Cross Platform Applications That Make the Switch from Windows to Linux Easier - Adventures in Switching to Linux

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cross Platform Applications That Make the Switch from Windows to Linux Easier

I'll admit that switching from Windows to Linux is not always a painless process. Years of learning the ins and outs of Windows doesn't always transfer to Linux. Fortunately when it comes to the applications you use, the process can become a little easier.

There are numerous cross platform applications that allow you to run the same exact application you may run under Linux in Windows. If you are already comfortable with an application in Windows before switching to Linux, that removes one hurdle for you.

Best of all, most if not all, of these applications are a free download away. Not all of them are Open Source though which I would argue is also a promising thing (not for Free Software advocates though) because it shows commercial support for Linux.

Some of my favorite applications that I have used or use regularly are listed below:

  • Firefox - My primary web browser for the last 5 years. Firefox 2 Take back the web!
  • Pidgn - (Formerly Gaim) This is one wonderful all in one IM client. It supports all of these protocols: AIM, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, Groupwise, ICQ, IRC, MSN, MySpaceIM, QQ, SILC, SIMPLE, Sametime, XMPP, Yahoo! and Zephyr. I started using this as my only IM client the minute I had to log into AIM and Yahoo! at the same time. I haven't looked back.
  • OpenOffice - A great open source office suite. Stop spending so much money on MS Word and just download the hefty 120-140MB installer. OO also helped lead the charge for the new Open Document Format (ODF) which will allow office documents to work for anyone, not just those paying the Microsoft Tax. I imagine I will blog more on ODF sooner or later since it and the OOXML specification are still battling it out.
  • Thunderbird - A good email client brought to you from the same people who brought you Firefox. I have to be honest and say it is not my favorite email client but it is still solid. Once you get to Linux you might want to try Evolution which is more Outlook like (and may have a Win32 version too!).
  • Filezilla - A decent and full featured GUI FTP client. I don't like the latest UI updates that are part of version 3.0 but you get used to stuff like that. It does what you need without the need for a command line.
  • Gimp - The "Photoshop Killer" it is not but still a great replacement for many. I am working on learning it since I do use Photoshop quite a bit.
  • Azureus - My old favorite Bittorrent client. It is super feature rich. It is also a resource hog in my opinion. I've opted for uTorrent on Windows and Deluge in Linux. All 3 are similar though. Maybe now that I have more RAM I will give it a go again.
  • Google Desktop - Yep, Google ported their desktop search tool to Linux. There are other Linux specific desktop search applications but that is not the point of this post.
  • Wireshark - (formerly Ethereal) An awesome packet sniffer. You may never need this but when you do, it is there for you on both OSes.
  • Google Earth - This is just fun to play with! Especially for a Geocacher like me.
  • Picasa - Great photo management application. And to get it working, they made changes to Wine that were given back the the community. Open Source at its finest.
  • Abiword - A word processor that handles MS Word documents well and is lightweight and fast.
  • TightVNC - Remote desktop access. I use this mostly on Windows.
  • Eclipse - The new heavyweight (in a good and bad way) of IDEs. It is designed to be an IDE for any and everything you can imagine thanks to a plug-in architecture.
  • Second Life - An online 3d virtual world game. I don't use it much but it is fun that it works.
And others I am less familiar with like:
  • Opera - Another web good browser. I only use it sporadically now. Back in the day when I had a 486 I ran it because all the other browsers were so slow. I mostly use it on my Wii these days.
  • VLC - Good all purpose media player. I used it to watch DVDs in Linux and haven't used the Windows version before.
  • Audacity - Sound recording and editing software.
  • Inkscape - Scalable Vector Grapics (SVG) editor like Illustrator or Corel Draw.
  • Password Gorilla - Password Manager
  • RSS Owl - RSS Feed Reader
  • Nvu - Web authoring like DreamWeaver or FrontPage
  • Xchat - IRC chat program
  • Mame - Play old video games with this emulator. I've only used the Windows version of this and that was many years ago.
  • POPFile - Filter out all that annoying SPAM and sort other types of email too! I've run this in Windows for years but never Linux. It is written in Perl so I know it will run in Linux.
Also, as web applications are growing in use, all you need is a browser in any OS for many applications. Webmail, Google Docs, Bloglines, online calendars, etc all look and work the same (mostly!) on any compatible browser regardless of operating system. My eventual switch to Linux, among other advantages, is why I made the switch from POP email to a webmail provider.

There are of course other cross platform applications like Apache, Tomcat and MySQL but Linux is and has been rock solid as a server for a long time so I'm not really thinking about those applications. Just sticking to the desktop here.

What applications did I miss that you use? I know there are more. I thought of a few new ones just from proof reading this post.

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