Best Essential Linux Apps for Newcomers and Veterans Alike
Linux may seem a bit intimidating at first if you’ve just switched over from Windows or macOS. After all, you’re not familiar with any of the apps and the user interface looks quite different compared to the one you were used to. So where do you even begin? Well, as with most operating systems, you’ll probably want to familiarize yourself with the best essential Linux apps so you can get started on the right foot.
Believe it or not, this part is much simpler than it might appear at first glance. Not only are most Linux distributions available for free, but they also come right off the bat with a lot of pre-installed apps. In addition, Linux makes it easy to find thousands of other great apps through its package manager. The best part is that most of these apps are free and quick to install.
Things can get a bit confusing when there are so many apps to choose from but don’t worry because we’re here to help. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the best essential Linux apps you should consider installing on your system. All the apps we’re going to cover today are very popular so chances are you may already have some of them installed if you’re a veteran Linux user. Hopefully, though, this article will still help you find a few interesting ones that you didn’t know about before.
VLC Media Player
VLC is an essential app for any operating system and Linux is no exception. This popular media player has been around for a very long time and keeps getting better with each new update. VLC supports pretty much any type of video or audio file you can think of. Not only that but the app also automatically downloads all the codecs you’ll ever need so no need to worry about any sort of compatibility issues with this player.
In addition to being a fantastic media player, VLC can also perform several other functions as well. For example, the app can be used for video editing, file converting, and even streaming. That’s just scratching the surface, though. Thanks to the software’s open-source nature and huge community support, new and interesting features are added all the time. VLC is truly one of the best essential Linux apps out there.
Audacity is another free and open source app that shouldn’t be missing from your collection. This is a very simple to use audio editor that comes with many useful tools like trimming, cutting, editing, and more. Audacity can also be used to record audio from multiple sources at the same time and supports a wide variety of VTS plugins.
While Audacity may not be the best for professional recording and editing, the software shines when it comes to the basic stuff. The app includes some nice audio effects like equalization, noise reduction, distortion, reverb, and phaser, to name just a few. Audacity supports importing and exporting of all popular audio formats, including WAV, FLAC, MP3, MPEG, AAC, and WMA.
Everybody needs a good browser so might as well go with one of the most popular ones around. Chrome is also a great choice but Firefox comes pre-installed with many Linux distros so there usually isn’t any need to download an additional browser. Unless you really want to of course. Firefox is similar to the other essential Linux apps on this list in the sense that it’s free and open source.
As far as its capabilities are concerned, you can expect lightning-fast browsing speeds and the ability to play many types of videos without requiring you to download any extra plugins. The browser also updates automatically, can be customized with various themes, and supports various extensions.
Thunderbird is a great email client that complements Firefox perfectly. The email client was also developed by the Mozilla foundation and shares many similarities with its more well-known sibling. This includes not only its free and open source nature but also its ability to be enhanced with all sorts of useful extensions. The client is very user-friendly and makes it easy for anyone to set up a new account or link an existing one.
Just switched over from Windows and already miss Microsoft’s Office? Well, you’ll be happy to know that one of the best essential Linux apps on this list provides the same functionality. We’re talking of course about LibreOffice, a very powerful office suite that comes with many advanced features. Granted, the user interface looks a bit outdated by modern standards. However, the software more than makes up for its basic look with a wide range of useful tools and features.
LibreOffice comes with everything you might expect from a piece of software like this, including a text editor, spreadsheet, and presentation app. The software also includes other useful apps that are used to manage databases and calculate mathematical formulae. LibreOffice’s default output format, ODF, is one that you might not be familiar with, however, the software can work with other formats as well. Yes, including files exported from Microsoft Office.
GIMP is an acronym that stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Put simply, this is a handy app that allows you to edit images. It’s not quite as advanced as something like Adobe Photoshop but it gets the job done. Besides, this essential Linux app has the advantage of being free and taking up less than 100 MB of storage space. These aspects make it great for anybody who is looking for a lightweight app that won’t eat up too many of your resources.
Open Broadcaster Software, more commonly known as OBS, is a very popular screen recording app that’s available on pretty much every platform at this point, including Linux. The software is primarily used by streamers. If you enjoy watching content on Twitch and YouTube Live, chances are you’re already familiar with OBS as it is used by most people who stream on those platforms.
OBS is a fairly complex app so learning all its ins and outs may take some time. However, the learning curve isn’t awfully steep and there are plenty of tutorials out there that will show you how to set it up properly. The software is highly customizable and can be used for offline screen recording just as efficiently as live streaming.
Not only is Steam one of the best essential Linux apps for gamers but it’s also the most popular marketplace for purchasing video games on PC. Linux can’t run nearly as many games as Windows or even MacOS unfortunately. However, this is slowly changing as more and more developers are starting to see the value of releasing their latest titles on the platform.
If you’re a Linux user who loves video games, Steam is pretty much mandatory. The software has by far the largest selection of games on offer and comes with many features specifically designed for gamers. This includes a built-in chat client, games library manager, user reviews and trailers for every title available on the storefront, and so much more.
Since we’re talking about gaming we have to mention another essential Linux app related to the topic. Discord is a free voice chat software that can be used by anyone but is primarily associated with video games. It’s not a stretch to say that Discord is clearly superior when compared to similar clients both in terms of audio quality and features.
Discord makes it very easy to create and manage chat rooms where you can communicate with your teammates. There’s also an in-game overlay and even a storefront. The Discord marketplace was implemented fairly recently so it can’t really hold a candle to something like Steam. Still, the company offers an interesting subscription-based system for acquiring games that might catch on at some point.
Synaptic isn’t strictly an essential Linux app but it is a very nice one to have regardless. The software comes with a graphical interface that makes your package management program much nicer to look at. Not to mention, easier to use. This makes it ideal for novice Linux users who aren’t yet accustomed to managing their apps via command lines.
But even if you’re an experienced user and that sort of thing isn’t a problem, you’ll find that Synaptic has plenty of great features to offer for you as well. Namely, you can use the software to browse categories like you would on any app store. Synaptic also ads useful documentation for each package you may want to install and comes with filters that you can use to quickly find a specific type of package. More importantly, the software can be used to install, remove, update or downgrade multiple apps at once.
If you’re running a popular Linux distro like Ubuntu you generally don’t have to worry about installing apps that allow you to down files from the internet. That’s because most distributions include a BitTorrent client right off the bat. But if you ever want to replace your default client with a better one, you’ll probably want to go with Deluge.
Deluge is one of the best essential Linux apps thanks to its ability to offer something different when compared to similar apps. This BitTorrent client is lightweight, features solid encryption, and supports a wide range of useful plugins. The software also comes with a web interface that you can access from other devices, such as a smartphone for example. This lets you easily download files to your computer even when you’re not home.
VLC is great for playing videos but if you’re looking for an app that acts as a hub for all your digital content, you’re going to need a media server. There are plenty of good choices on Linux but we recommend checking out Kodi first because of its open-source nature. The community took full advantage of this feature and created plenty of great add-ons that you can use to enhance your experience.
But even in its base form, Kodi has a lot to offer. The software can be used to manage pretty much any type of content, including movies, TV shows, music, photos, and video games. Kodi can also be used to watch live TV and there are quite a few channels to choose from. More importantly, though, you can set up the media center to stream all your content to other devices. And not just ones that are connected to your home network either.
HandBrake is one of those essential Linux apps that’s easy to overlook because you might never need it. If you do find yourself in need of an efficient video converter, however, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better one. HandBrake is a free lightweight tool that can convert pretty much any video or audio file you throw at it. The software can even work with DVD and BluRay discs, albeit only those that don’t have copy protection.
HandBrake also comes with built-in presets that let you convert files for specific types of devices. Other notable features include batch scanning, chapter markers, video filters, subtitle manipulation, and more. The only area where HandBrake doesn’t particularly excel at is in its user interface. The UI is pretty basic and looks a bit outdated by today’s standards. However, the large number of features more than make up for that.
In this article, we tried to include a varied selection of essential Linux apps that should come in handy to pretty much anyone. Naturally, every person has different needs and interests so it’s likely that you may find some of the apps we discussed today a lot more useful than others. For example, maybe you do a lot of editing and find Audacity or HandBrake useful but you’re not a gamer so Steam and Discord aren’t really for you. Whichever the case, you can always use your package manager to find even more useful apps that are tailored to your specific needs.
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