So what's this Linux thing all about? What does Linux look like? What software runs on Linux?
Over the last few years, Linux graphic user interfaces (GUI) have greatly improved. Click to view screenshots of the current desktop environments offered by the Gnome and KDE Project.
There is a large selection of software for Linux. For quick selection and comparison, see the fossfor.us site.
According to freshmeat.net (a large index of software for Linux and other Unices), there are currently over 23,000 projects in development. Many of these programs are Open Source and/or free.
Below is an overview of some popular software for Linux. For more software and downloads, check out our Software Downloads section.
Firefox is a standards-compliant Web browser that is being developed by the Free Software Community with the cooperation and support of Mozilla Corporation. Mozilla also provides email/news/IRC software. It is the basis for Netscape 6/7 as well as other web browsers such as Galeon.
Opera's features include tabbed browsing, page zooming, mouse gestures, and an integrated download manager. Its security features include built-in phishing and malware protection, strong encryption when browsing secure websites, and the ability to easily delete private data such as HTTP cookies.
Google Chrome is a web browser developed by Google that uses the WebKit layout engine and application framework.
OpenOffice.org is both an Open Source product and a project. The product is a multi-platform office productivity suite. It includes key desktop applications such as a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program, all with a user interface and feature set similar to other office suites.
Sophisticated and flexible, OpenOffice.org also works transparently with a variety of file formats, including those of Microsoft Office.
Localizations of OpenOffice.org are available in 27 languages, with more being constantly added by the community. OpenOffice.org runs stably and natively on Solaris, Linux (including PPC Linux), and Windows. Additional ports, such as for FreeBSD, IRIX, and Mac OS X, are in various stages of completion.
Pidgin is a GTK-based messenger application that supports multiple protocols, including AIM (Oscar and TOC), ICQ, IRC, Yahoo!, MSN Messenger, Jabber, Napster, and Zephyr. Pidgin supports many common features of other clients, including many unique features.
MySQL is the most popular Open Source database server in the world with more than 2 million installations powering websites, data warehouses, business applications, logging systems, and more. Customers such as Yahoo! Finance, MP3.com, Motorola, NASA, Silicon Graphics, and Texas Instruments use the MySQL server in mission-critical applications.
Apache is the world's most popular HTTP server, being quite possibly the best available in terms of functionality, efficiency, security, and speed. Apache is currently running on well over half the web servers worldwide.
The GNU Compiler Collection contains frontends for C, C++, Objective C, Chill, Fortran, and Java, as well as libraries for these languages. It is a full-featured ANSI C compiler, with support for K&R C as well.
GCC provides many levels of source code error checking traditionally provided by other tools (such as lint), produces debugging information, and can perform many different optimizations to the resulting object code.
Audacious is a multimedia player based on the look of WinAmp. Audacious plays MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA, AAC, and various obscure formats. It also has a plugin system that allows playback of additional formats and full support for WinAmp 2 skins.
VLC is famously known as the player that “plays everything.” It can handle DVDs, (S)VCDs, Audio CDs, web streams, TV cards and much more. You don't need to keep track of a dozen codec packs you need to have installed. VLC has all codecs built-in. It comes with support for nearly all codec there is. And what is more it can even play back the file or media if it is damaged!
MPlayer is a movie player for Linux. It plays most MPEG, VOB, AVI, VIVO, ASF/WMV, QT/MOV, FLI, NuppelVideo, yuv4mpeg, FILM, RoQ, and OGG files, and some files for RealMedia. You can watch VideoCD, SVCD, DVD, 3ivx, FLI, and even DivX movies too.
Another big feature of MPlayer is the wide range of supported output drivers. MPlayer supports displaying through a number of hardware MPEG decoder boards such as the DVB and DXR3/Hollywood+ . And what about nice, big anti-aliased shaded subtitles (9 supported types!!!) with european/ISO 8859-1,2 (hungarian, english, czech, etc), cyrillic, korean fonts, and OSD.
The GIMP is our answer to the current lack of free – or at least reasonably priced – image manipulation software for Linux (and UNIX in general). GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software suitable for tasks such as photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring.
A quick list of popular games that have been ported to Linux:
Interested in trying out a Linux distribution? Read our Getting Linux article to decide which one's right for you!