Lead Image © Natalia Lukiyanova, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Natalia Lukiyanova, 123RF.com

Linux alternatives to Windows software

New Variety

Article from ADMIN 36/2016
Free software alternatives to common commercial Windows programs often are little understood. We show which applications on the Linux desktop give an especially good account of themselves.

Users who migrate from Windows to Linux often question which software options they will find on the new operating system in place of Windows applications. You may hear that Linux does not have the same variety of programs as Windows, but the exact opposite is the case. On Windows, neither an office suite nor a usable media player exists after installing the operating system – meanwhile, out of the box, most Linux distributions offer many free programs for every possible area of use, along with a graphical user interface. Additionally, several thousand applications sit in the repositories of large distribution projects. The developers work continuously on these and keep further alternatives ready for virtually every application area. Proprietary software, sometimes requiring payment, completes the array of offerings.

If you have already used free software on Windows such as Firefox browser, LibreOffice, and OpenOffice suites; or multimedia applications like Audacity and VLC, or the mail client Thunderbird, you can easily keep using these on Linux. Free software often exists first for Linux before developers port it to Windows. Thus, you should first check whether the software you are already using is also available on the free operating system. The distribution's website will give information to this effect.

If your search is unsuccessful, you still have options. You should first check whether it is necessary for the desired program to have a particular function. Handling of specific formats should be considered, along with the ability to exchange data with other programs from the commercial realm via standardized interfaces. Once you have made a spec sheet for the new software on Linux, the hunt begins.

Office Alternatives

Many users primarily use the PC to manage daily paperwork, and as a result, Office applications are among those most frequently used. On Linux, LibreOffice and OpenOffice are high on the list for most users. Both suites consist of several modules, and encompass the full spectrum of office tools that range from database to drawing program, along with a formula editor and word processor (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Linux has three free Microsoft Office alternatives to offer with LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and OnlyOffice desktop editors.

An interesting alternative is WPS Office, originally from China, whose standout features are its operating concept and different themes; an Android version also exists. If you need an office suite with integrated reference works, take a look at SoftMaker Office. Another interesting alternative from Latvia is the OnlyOffice desktop editor, which focuses on a cloud-based office and helps to create, edit, and view text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on your local desktop.

The major Linux desktops Gnome and KDE also offer their own office applications, such as AbiWord, Gnumeric, and Calligra Suite. However, these do not cover as wide a range as the dedicated office suites. In many cases, they completely meet the requirements needed to manage daily work.

Personal Information Manager

Evolution, Kontact, and Mozilla Lightning are alternatives on Linux to PIM software such as Ecco Pro, or Lotus Organizer on Windows. Additionally, there is BasKet, which is more akin to an old-school notepad. This is an extremely powerful application that you can use to keep track of appointments and projects. It can manage entire projects, including to-do lists, due to it supporting universal file formats and collaborative elements. The software integrates into the KDE desktop, though if needed, it can also ply its trade in other working environments without complaining.

Desktop Publishing Software

A few competitors dominate the market for professional layout and typesetting programs. Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress, for example, are used most often for Microsoft and Apple operating systems; however, these proprietary applications are often not cheap in license fees.

Along with the payment-based PageStream, the free product Scribus is available on Linux. Both of these programs can keep up with the competition in terms of features, although many agencies and graphics departments are more accustomed to their closed source counterparts. That is something you have to consider in this field.

Scribus has firmly established itself in the Linux environment after 15 years of development, and it is now deemed the leading software on the free operating system for designing demanding layouts. The software is also available for other operating systems.

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