With so many flavours of Linux and the awesome apps in their repositories, finding the right app for getting things done can be tough. In our annual Lifehacker Pack for Linux, we’re highlighting the must-have downloads for better productivity, communication, media management, and more.
The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favourite, essential applications for each of our favourite platforms. For our always-updating directory of all the best apps, be sure to bookmark our Linux App Directory.
How We Designed the Lifehacker Pack for Linux
Unlike Windows and OS X, Linux isn’t one cohesive entity. There are a ton of different distributions based on Linux, with different desktop environments to choose from and different apps already built into the system. There’s more than one way to build a happy Linux machine, so don’t fret if your favorite is missing! In many cases, we’re highlighting a few standouts in each category, so you can decide which one is the best fit for your system.
We love app launchers and the speed they bring to our workflow, and they can do a lot more than just launch apps.Unfortunately, now that GNOME Do hasn’t had any major updates since 2009, Synapse — the awesome GNOME Do alternative with Zeitgeist integration — is our current pick. If you’re using Ubuntu’s Unity interface or the GNOME Shell, you can probably skip this, as they have a lot of app launcher functionality built right in. But for those on other desktop environments, we recommend at least checking out Synapse for your app launching and other needs. Alternatively, GNOME Do is still available for download, and if you’re really a minimalist, you might like dmenu. KDE users have the handy KRunner built in as well.
favourite text editorEclipseSublime Text 2Notepadqq
save you hours of typingAutoKey fits the bill
Internet and Communication
best IM client aroundEmpathypretty sweet extension library
beats Skype on Linux hands-downSkype install issues
Music, Photos, and Video
handy command line tools
our favourite is definitely digiKam
it can do an awful lot on its own
These days, lots of us have more than just one device. Maybe it’s a Linux machine at home and a Windows computer at work. Or maybe it’s three computers, a smartphone, a tablet, and a netbook running Archbang. Whatever your span of devices, Dropbox is absolutely essential for keeping all your files (and other stuff) in sync. You get 2GB of free space to start, but it’s really easy to load up on extra space for free.
our favourite client is DelugespeedprivacyqBitTorrent
back up to an external drivereally easy to set up
p7zipPeaZip is our pick
Wine’s app database
Terminator will take your command line work to the next levelGuakeYakuake
Command Line Tools
The command line is often the fastest and easiest way to do simple tasks, and the standard command line tools that come with your distro are already immensely powerful. There’s more where those came from, though! Here are a just a few bonus tools that you may not have realised existed.
- Pdftk slices and dices PDFs. Ever have to print and scan a ten-page contract just to sign the last page? Next time, scan that page by itself, and run the commands:
pdftk contract.pdf cat 1-9 output firstnine.pdf
pdftk firstnine.pdf lastpage.pdf output signedcontract.pdf
- Undistract-me solves that problem where you start a long running command (maybe a code compile), switch over to your web browser while you wait for it to finish, and then realise later that you totally forgot to get back to the thing you were doing. Undistract-me watches for commands that take more than ten seconds, and pops up a notification on your screen when the command finishes.
- Joe is the perfect text editor for when you don’t want to leave the terminal. It’s quick to load and easy to use, no matter what editor you’re used to. That’s because it comes with a chameleon-like set of aliases. Do you have all the emacs shortcuts memorised? Invoke it as jmacs. Nostalgic for pico? Call it as jpico. If you don’t know what any of this means, just type joe. (Or scroll up to our recommendations for Kate and Geany.)
- Smem measures the amount of memory that your computer is using. Sure, you thought you had a tool for that. But some memory is shared, and tools like free don’t count it in the most helpful way. Smem gives more meaningful numbers.
- Powertop is a handy tool for figuring out why your laptop’s battery is draining so fast, or why your desktop is getting so hot. It shows how much power each of your currently running programs are using. It can also tweak low level power management features that you never knew you had — for example, is your USB controller suspending when it’s not in use? Now you can find out.
Plenty of other tools in our pack have command-line equivalents, too. If you’d like to start exploring the world of the terminal, check out our beginner’s guide to the command line.