Linux Alternatives to Popular Windows Apps [Part 1]

This article is part of the Linux Alternative to Windows Apps series:

The desktop computing landscape is rapidly changing all around us. Microsoft is now pushing Windows 8, the biggest change Microsoft has made to the desktop since Windows 95. This means that whether a Windows user chooses to switch to Mac OS X, Linux, or stick with Windows, he/she is in for a new learning experience. A transition to Linux may just be more familiar than making the jump to Window 8, and there are many open source alternatives to popular Windows applications. This large list of open source alternatives could make your transition to Linux easier than you thought possible.

This is arguably the most important category. Many of today’s computer users do nearly all of their computing inside of a browser. Thankfully for Linux, two of the world’s most popular web browsers run just fine on the platform: Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Major distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE all ship with Firefox by default. If you do not want Chrome, you can also install Chromium, which is the open source version of Chrome. Another popular option is the Opera web browser.

Linux is also rich with lesser-known open source alternatives that still work very well. If you use GNOME, consider checking out the Epiphany web browser (also known simply as “Web”) which is the GNOME Project’s default browser. Midori is another lightweight and peppy choice. KDE users can choose between Konqueror and rekonq, just to name a few.

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If you have grown accustomed to the convenience afforded by Microsoft Outlook, there are quite a few options available to you in Linux. Mozilla Thunderbird is a popular alternative that is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac, making it the best cross-platform solution. The GNOME Project supplies Evolution, which comes with calendar and to-do list functionality out of the box. KDE users have access to Kontact, a full-featured suite like Evolution and Outlook, or KMail if you only want to send emails.

Many companies and institutions have standardized the use of Microsoft Office. However, there are many open source alternatives that allow students and professionals to remain competitive without having to use Microsoft’s product.LibreOffice is a fork of the popular OpenOffice suite and is now the office suite shipped by default with many of the most popular Linux distributions.

LibreOffice offers a large selection of applications that compete with most of the major applications within Microsoft Office:

  • LibreOffice Writer in place of Microsoft Word
  • LibreOffice Calc in place of Microsoft Excel
  • LibreOffice Impress in place of Microsoft PowerPoint

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The Calligra Suite is another complete office suite solution. This project is not as mature as the LibreOffice project, but it is in a state of very active development and presents a different approach to making an office suite than Microsoft Word and LibreOffice. Most of the applications in the Calligra Suite use the same base code, so the applications within the suite play along together very well.AbiWord is a lightweight word processor and Gnumeric is a lightweight spreadsheet application that together are occasionally referred to as part of a GNOME office suite. They present nice options for users with older, slower machines.

This is admittedly a weak spot for Linux. If you want an alternative to Microsoft Publisher or Adobe InDesign, Scribus is largely your only option. In the future, the Calligra Suite may present comparable functionality, but it isn’t there yet.

If you are used to using Microsoft Quicken to manage your finances, you may like to continue using a desktop application after transitioning to Linux. Keep in mind that Linux applications will lack some of Quicken’s convenience, since major banks work with Microsoft to allow for easy integration. However, Linux options present a plethora of functionality. GNOME users may be drawn to Gnucash or HomeBank, whereas KDE desktop users may feel right at home using KMyMoney or Skrooge.

This concludes the first part of the Linux alternative to popular Windows apps. In the next part, we will cover Linux alternative to your Windows media app, including photo editors, sound editors, video players and more. Stay tuned.