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Migrating to Linux? Use These Open Source Apps

Office Suites and Desktop Utilities

  • July 19, 2007
  • By Matt Hartley
The single biggest argument against a smooth migration to one of the popular desktop Linux distributions is the belief that key applications are not available on the Linux platform. However there are a multitude of fantastic open source alternatives that are easy to install and free to use.

In this article, we'll examine ten of these applications, with the understanding that both browser and email clients will not be in this list. The reason being is that default browser and email clients are already installed in nearly all desktop Linux distributions.

1) Open Office

Open Office is the default office suite that comes pre-installed with most popular Linux distributions today. Based on its flexibility with working with Microsoft Office formats and the fact that it is completely functional for day-to-day office activities, Open Office remains king of the jungle in the world of open source office suites.

Why you need it: Computing today without a robust office suite borders on the impossible. Unless your computer is simply for gaming and nothing else, the need for word processing and occasional spreadsheet access are must haves, regardless of your background.

2) Rhythmbox/ Amarok

Depending on your decision to use one desktop environment over another--such as GNOME vs. KDE--both of these music players are robust and will make the transition from Windows to Linux music an easy one. Each music application offers important features like drag-and-drop play list management, podcast subscription support, and the option for additional plugins.

My reasoning for using these applications stems largely from the ease of use they present, support for lyrics display and cover art, along with the drag-and-drop functionality that so many Windows users have come to expect from their music players. Why you need it: There are other lightweight music players designed for Linux that make sense for basic music playback. But for robust, Windows Media Player-like functionality, you will be happier with Rhythmbox or Amarok.

3) Glipper/ Klipper

On a Windows desktop, copy and paste is a fairly basic process. On desktop environments in Linux, however, these applications provide a far superior experience as you have a clear visual copy and a paste "history" to pull previously copied content from whenever you like.

On the GNOME desktop for instance, you would install a utility known simply as Glipper. This application sits quietly on either the bottom right or left of your screen, recording whatever you copy using either your mouse or your keyboard shortcuts. When you wish to paste something previously saved, you can click on the small applet running and choose what you wish to paste from its contents. Then use your mouse or keyboard shortcut for pasting those selected contents to the chosen destination. Klipper works the same way with the same basic usage principles, but for the KDE desktop environment.

Why you need it: The temporary clipboard memory will not remember what you copied for any substantial amount of time. Running any distribution without one of these clipboard applications installed is maddening at best when working with moving text back and forth.

4) Guarddog/ Firestarter

Even though Linux distributions are not yet big targets for nasty problems such as computer viruses on the same level as seen in the Windows world, locking down access to your Linux box remains critical, regardless of which operating system you choose to run.

Guarddog for instance, is best suited for those using KDE related distributions, while Firestarter is the preferred option on distributions using GNOME, such as Ubuntu.

Why you need it: Security should be the cornerstone of any new operating system installation. And starting with a decent firewall just happens to be one of simplest and most effective entry points in secure computing, even with Linux.

5) aMSN

Even with the growing number of instant messenger clients out there supporting nearing every protocol under the sun, Live Messenger remains king of the jungle for most Windows users.

Designing a messenger that feels very much like Live Messenger from Windows, while allowing the migrating user to take his contacts with them, makes the instant messaging transition a whole lot easier rather than trying to relearn the user interface of another client such as Pidgin.

Why you need it: Most instant messenger users working on Windows today employ Windows Live Messenger to chat with friends, co-workers, and family. Rather than asking users to learn another application that feels completely foreign, utilizing aMSN creates a friendly user experience that will make any Live Messenger user feel right at home.

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