11 key free programs to install on Ubuntu

Lately I’ve heard more about Ubuntu from different people I know; in some cases they run Ubuntu server and know a lot, and in other cases they have heard things that make them interested in using it as an everyday desktop OS.
Ubuntu, by the way, is a GNU/Linux “distribution”–basically it is a kind of operating system that runs on Intel chips just like Windows and Apple OS X. The difference is that Ubuntu (like other Linux distributions) is free and open source–meaning that users can see the source code and are free to modify it.
I’ve been using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx) for a few weeks now (it just came out). I think it is excellent, and having used the very good 9.04 and the okay 9.10 versions of Ubuntu, I can say that 10.04 is the best so far that I’ve used.
A key feature of all of these is the package manager called the Ubuntu software center. By opening this application you can add hundreds of free software programs by simply selecting them.
Here are some key programs that you need to install right away once you put Ubuntu on your desktop system (it’s easy to set up a dual-boot system so you can start in Windows if necessary–just download the .iso file, burn it to a disc and start your computer with the disc in the tray and follow the installer).
1. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program): The best pixel-based multi-layer graphics editor on Linux, you can use GIMP to re-touch photos, draw pictures or use filters and brushes to add your creative spin on images.
2. Pidgin: The best IM client you’ll find on GNOME (the window system used by Ubuntu). It’s better than Empathy, which comes bundled with Ubuntu.
3. Filezilla: If you use FTP, you need this excellent client.
4. AbiWord: The best word processor for GNOME. Very intuitive, clean design and has plenty of capabilities for most writers.
5. OpenOffice: Install the whole suite and you get the best free spreadsheet program, plus a presentation maker, word processor, desktop database and more included. Now maintained by Oracle, OpenOffice remains a high quality product.
6. Google Picasa: The best free (though not open source) photo management software. Just avoid Shotwell and F-Spot–they are not (yet) ready for prime time. (Though I like putting my photos on my own web site using free software [Gallery] and I don’t use Picasa Web Albums, which of course Google tries to integrate into Picasa.)
7. VLC Media Player: The best desktop media player application for Linux (and for Windows and Mac). Will play your old mpeg1s all the way down to super-new h.264 files and everything in between.
8. Google Chrome: Getting this browser gives you an alternative to the also excellent Firefox, which comes bundled with Ubuntu.
9. Kdenlive: My opinion is that the Apple platform is still easily the best for video editing. That said, I have been very impressed with the development of this little video editor application–basic features are covered and it can even take your edited videos and export them in freedom-loving Ogg Theora format!
10. GNU Emacs: Who doesn’t want this classic editor on their system?
11. Audacity: This audio recording and editing program is excellent for capturing podcasts and musical recordings, editing them down, and exporting them in Ogg Vorbis or m4a format.

One thought on “11 key free programs to install on Ubuntu

Leave a Reply