 'conversation' view and extensions for Read It Later and Instapaper.

A special mention goes out to 'conky', one of personal favourites. It's not an 'app' in the true sense, rather a utility that shows system information on one's desktop. One of the most crazy, infinitely customizable and extensible programs on Linux, Conky can turn your boring desktop into a stunning work of art, and can literally be customized down to the last pixel. It uses a simple markup-type script that specifies the data to be displayed, which can include the date, time, CPU or RAM usage, free space on your hard drive, battery status, CPU temperature, 'Now Playing' information from music players, weather information and lots more. It can be integrated with Lua scripts to create beautiful 'widgets' that look like they're integrated into the wallpaper itself.

Any other apps that you can't live without but I've missed? Leave a comment below!


  1. awesome post bro... thanks for the tips!

  2. great post !
    keep it up ... _/\_

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