What is Linux

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So what's this Linux thing all about? What does Linux look like? What software runs on Linux?

What is Linux about?

You can find a good introduction to Linux here, here, and here.

What does Linux look like?

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.

  • GNOME Overview
  • KDE Overview

How about software?

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.

Web Browser - Firefox, Chromium

Firefox is a standards-compliant open source web browser developed by the free software community with the cooperation and support of Mozilla Corporation. Firefox provides all essential features of a browser for the modern web, and also a wide variety of add-ons that will undoubtedly satisfy anybody's needs and wants.

Chromium is the open source web browser project from which Google Chrome draws its source code.

Office Suite - LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a free and open source office suite. It includes key office 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, LibreOffice also works transparently with a variety of file formats, including those of Microsoft Office. It primarily supports the Open Document Formats (ODF), such as .odt (documents), .ods (spreadsheets), and .odp (presentations). Here at the LUG, these are the formats we primarily use. Also, many European governments are adopting ODF as the official format for electronic documents. ODF and LibreOffice promotes total interoperability and information integrity.

Instant Messaging - Pidgin, Empathy

Pidgin is a messaging program that supports multiple protocols, including XMPP/Jabber (e.g. Google Talk), IRC, MSN, AIM, ICQ, amd Yahoo!. It features many plugins and has a large community surrounding it.

Empathy is a messaging program that supports XMPP/Jabber (e.g. Google Talk), SIP, IRC, MSN, AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo!. It supports voice and video calls (only for XMPP and SIP), and has excellent integration with the GNOME desktop.

Audio Player - VLC, MPlayer, Clementine

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 nearly all codecs built-in. It can even play the file or media if it is damaged!

  • Comparison of audio player software - Wikipedia

Movie Player - MPlayer, VLC

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.

Graphics Software - GIMP, Inkscape

GIMP is a professional raster image manipulation program, and part of the GNU project. It is suitable for tasks such as photo retouching, image composition, image authoring, or any other task that requires manipulation of raster images.

Inkscape is a professional vector image manipulation/creation program.

Programming - Gcc, Eclipse, Qt

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.


A quick list of popular games that have been ported to Linux:

  • Civilization: Call to Power
  • Counter Strike
  • Counter Strike: Source
  • Descent 3
  • Doom 1/2/3
  • Half Life
  • Half Life: Source
  • Half Life 2 , HL2: E1, HL2: E2
  • Homeworld
  • Kerbal Space Program
  • Never Winter Nights
  • Postal 2
  • Quake 1/2/3 (see ioquake3-based projects, such as OpenArena)
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
  • Simcity 3000 Unlimited
  • Soldier Of Fortune
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Tribes 2
  • Unreal Tournament

Here are some fun open source games:

  • SuperTux
  • SuperTuxKart
  • Xonotic

Getting Linux

Interested in trying out Linux? Our Getting started page will step you though the process of finding, installing, and tweaking Linux on your computer.