What App Do I Use?


Now that you have Linux installed you may be wondering what do I use to replace (insert any Windows or Mac application name here)? This is a very common question even with the distributions that come with an application for almost every need and purpose. What makes this so tough to answer? In my opinion it is mostly we simply do not know what is available and what the new applications do that are already installed. Linux distributions can and do provide hundreds to thousands of applications for many uses. So many in the mainstream distributions that it can be mind-boggling.

Even the lesser known Linux distributions such as AntiX can pull applications from the repositories of the much more widespread distribution Debian. And that adds another question for some people, what is a repository? (Answer: A collection of software maintained, tested and updated for a particular version or distribution chain.) This can all be very confusing to newer users of Linux. (Note also that I used the Debian tree of Linux as an example but could have picked several others, Slackware, Red Hat, Fedora all have distros based on them that pull from upstream repositories and also maintain their own repositories supporting themselves and this listing is certainly not all-inclusive at all.) Some distributions use packages they either create or bundle all while maintaining the main distribution giving their users many choices for applications of all types.

I think that most users will figure out the replacements for Office software like Writer and Calc. We will get used to seeing Rhythmbox instead of Media Player. Nemo, Nautilus or Thunar will become very familiar for interfacing with the file system. But what many do not know is there are alternatives and sometimes several to do the same thing. For example, music players is a category most of us will use. I named Rhythmbox above but could have named Banshee, Clementine, VLC, Kaffeine, MPlayer or Totem and this list is not totally inclusive and even crosses boundaries for other media types many of them can handle just as Windows Media Player handles multiple media types. This is just one category and one example, there are many applications that have alternatives.

Knowing what we want to do is the first step, finding the application is step two. This can be as easy as learning the name of an application that is already installed but we did not know the name of or learning how to pull from the repositories one of the thousands of applications that are there waiting to be used.

Nearly all of the distributions are making finding what you want easier than ever and installation of the software is extremely easy too. But what do you do if you have this favourite Mac or Windows program and want a Linux alternative but do not know the name of one? Well you can search the Internet, that may or may not tell you the name of the package to install. And you are definitely much better off installing from the repositories for your distribution even if you do find it on the Internet. This ensures better security and the meeting of all dependencies for the application.

Or you can use a tool like this one, the Linux App Finder. This is a really cool website where you enter the name of the program you want to replace and it turns out choices for alternatives. Many if not all of them will be in your repositories or a repository you can add as an additional source. You can even install some of the programs from the site but the repositories for your distribution are the preferred method.

Here is a screen capture for a search of notepad replacements as an example.

Search for notepad alternatives.

This is a decent list to get someone started and I doubt it is all of the available replacements for notepad. I stumbled onto this website a few years ago and found it to be very helpful. I hope you find it helpful too.

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