Just like our Windows pack, the awesome team at Ninite has graciously put all these apps into a one-click installer for you. Just check off the apps you want, and it’ll spit out a unified, one-click installer package for all of them.
Note that, unlike Windows and Mac 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.
Below, we’ve got explanations of what each program in the pack does, and why we chose it. Want to skip to a specific category? Use these links:
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.
Inspired by Mac favourite Quicksilver, GNOME Do is the application launcher to get on Linux. Not only can you launch apps with just a few taps of your keyboard, but its large plugin library lets you add even more functionality, like sending emails, IMs, playing music, searching the web and more.
After OpenOffice because a less-than-open-source project, the community broke off and bore LibreOffice, the now-premiere open source office suite on Linux. It’s got all the functionality you need for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and more. It may not be quite as ubiquitous or feature-filled as Microsoft’s offerings, but it’ll get the job done more often than not.
Text editor gedit comes with a ton of different Linux distributions, and it’s easy to see why. It’s lightweight, super customisable, and works for pretty much any text-based needs you could have — whether it’s making a few notes or writing some serious code. Plus, it’s got plugins that let you add word completion, file browsing, and tons more to give it an even bigger boost of power. The bottom line: if you ever need to edit text in Linux (and believe me, you will), you’ll want to have gedit close by.
If you ever feel like some of your typing is just busywork, AutoKey will save you a lot of keypresses by filling in large passages, addresses, or even code by hitting just a few letters. Not only can you fill in text, but if you know a little Python, you can write out more complex scripts to manipulate that text pretty much any way you want, saving you hours of typing every week.
Chromium is the open source project behind Google Chrome, the favoured browser of power users everywhere. Fast browsing, awesome extensions, and preference-syncing tools make this the browser to beat on any platform, so while most Linux distributions still ship with Firefox, we recommend you make it your second-in-command and put Chromium your browser of choice.
While your first instincts may be to go with web-based mail, or with the GNOME-integrated Evolution, we just can’t get over Thunderbird. It’s got most of the features you love about Gmail, like archiving and conversations, and a huge add-on library that lets you tweak it to your liking. If you prefer your email in web apps, that’s totally cool — but we recommend keeping an IMAP client like Thunderbird around for offline access and in case of emergency.
It may not be shipping with Ubuntu by default anymore, but we still recommend Pidgin as your go-to IM client. It’s been around for years, and had more than enough time to build up a huge library of features, supported chat protocols, and plug-ins to let you customise it right down to the last pixel. We may take another look at the pre-packaged Empathy one day, but for now, Pidgin’s still got our hearts.
Video chat apps abound these days, but chances are everyone you know has Skype. It doesn’t get quite as much love on the Linux platform, and it rarely gets updated, but if you plan on video chatting with your friends and family, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up using Skype. It’s OK if it isn’t your favourite, but we recommend tucking it away in the corner for those occasions when you actually need it.
Deluge has slowly risen to become the best BitTorrent clients available on Linux. modelling itself after µTorrent on Windows, it’s super lightweight while packing a big punch in the features department. It’s got loads of plugins, so you can get pretty much any feature you desire added on, including watch folders, IP blocklists, bandwidth scheduling, a web UI, and much, much more. If you’re downloading torrents, deluge deserves a permanent spot in your applications menu.
Music, Photos and Video
Flash is especially annoying on Linux, but sadly, it’s still necessary for browsing a good portion of the web. Whether you’re watching videos, listening to music, or — heck — just online shopping, chances are you’ll need Flash installed to get anywhere on the net. Keep it at bay with FlashBlock for Chrome and FlashBlock for Firefox so it only opens when you actually need it.
The default player in your distribution is usually pretty great, but we know that a lot of you guys love VLC. It’s lightweight, it plays any format you could ever want, and has loads of advanced features in its preferences to make your video-watching experience as good as possible. It’s still one of the first things we install on any distribution, and we know it is for you too.
Watching video on the go? Ripping some high-def Blu-Ray discs? If you ever need to convert video, Handbrake is the way to do it. Rip or convert video to one of a bunch of different presets, or tweak the quality to your liking with all its advanced settings. It’s an essential tool for any video watcher’s arsenal.
The GIMP isn’t included in Ubuntu anymore, and while you can make very basic edits with with the built-in F-Spot photo manager, anything beyond a simple crop or resize will require an actual editing program. The GIMP may seem complicated, but if you’re doing more than just organising a few photos, you’ll want to have it around, and if you’re doing any kind of advanced editing, it’s a must-have. We recommend grabbing the GIMP and putting it back in place as your default photo editor.
This is one of Ubuntu’s recent changes we actually agree with: Banshee is now the default music player, and it should be your go-to as well. Besides the standard music management, CD ripping, and iPod syncing, it’s got a ton of advanced features that make it the player to beat on Linux. It’s integrated with the Amazon MP3 store, Miro for podcast support, and it has a good plug-in library for extra customisation. Above all, though, it’s got a great, easy-to-use, polished interface.
If you didn’t download them when you installed Ubuntu, this is a package you’re going to want. There are a few computing necessities — like MP3 support, DVD support and more that are copyrighted and thus aren’t always bundled by default with Linux. So, unless you’re very gung-ho about open source and you’re purposely avoiding these formats, you’ll need the Restricted Extras package.
If you have multiple computers, Dropbox is an absolutely essential tool. It syncs files between your machines, backs them up to the cloud, and does all sorts of other neat things. Grab your free 2GB to start, then rack up your storage for free to make it even more versatile.
Conky is an awesome system monitor for your desktop, displaying things like CPU and memory stats to RSS feeds, email, weather, packages that need updating, and tons more. You can customise every inch of it to fit in with the rest of your desktop, and keep track of everything while staying productive.
It’s a sad fact of life, but despite your best efforts you’ll probably have to run the odd Windows program from time to time. Wine makes this possible, letting you run Windows programs in your regular window manager, as if they were Linux apps. It won’t suck up a ton of resources like a virtual machine, but not all programs are compatible with Wine, so it can sometimes be a crapshoot. Still, when it works, it’s a godsend.
When a Windows program isn’t compatible with Wine, VirtualBox is next in the line of solutions. VirtualBox brings a full Windows environment to your desktop, which can be a bit slower, but it will run any Windows program out there. If you have the hard drive space and RAM to spare, it’s a good idea to keep that Windows environment around for when you need it.
Linux has certainly come a long way in the user-friendliness department, but you’ll be hard-pressed to use Linux as your daily driver without ever needing the command line. Guake brings the Terminal to a quick-access drop-down window, accessible with a hotkey. Plus, like everything else in Linux, it’s fully customisable so you can tweak it to fit your workflow.
P7zip is basically the Linux version of our favourite Windows compression tool 7-Zip. With it, you can compress and decompress tons of different archive formats, like ZIP, 7Z, RAR and more, no terminal necessary. Just right-click on them and decompress them with one click.
Optional (for Beginners)
If you’re running Ubuntu, Ubuntu Tweak is a great little program that simplifies some of the basic Linux processes that can be intimidating to first-time users. It may not upgrade well with your system, but it’s a good install for beginners: it’ll help you install third-party apps, configure your system without the Terminal, clear up disk space, and more.