Must-Have Apps For Ubuntu

Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distributions available today, and for good reason.  It has server, desktop, and core editions, and updates are released every six months.   It’s also one of the best Linux distributions for beginners.  The desktop environment is GNOME, which is modern and easy to navigate.  The installer is easy to use and there is a large support community in case you run into problems.  Because of Ubuntu’s popularity, there is a large selection of software to choose from, whether it’s Ubuntu’s standard or a third-party application.  But there are a few pieces of software we consider essential—here are our must-have applications for Ubuntu:

Mozilla Firefox – The Holy Grail Of Browsers

Mozilla Firefox is the default browser on many Linux distros, including Ubuntu.  However, the beauty of Linux is that it is so customizable, which means you can choose another browser if you would like.  We think you should absolutely keep Firefox, though.  It does one thing and does it well—it’s not trying to become an operating system.  It’s fast and full-featured, which you will not typically get with other free open-source browsers.  Security and privacy are a priority with Firefox:  it does not data mine or sells users’ browser histories.  There are plenty of themes and extensions from which to choose.  It also integrates beautifully with the Ubuntu desktop environment (a purely aesthetic reason, but who doesn’t want to look at something pretty).  Firefox features include tabbed browsing, syncing between other Firefox browsers (including mobile), incremental find, spell check, live bookmarking, and private browsing.  And last but definitely not least, it’s license-free.  It shares the same open-source philosophy that Linux itself has.

LibreOffice – For Your Word Processing And Other Productivity Needs

While LibreOffice won’t do everything Microsoft Office will, it is pretty darn close.  And considering the price tag (free) and the fact that it’s open source, we think it deserves a spot in every Ubuntu user’s repertoire.  There are six programs included in LibreOffice: 

  • Writer – Word Processing
  • Calc – Spreadsheets
  • Base – Databases
  • Impress – Presentations
  • Math – Math Formula Editor
  • Draw – Vector Graphics Editor

LibreOffice has the ability to open and save many different formats, including Microsoft Office file extensions.  This means that you can use it and still collaborate with others who may be using Microsoft products.   LibreOffice is truly free—there are no hidden features behind paywalls and absolutely no advertising.  You might have seen rumblings about LibreOffice possibly charging in the future.  The release candidate of LibreOffice 7.0 was tagged “Personal Edition”, which was a change from earlier editions.  According to the Document Foundation Board, this was because of a new marketing plan, and it is possible that some business users might have to start paying in the future.  But for now, business users can rest easy and type their little hearts out.

VLC Media Player – Because You Can’t Work All Of The Time

VLC was initially called the VideoLan Client because it was developed by the VideoLan project.  Like the other software titles in our list so far, VLC is a free and open source.  This is the media player to beat all others.  It will play or stream just about any media file, including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, and OGG.  It will play DVDs, whether it’s the disc itself or the VOB files.  The interface is quite simple, and most users should be able to navigate it without any prior instruction.  VLC gives users a lot of control over media playback.  Have a file with low sound?  VLC allows you to increase the volume by 200 percent.  Have a video where the audio isn’t syncing?  Use the Synchronization tab.  VLC works as a server for unicast or multicast streaming in IPv6 or IPv4 on networks with high bandwidth.   The default package comes with a large number of decoding and encoding libraries, which saves you from searching and calibrating proprietary plugins.  Most of its codecs are from the libavcodec library from the FFmpeg project, but for the most part, it uses its own mixer and demuxers and its protocols.  As you can tell, this media player will suit all users, from beginner to advanced.

KDE Connect – A Bridge Between Your Phone And Computer

KDE Connect is an application that allows your phone and computer to communicate.  It sounds simplistic, but it is unbelievably useful.  People who work on their computer all day know how frustrating it can be to get phone notifications while working and have to constantly switch between their desktop and phone.  KDE Connect solves this problem with the following convenient functions:

  • Receive and reply to SMS text messages from your desktop
  • If you answer a call while listening to music or watching a video on your desktop, KDE Connect will automatically pause it for you
  • Copy a block of text on your phone—now it’s on the clipboard on your desktop
  • Ring your phone when you misplace it
  • Control music playing on your desktop by using your phone as a remote
  • Check your phone’s battery level from the desktop
  • Transfer files between the two devices

KDE Connect does this all over Wi-Fi and it is encrypted.  You no longer have to worry about the slow speeds or insecurity of a cloud service. 

Wine – In Case You Can’t Completely Let Go Of Windows

Ubuntu is a popular distribution for those new to Linux and it’s not much of a stretch to assume that a majority of you are Windows users.  Wine is a software called a compatibility layer.  It allows you to load Windows software on your Linux operating system, Ubuntu in this case.  Wine isn’t emulation software or a virtual machine; it works by translating Windows system API calls into POSIX system calls instantly, which is less taxing to system resources than other methods.  The Wine application can be useful in many instances.  The most common use seems to be using it to run older programs that will never been offered in Linux.  I’m sure most of us can relate to keeping old versions of games purely for nostalgia.  But there are more practical uses for Wine.  For example, developers use it to test software to see if it’s compatible with Windows.  In any case, it’s always handy to have Wine because not every app will have a Linux version.