Brief: What are the must have applications for Linux? The answer is subjective and it depends on for what purpose do you use your desktop Linux. But there are still some essentials Linux apps that are more likely to be used by most Linux user. We have listed such best Linux applications that you should have installed in every Linux distribution you use.
The world of Linux, everything is full of alternatives. You have to choose a distro? You have got several dozens of them. Are you trying to find a decent music player? Alternatives are there too.
But not all of them are built with the same thing in mind – some of them might target minimalism while others might offer tons of features. Finding the right application for your needs can be quite confusing and a tiresome task. Let’s make that a bit easier.
Essential applications for Linux users
I’m putting together a list of essential free Linux applications I prefer to use in different categories. I’m not saying that they are the best, but I have tried lots of applications in each category and finally liked the listed ones better. So, you are more than welcome to mention your favorite applications in the comment section.
We have also compiled a nice video of this list. Do subscribe to our YouTube channel for more such educational Linux videos:
We will mention some non-foss apps as well (keeping regular users who just want a working deskop)- so feel free let us know about your suggestions after reading our recommendations.
In addition, we have categorized the apps as well to get you started!
We’ve already discussed some of the best photo applications for Linux. Here, we will mention just one – which we think is an essential addition to almost every type of user – GIMP.
With the availability of plugins to extend the functionality while being an open source solution is impressive. It offers almost every type of tools you will ever require to manipulate an image, scale it, crop it, or simply add a layer to it. You can find it on your AppCenter or Software Center to install it. In either case, visit GIMP’s website to download it.
Being one of the best Linux tools for digital artists, Inkscape is certainly an impressive image editor as well. Unlike GIMP, Inkscape comes pre-installed on most of the major Linux distros. It offers a bunch of drawing tools and vector graphics editing capabilities making it a powerful choice to manipulate images as well.
Even though we’ve mentioned several audio editors in the past. Audacity is the most popular audio editor for basic editing tasks. You can try to experiment to pull off something interesting as well. It supports plugins to extend its functionality. If you are wondering, it is an open source software available for free. You can install it directly from the App Center or Software Center. In either case, the official download page will help.
LMMS is a free Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for Linux. It is a feature-rich alternative to the premium audio editors (or DAWs) to create, edit, and record music. If you have a MIDI device, you can just plug it in your machine and get started using this. In addition to that, it also supports VST plugins to enhance your output. You can directly download it from the App Center or the Software Center. To build from source, check out their GitHub page.
Even though Hiri isn’t an open source client – it is still one of the best available for people using Microsoft exchange. Unfortunately, there’s no free version – but you can opt for a 7-day trial and decide for yourself if you want to have it installed or not. Personally, looking at the features and the UI offered, it is worth it.
What do you think about it?
A simple and free email client developed by Mozilla. You may find it pre-installed on some Linux distributions – if not – you can easily install it using your Software Center or App Center. In either case, you can download it from their website and then install it.
It offers most of the necessary features, however, the UI is the only downside for some.
Screen-recording and Streaming Tools
Blogger, YouTuber or work in similar industries? Here are a few tools for you.
If you’ve been following us, you might have read about all the best screen recorders available for Linux. Kazam is the most simple solution among them. It lets you record your screen with a couple of essential features like – giving you the ability to select the area/window, hiding/showing the cursor, enabling the sound from your mic/speaker. For installation instructions, their GitHub page would be your best bet.
Open Broadcaster Software is a pretty popular and robust screen recorder app generally utilized by streamers.
You can heavily customize it, add your own template, etc. So, there’s a lot of things you can do when you explore more about it. OBS is suitable for both personal and professional users, it is not the easiest but really helpful.
Flameshot is my personal favorite to take screenshots and annotate them. Heck, you can even directly upload your images to Imgur without needing to save it on your PC. Refer the GitHub page for installation instructions. I utilize this no matter what Linux distro I install – it is so easy and flexible, you might want to have this installed.
A quite simple Qt-based cross platform screenshot tool which offers more annotation features. We’ve discussed multiple ways to take screenshot in Linux and using Ksnip is one of them. It is fairly new, and not the most popular screenshot tool out there, but it works as expected. Refer to the GitHub page for more info.
System Optimizer / Task Manager
Stacer is my favorite system optimizer and task manager on Linux with a beautiful user interface.
You not only get a pretty UI but also a solid set of features to help you in the best way possible. You can manage the startup tasks, clean temporary/cache files, manage running services, uninstall packages, and monitor your system resources easily. Check out their GitHub page for installation instructions.
You must be knowing about the default “top” CLI tool. It is still useful – but not the best out there.
So, if you are looking for a better command-line based tool, htop is the perfect replacement. You no longer need to type in the process number to kill it, just navigate to it and end it. It is way easier and faster than the traditional top CLI tool. In addition, you can also kill multiple processes at a time.
Apps for Gamers
Yes, Steam is a proprietary client or marketplace to purchase/install/manage your Linux games. It is not only the best client out there – but also offers a huge library to choose from. You will find both free and paid options, so browse through them. In order to install it, you can download the .deb file from its official download page or find the installer on AppCenter or Software Center.
Without a second thought, if you are a gamer, you have to install it right away. Do note, that it is not an open source application.
Yes, there are alternatives to it. But, nothing beats Discord when it comes to the ability of managing a server room for fellow gamers to interact and use it for in-game communication on voice channels. You can download it directly from its official website.
Audacious is a simple music player that is low on resources while being an open source solution. You can customize the interface to give it a different look. To add songs, just drag and drop the folder you want. You can either install it from the Software Center or visit the official download page.
Go, get started!
I’ve tried a lot of video players on my Windows machine and the Linux system as well – but I keep going back to VLC pretty much always. VLC is a pretty simple media player which is open source and free as well. It supports almost every type of file formats. You can download it from their website or find it on your Software Center.
Media Server Software
Let’s have a look at some media server software for Linux.
Kodi is definitely one of the best media server software available for Linux. A lot among the best media server software is based on Kodi as well.
Plex is not entirely an open source media server software but it offers an option to create a free account and get started using it. A nice UI with all the basic featured needed.
If I have to choose the top two best video editors for Linux, here are my choices.
Kdenlive is one of the best free video editing software available for Linux. It is an open source solution and also offers support for dual monitors. It includes most of the necessary features like having basic transition effects, layout customization, multi-track editing, and so on.
OpenShot is an open source video editor which is easy to use and robust as well. It includes 3D effects, basic video transitions, drag and drop support, and so on.
If you want to use it for professional-grade editing, you be the judge.
Open Source Media Converter
Handbrake is an impressive video converter. It supports a wide range of video codecs and quickly converts your videos. Of course, you get to choose the quality or resolution, frame rate, and a lot of other things like subtitles while converting the video.
Fret not, if you are not a fan of videos – but audio. We’ve got you.
SoundConverter is a powerful audio conversion tool that supports almost all the file formats and converts the audio files pretty fast.
Backup is one of the essential part of not only Linux but any operating system. Here are two choices for you.
Yes, we often keep a backup of our files. But, what about the driver updates and configuration changes that you do? What if it breaks your entire system? In this case, Timeshift will help you take a backup (or a snapshot) of your entire OS along with all the configuration. You can easily restore it back when something goes wrong. We have a guide on how to use Timeshift on Linux as well.
Bacula is a feature-rich open source backup tool available for Linux.
It is not just a single program but a number of tools in it for every specific option. Also, it is something developer-oriented, so if you are someone who maintains a network of computers, you can definitely make use of Bacula.
PDF Editing tool
For basic PDF editing tasks, LibreOffice Draw is the go-to solution for users who prefer FOSS. It has its limitations – but works like charm for most of the use-cases. If this does not fit your needs, you can check out the best Linux PDF editors available.
PDF Studio is an amazing PDF editor by Qoppa software. It is not an open source offering – and it is a paid solution for the users looking to edit PDF files. It offers a bunch of features (annotate, edit, optimize, sign, watermark, etc.) to manipulate PDF files easily.
Code and Text Editor
Even if we are Linux users, I have observed a lot of people to like the Visual Studio Code editor. It includes a smart feature to autocomplete what you write based on the variable type or function definitions. We will surely recommend this if you are working with Git – because the commands are built-in here. And, as you start exploring, you will notice so much more to it.
An open source editor with a lot of features. If you are into scientific documents or thesis, this can come in handy with its formula editor – to make things easier. You can download it right from the AppCenter or Software Center. More information can be found on their website.
Even though we know about 10 of the best LaTeX editors, I will mention this as one of the essential addition to your Linux system. This is specifically tailored for GNOME environment but works everywhere. The PDF conversion here is blazing fast. Try it by download it from the App Center / Software Center / official site.
Note Taking Apps
Simplenote is one of the best Evernote alternative available for Linux. The organization behind WordPress (Automattic) is responsible for developing Simplenote. So, it is actively maintained and offers all the basic note taking features (and syncing capabilities) across multiple devices for free. It is my personal favorite, why don’t you try it?
Laverna is an open source note taking app available for free. You can utilize it as a web-based tool with its encryption functionality or download it to your desktop.
It is easy to use with a decent UI. In addtion, it also supports code highlighting and to-do task list which makes things easier. Give it a try!
Team Communication & Productivity
Even we at It’s FOSS use Slack to interact – be it a random topic or something that requires collaboration. This is not an open source solution.
Slack on Linux is available for free and you can opt to upgrade it to the premium version for more features. You won’t be needing a premium plan unless you are an enterprise user with a bunch of users to manage. Free or premium, it is an essential addition.
You no longer have to switch between different browser tabs or applications while working on something. Franz combines almost all of the essential messaging / email services under a single roof. You just have to launch a single application (and sign in to multiple services) to keep up with all the communication you need without switching to different applications.
You have alternatives like Rambox – if you don’t like this.
Oracle VM VirtualBox
VirtualBox is an amazing free and open source virtualization solution for those who want to try different distros (or experiment stuff) without affecting your host system. There are numerous applications to it, go explore!
Almost everyone uses 2-factor authentication to secure their online accounts. But, usually, you need your smartphone along with an authentication app for the codes, right? Fret not, with Authy as an alternative to Google Authenticator, you will be able to sync 2FA codes across devices without the risk of losing them. You will need Google Chrome to install Authy’s app – but once installed, you won’t be needing Chrome to launch Authy.
We’ve tried to list all the essential applications for a Linux user. But, then again, you might have a favorite and we might have missed it.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.