10 Most Awesome Linux Applications

I know, I know.  Not another blog post that lists the “top 10 something or other”.  But bear with me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a given application awesome.  I use a lot of applications every day, many I couldn’t do my job without… but not all of them are awesome.

It’s hard to describe just what “awesome” is.  It could be the reliability of something.  Or the sheer joy it brings when you use it.  Or that it does something truly unique and inspiring.

With that in mind… my list of the top 10 most awesome applications for the Linux desktop (in no particular order).


Elisa is one bad-ass media center.  We’ve been covering its progress (with a fair bit of admiration) for some time on the Linux Action Show and it just keeps gettng better.

A simple, modern, attractive look and feel.  Animations and visual effects in all the right spots.  Lightweight, fast and handles most of our media center-type needs (music, videos and photos).  It has some bugs… but it is just so cool that any rare crash is forgiven.


Conduit may not be as flashy as Elisa… but holy-convenience-batman is it cool.

In a nutshell Conduit allows you to build… conduits… between… things.

From the website: “Conduit is a synchronization application for GNOME. It allows you to synchronize your files, photos, emails, contacts, notes, calendar data and any other type of personal information and synchronize that data with another computer, an online service, or even another electronic device.”

Customizable synchronization is just plain awesome.  Why ever OS doesn’t have a similar feature built in is beyond me.


When it comes to music management, Banshee is it.

I’ve said it before, and I’m likely to say it again, but Banshee is the best music player/manager software.  Period.  For any platform.

Keep your iTunes.  Keep your Windows Media Player.

I’ve got Banshee.

It’s fast, flexible and looks great.  If you have music or listen to podcasts… you need Banshee.

secondlifecarSecond Life

You could make the argument that Second Life is a game… therefor it shouldn’t be included in an “application” list.

But, man, Second Life is so much more.

They’ve built a virtual, 3D world that is totally dynamic.  People online can create objects and design how they work with othe objects.  Basically Second Life provides a huge 3D canvas to create something.  And that’s pretty slick.

To be honest I hardly ever use Second Life.  But, just the same, it is quite awesome.


I know, I know: “What about OpenOffice?”

OpenOffice is great.  It works.

But KOffice… well that really scratches a particular itch.

It has an astounding painting tool (Krita) and a very cool math formula editor (KFormula) which is something that many people won’t need… but those who do… need it badly.

Plus fantastic diagramming (Kivio) and project management (KPlato).

That’s why KOffice is so amazing.  It provides a huge array of (easy to discover and use) tools that are necessary parts of getting work done for so many.  And, sure, it has a word processor too.

Fluendo Codec Pack

This one is a bit different from the others.

These are just a package of commercial audio/video codecs.

Some of you may not be interested due to the commercial nature of the software.

Others may not be interested due to a disinterest in working with audio/video in various formats.

But for those of you who want to be able to playback a WMV HD video… well, this is just the ticket.  These codecs are fast and have incredible video quality.  I can’t recommend them enough.


It’s a launcher.  I know.  It’s been done.

But it hasn’t been done this incredibly well.

Check out their release page for screenshots and more for the current version.

The plugins available are what really makes this application so freaking awesome.  If you do any social networking, Do is a must have.

Plus now Do has a dock.  And it’s fantastic.  Blows my mind.


Ah, Tomboy.  The little note-taking application that could.

And that’s really the gist of it.  Tomboy is, at its heart, just a Gnome applet that lets you take notes.

That’s it.  And that’s why it’s awesome.  It’s small, fast and easy to take quick notes in.

Then, there’s the fact that you can interact with Tomboy notes from both Gnome Do and Conduit.  Yeah.  Wrap your head around those possibilities.  Awesome.


I found myself stuck on a Windows Vista box recently.  For the first few hours I thought “hey, this isn’t that bad, I can still get my work done”.

Then I needed to take some photo’s I’d taken and upload them to a photo gallery I host on a server for my family that uses Gallery2 (which is great if you’re looking to host your own photo gallery, btw).

That’s when it hit me.  There’s no version of F-Spot for Windows.


You see, I’d been spoiled by F-Spot.  It managed photos (with tags) quickly and easily.  And F-Spot is the champ of exporting and syncing your photos to online galleries.

Maybe I’m a bit abnormal… but I’d run Linux as my primary system just to have F-Spot.  It’s an amateur photographers dream.


Ok.  So I may be more than a tad biased here.  But I love this application.

It’s still in Beta.  But, even so, it just does so much that I’ve been yearning for.

I’m a book person.  The amount of sci-fi and comic books I read borders on the ridiculous.  (I’m a nerd… so a growing portion of those are eBooks.)  And, until now, there hasn’t been that one application.  That application that would let me organize my books like I would organize my music (or my notes).

Plus I wanted it to be customizable so it could be easily changed to fit the look of the different desktop themes out there.  Plus, it just had to sync with eBook readers (like the Kindle).

Being as nobody else was doing it… I did.  And it’s awesome.  (Okay, I’m done tooting my own horn now.  Hey, at least I saved it for the bottom, right? :)  )

I had a hard time narrowing it down to just 10 awesome application.  I know there are more… but these are the 10 that I find to be the most awesome at this particular moment.  Have any you’d like to add to the list?

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  • http://www.worthlessgenius.com Benjamin M. Strozykowski

    I know this isn’t a Linux application specifically, but I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without Firefox. It’s less of an application lately, becoming more of a platform. All of the extensions I use to make my job easier, and the web applications that are used on a daily basis, I couldn’t live without it.

    Though there are lots of editors out there, I still prefer gEdit over them all. I’m using Bluefish in college, but it’s a little buggy when editing files over an sftp connection. gEdit is really lightweight and fast.

    And, you forgot the most awesome Linux application ever. Terminal. ’nuff said.

  • http://www.muppethouse.com Ryan

    It is also important to note the ways some of these applications suck donkey balls if we want them to improve. Most all are moving in the right direction, however calling them awesome may be a bit premature.

    F-Spot in particular has seen a glacial development pace, with awesome changes like GEGL integration and DPAP integration promised but never appearing. Have you ever tried to load a sizable library in F-Spot and actually organize… sorry, it’s bad.

    Banshee because of the rapid development pace and rewrite gets a pass to some degree, but at the same time it seems to have even odds of crashing when you plug in a digital audio player and the podcast catcher freaks out and just stops grabbing feeds. If you’d like people to NOT get their JupiterBroadcasting feeds because of a flaky crashy application I’d recommend Banshee as well.

  • Florian

    I think that the idea conduit has a lot of promise, however I never managed to get it to work on Ubuntu at all. So: nice idea, but.. Of course it could very well be my fault :-) Tomboy, f-spot and banshee are absolute ace, though! Funny thing is, they are all written in Mono.

  • http://zmail.sourceforge.net Zach Denton

    This was a pretty good post. I hadn’t heard of 50% of these applications beforehand; something that is becoming increasingly uncommon.

  • Rob

    Not a bad list of applications, but there are a few I disagree with.

    Elisa looks cool. If I had a palm device, I’d definitely use Conduit.

    I don’t agree with Banshee, however. It’s… okay. Pretty good. But even though I use GNOME, Amarok is still the king of music apps. Banshee is above iTunes, no doubt above it, but for the sheer amount of things you can do in Amarok, it’s worth installing the kdelibs. And, nowaday, I’m told there’s a way you can do it without installing all of the dependencies.

    It’s the opposite way with kOffice. I think the dependencies–if you’re using GNOME, at least–are too oppressive, and the result isn’t quite as worth it. Openoffice actually has a formula editor that’s TeX-based, and I used it pretty successfully for notes in a linear algebra class. I agree that OO’s ‘draw’ is pretty weak, but I think that cuts to the question as to whether or not a drawing application is a necessary part of an office suite. Krita’s not bad, and for a photoshop replacement it’s the best there is for Linux (at least the GUI is a decent approximation of Photoshop’s, and not GIMP’s with such a high learning curve), but I don’t honestly think it’s worth getting kOffice for the rest of it.

    You’re right on the money with Tomboy, F-Spot, and Gnome-Do.

    One thing I feel you’re missing is ‘gedit’. That app can do anything, especially with plugins. In fact, the only thing that makes it imperfect is the lack of a hotkey for word-wrap.

  • http://twistedpair.mobi DanielS

    Great lineup!
    I have to admit I’m still using exaile instead of Elisa, but I will give it a shot being it’s so easy to install and un-install these apps on linux.

    And as far as RadicalCodex, I’m more of an audible reader these days, but that too sounds helpful! Checkout app num 2! lol!

    Also as Benjamin stated, Bash is No.1 . Nuff Said!

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  • Anonymous

    Dear God, where to start.

    I definitely think there’s better for Linux than Banshee. Amarok is an example.

    None of these are must-haves. None of them are that great, and over half of them are infected with Mono.

  • http://www.twitter.com/jlinde Johan

    Great to see someone write about KOffice. I really like Koffice, since it goes it’s own route. I think OpenOffice’s future is quite bleak actually. KOffice promises a good looking clean interface, which is something we’ve been needing from OpenOffice since forever. A lot of people hate on Microsoft so much they can’t see that Office 2007 is fucking awesome. Why? It has a clean interface! Go KOffice!

  • Michael

    “Coduit”? Never heard of that one. Is it a fork of our beloved Conduit?

  • http://www.blog.eligundry.com/ Eli Gundry

    I will say right now that Second Life has no place on this list. I mean its neither a game or ever remotely fun. It’s laggy on any platform. It’s over hyped by the media.

    That said, I do like Gnome-Do more that I like Window’s Launchy…

  • http://www.mjnbrn.net Ben

    I just downloaded and installed Radical Codex, and I was wondering what the difference between the registered version and the unregistered version is?

  • http://www.lunduke.com Bryan

    Ben: The only real difference in RadicalCodex Beta 3 between the registered and unregistered version… is that there is a little reminder link in the bottom of the unregistered version’s main window.

    As we move towards the final 1.0 release there will be a small set of restrictions on what can be done in the unregistered version.

    If you like RadicalCodex and intend to purchase sometime in the next few months… I recommend doing so sooner rather than later as the price is $10 off during the Beta cycle.

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    I was really impressed with second life the first time I played around with it. Great stuff! Linux has come a long way.

  • max stirner

    note that there are some big question marks around mono

  • ocularb0b

    It’s good list generally although for photos I find nautilus and gqview more usable without the bloat and use either amarok or xmms for music. Gnome-do while it’s well designed and very cool, those guys made a terrible mistake in choosing to build it all with mono. If it were C or C++ it would be killer but instead its suffers from being very slow and dependent on packages that I will never install for religious reasons.

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  • bobsmith

    I’ve seem many recommendations for Banshee so I installed it. As an amarok user, I was not impressed. Amarok is the best of the bunch – by far.

    I’m still looking for a decent file sync program for Linux… something along the lines of “ViceVersa” for Windows that will do a simple filename/time-stamp directory compare (NOT a byte by byte compare), display the differences, and offer a GUI to do a manual sync of individual differences. As far as I can tell, Conduit does a thousand complex things – but not the fast, simple stuff.

    One app I just tripped on that’s FAR better than the default image viewer in Ubuntu is Mirage.

    I’m in the process of dumping Tomboy so I can purge mono from my system. Read this for details:
    I’ll be replacing tomboy with Zim as soon as time allows.

  • johndoe

    you lost all credibility once you mentioned second life. you should probably avoid using the word “awesome” under every application too.

  • http://thermonuclearhamster.org Chris Fikes

    If you are going to post something like this

    “None of them are that great, and over half of them are infected with Mono.”

    At least explain why you think mono is an “infection”.
    Mono is merely a way of not only implementing good modern languages like C#, but also bridging the gap for Windows programmers to Linux. Besides, BEST PLATFORM EVER should have ability to use ANY language !!! For that, I applaud MONO.

    As for RadicalCodex, AWESOME PROGRAM. Bryan, it got me to read my first comic book. NICE.

  • Jeffro

    Holy crap, KOffice got some love? ’bout time.

    I’ve been meaning to give Banshee a try since I first heard you talk about it. But then Amarok 2 stabilized (by and large, anyway). And, well, I just can’t seem to pull myself away from it long enough to give anything else a serious chance.

  • http://ewanm89.co.uk/ Ewan Marshall

    I would point out that these mono applications have only recently had libraries ported to windows so they can run there… They are designed to tie into Linux, C#.NET or not.

  • http://www.rickscheibner.net Rick

    No Windows version of F-Spot? Ever heard of Picasa? It imports, organizes, and uploads your pics to the web. Plus, it has some very nice editing features that just isn’t available in F-spot.

    I’ll have to check out KOffice. Saying that it has a future and OOo doesn’t is a pretty serious claim.

  • Michael

    Sweet Jesus, I am so sick of people saying that they avoid Mono for “religious reasons.” I have a hard time imagining that you’ve ever programmed anything with any language/framework for any platform. I have a much easier time imagining you using Linux solely because you imagine yourself “sticking it to the man.” Mono is no more dependent on Microsoft’s .NET framework than OpenOffice.org is on Office 95 (or maybe it has advanced to the point of cloning Office 98 by now). You can choose to download all of the Mono source code, you can modify it any way you like, and you can build it yourself. This does not give Microsoft any gratification/money, and it certainly does not kill Linux. Choosing not to do this does not hurt Microsoft, and it definitely doesn’t “purify” Linux in any way.

    Sorry about that rant. The anti-Mono thing just really gets on my nerves sometimes. Nice list by the way.

  • http://sites.google.com/site/apostolicapologetics/ Commodianus

    XBMC completely trumps any and all Media Players/Managers listed or that you COULD HAVE listed. Period. My two cents.

    Latest Build + experience (google team blackbolt). OMGUH.


  • http://linuxnthings.blogspot.com/ GodofGrunts


    You’re incorrect my friend. If you look at the license between Novell and M$ about Mono, you’ll see that M$ reverses the right to terminate Mono’s GPL status at any time.

    Mono is a waste of time to develop and use.