Linux may not be the most popular OS around, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to sit here and ignore it. Here are our favourite downloads for everyone’s favourite open source operating system.
The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favourite, must-have applications for each of our favourite platforms. If you’re curious to see how things have changed this year, here’s last year’s Lifehacker Pack for Linux. And, for our always-updating directory of all the best apps, be sure to bookmark our Linux App Directory.
Note that, unlike Windows and OS X, Linux comes in many flavours and with a number of different desktop environments. Since most of you are using the GNOME-based Ubuntu, that’s what this pack is designed for. For more alternatives, be sure to check out our Linux App Directory.
As always, we have the good folks at Ninite helping us out this year, creating a one-click installer for the 2012 Linux Lifehacker Pack. You can download the entire pack at once, or just pick the apps you want, and Ninite will install them all at once — perfect for new Linux installations or setting up your friends with a good set of apps.
Looking for an app in a specific category? Use the links below to jump around.
Ubuntu’s new Dash may be a great way to quickly launch apps, but if you want something more powerful — or if you’ve ditched Unity for something different — get GNOME Do. Not only can it launch apps with just a few keystrokes, but it has a ton of plugins that let you compose emails, send IMs, play music, search the web and do just about anything else with minimal effort.
Gedit may not be the most powerful text editor on Linux, but it’s more than enough to satisfy the majority of users. It’s lightweight, super customisable and perfect for any text editing you need to do, whether it’s just jotting a few notes down or editing a config file. And, like many other things Linux, it’s got a great plugin infrastructure that gives it all sorts of super powers. If you ever need to edit some text in Linux (and let’s be honest, you will — a lot), gedit will be your best friend.
We love text expansion, not only for its ability to save us hours of typing every day, but for making quick work of internet assholes, avoiding Twitter spam, and all sorts of other cool tricks. AutoKey may not be as easy to use as text expanders on other platforms, but it’s got a lot of power behind it, especially if you’re willing to write a little code. If you haven’t started using text expansion yet, you should start now.
Who says you can’t get serious work done in Linux? LibreOffice is a free office suite that has everything you need to get work done in a word processor, spreadsheet creator, or presentation program. OK, so it might not be on par with Microsoft Office, but chances are you’ll be able to get quite a bit done without resorting to the evil empire’s offering.
Most Linux distributions ship with Firefox due to its commitment to open source, but the fact of the matter is that Chrome (and its open source counterpart, Chromium) is just so hard to pull away from. It may not be as customisable as Firefox, but its fantastic UI, awesome extensions and mad syncing skills keep us tied to it for now.
Clients like Evolution may have some nice GNOME integration, but Thunderbird is such a great client — despite its slowed-down development — that we just have to include it in the pack. It’s got a great interface, tons of plugins, and the ability to access Gmail when it’s down, which makes it a winner in our book.
Empathy? What’s Empathy? Pidgin may not ship with Ubuntu these days, but it’s still the best IM client on the block, thanks to its huge library of IM protocols (including AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, Facebook Chat, and more), customisation features, and tons of plugins that let you give it some crazy power.
Everyone loves to complain about Flash like they know how bad it is, but they don’t know the true pain of using Flash on Linux. It may be bloated and crashy, but the fact of the matter is you need it to browse the web, whether you’re watching videos, listening to music, playing games, or even just navigating a poorly-designed site. Install it, then use it only when you have to with FlashBlock for Chrome and Firefox.
Skype may not give Linux very much love (resulting in a less-than-awesome program), but it’s still the video chat that everyone uses, which means you need to as well. It isn’t our favorite, but it’ll do the trick in a jiffy, so keep it on hand for when Grandma calls you and doesn’t know how to get Google Hangouts.
Music, Photos, and Video
We ordinarily put VLC in our Lifehacker packs, but you’re Linux users, so we’re not going to baby you. We know you want a more powerful, feature-filled, yet easy-to-use video player so we’re going to recommend SMPlayer for all your video-watching needs. SMPlayer is basically a GUI frontend for MPlayer that brings lots of advanced features to the forefront, like a video equaliser, video filters, customisable subtitles and more — and it’ll remember your settings for each individual video, too.
Shotwell is the default photo management app in Ubuntu, and with pretty good reason. It has everything the average user should need to keep their photos organised and looking good, including a basic editor that fixes red eye and colour problems, album creation, and the ability to upload photos to Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa.
If you ever need to do some image editing beyond the basic crop and resize, you’ll need the GIMP. GIMP is essentially a free image editor that can do a lot of the things Photoshop can, and while it may seem a bit complicated, it’s easy to get the hang of fairly quickly. Keep it around for the occasional image editing and you’ll be good to go.
Your music player is an intensely personal choice, but if we had to pick a good starting point, we’d pick Banshee. It hits a good sweet spot between customizability and ease of use, meaning you can listen however you want without pulling your hair out. It’s got a good selection of extensions, though not as big as some of its compatriots, but it can have some trouble with big libraries. For most users, this is the player to go with.
Most Linux distributions, in an aim to be truly open source, don’t contain closed-source plugins like MP3 support, DVD playback, and a few other extras. Most users will want to have these around, though, so if you didn’t download them when you installed your distro of choice, this is a good time to grab them all at once.
Deluge may not be as well known as some other clients, but it’s definitely our favourite on Linux. It’s a very simple and easy-to-use client out of the box, but you can install a bunch of plugins to add the advanced features you want one by one. That way, you get exactly the client you want — no more, no less.
We Linux users rarely stick with one OS for long — we like to swap between distros, dual and triple boot, or maybe even own multiple computers. If that sounds like you, then you need Dropbox. Dropbox syncs files between all your devices and OSes with minimal effort, and also syncs them to the cloud for easy access anywhere. Plus, it’s useful for all sorts of clever tricks. If you don’t have an account yet, grab the free 2GB one now and stock up on extra free space.
If you’ve ever accidentally
rm -rf‘d your entire drive, you know how important backups can be. Our favourite backup tool is Crashplan. It makes it easy to back up your data to an external drive, a remote computer, or — for a small fee — to the cloud, so your data is safe no matter what catastrophe may befall your beloved computer. All you need to do is set it up once and forget it until that fateful day comes.
Linux has a lot of file archiving tools available to it, but if you’re looking for something simple, easy-to-use, and GUI-based, look no further than PeaZip. It may be a little ugly, but it’s got all the advanced archiving features you need, including support for nearly every archive type under the sun. It also has some nice security features and a super-configurable interface, which is enough to make anyone happy.
No matter how hard you try, chances are you’ll probably need to run a Windows app or two on your system. Luckily, Wine is a tool that makes this possible for quite a few apps, letting you run Windows apps side-by-side with your Linux apps as if they had never let you. You’ll need to check the Wine App Database to see if your app is compatible — some aren’t — but if it’s a popular app, chances are pretty good you’ll have a workable version.
When Wine isn’t an option, your next best bet for running those Windows programs is VirtualBox. VirtualBox brings a full Windows installation to your desktop without the need to reboot. It’s a tad slower than true dual booting would be, but you get to use it alongside your regular Linux desktop, and it’ll run nearly any Windows app you need.
This one isn’t a true necessity, but something a lot of beginners will find handy to have around. Ubuntu Tweak is a great little program that makes certain Linux operations easier for those unaccustomed to Linux’s weird ways. It’ll help you install third-party apps, configure your system without the Terminal, clean up disk space, and more. It’s perfect for getting your feet wet, but don’t be afraid to delve into the command line for the things Ubuntu Tweak can’t handle! After all, that’s where the real possibilities start.
Once again, to get the above programs, just head over to the Pack on Ninite and select the apps you want. It’ll give them all to you in one, unified, hassle-free installer. If you’re looking for more options, or just to see what’s changed for 2012, check out last year’s Lifehacker Pack for Linux.