Tuesday, 4 December 2012

20 applications to improve Xubuntu

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  00:07 19 comments

Introduction

This is the fifth and final part of the series of articles about Xubuntu.


The main point of this article is that whilst the base install of Xubuntu is fully functional it lacks the applications by default that would make it a really useful operating system.

So this is simply a list of 20 must have applications to improve Xubuntu. Of course this list is subjective to personal opinion so I invite people to add comments listing alternative applications.

The point of the article is to aid new Linux users by providing a good list of applications which they can install and use.

The list is in no particular order so number 1 is no more important than number 20.

1. Xubuntu Restricted Extras

The Xubuntu Restricted Extras package will enable you to view Flash videos, play MP3s and use common fonts.

I have mentioned the Restricted Extras packages in other articles and a comment was made that I am promoting the use of Proprietary software. Whilst this is true, until either HTML5 completely replaces the need for Flash and until there is a Flash alternative that really works then the Restricted Extras package provides useful functionality. As well as this there are still MP3 players out there that do not play free codecs such as OGG and therefore Xubuntu Restricted Extras makes it possible to keep your music in one format. Finally it is useful to have access to the common fonts used across the computing world.

2. LibreOffice

My last article highlighted the features of LibreOffice and it comes complete with a word processing  application, spreadsheet package, presentation package, drawing tool and relational database package.

It supports all major file formats and is more than a viable replacement for Microsoft Office.

3. Rhythmbox

Previously I have compared a number of different music players and there was a resounding response in the comments section that suggested the best music player is Clementine.

Personally I am a fan of Rhythmbox and you can read my review of Rhythmbox here along with other music applications.

4. VLC Media Player

Rhythmbox is for playing music. VLC Media Player is for playing videos and movies.

Whether you want to watch a DVD from your DVD drive or a video from the web, VLC player is the best media player available within Linux.

Click here for a review of VLC Media Player. (This link takes you to an external site).

5. GIMP

Quite simply GIMP is the closest thing there is to Photoshop and the price of Gimp makes it more than competitive (Free).

GIMP can be used to touch up photos, create web content, produce stunning image effects and mock up web pages.

Click here for a review (This link takes you to an external site).

6. Chromium

There used to be a time when the war of the web browsers was a simple one on one fight between Internet Explorer and Netscape. Internet Explorer won that fight.

Now Internet Explorer is the scurge of the web developer as it has low adherence to standards and continually fails to meet them. However if you think Internet Explorer is bad then consider the versions of Internet Explorer that were bludgeoned by AOL and Compuserve. Now they were truly shocking.

Firefox came along and for years there was a community waxing lyrical about how good Firefox was compared to Internet Explorer but Firefox failed ultimately to convince the world and basically secured a steady following but not much more.

Then came Google's Chrome. Chrome reduced clutter and left the whole browser free without multiple toolbars hogging the top half of the screen and it conformed to standards. It is now the most popular browser.

Now there are dozens of browsers out there all with their own merits including Midori, Opera and SeaMonkey but there is no better browser as far as I am concerned than Chromium.

7. WINE

This isn't for me as essential as it used to be unless you want to play games. WINE and WINETricks makes it possible to run Windows applications within Linux.

Winetricks makes it even easier by providing a method of installing the most common games and applications from a graphical interface with the minimum of fuss.

WINE isn't 100% perfect. There are Windows applications that don't work but it is improving all the time.

If you are a Windows user who isn't ready to give it up completely yet then WINE might just be what you are looking for.

8. Oracle VirtualBox

One of the articles I have written in the past is "5 ways to try Linux without messing up Windows",

I really should have called the article "6 ways to try Linux without messing up Windows" because I missed an obvious solution.

If you want to keep Windows and try Linux you can install Oracle VirtualBox which enables you to install guest operating systems within Virtual Computers which are nothing more than files on your hard drive controlled by the VirtualBox software which provides an emulation layer.

So you keep Windows but can run any number of versions of Linux before choosing the one you want to keep.

On the flip side to that, once you have chosen the version of Linux you want to use there may be times you want to run Windows and so within Xubuntu you can install Oracle VirtualBox and install Windows as a virtual computer.

9. Brasero

Brasero is a GUI application which enables you burn CDs and DVDs. You can create data disks and audio disks.

For me the best use of Brasero is to burn ISO files of Linux downloaded from the Internet to CD/DVD.

Click here for a review (This link takes you to an external site).

10. Unetbootin

Unetbootin is the tool of the distro hopper. Basically Unetbootin enables you to burn ISO files of Linux distributions downloaded from the web to a USB drive which is then bootable as a live medium.

If you want to try out different versions of Linux pop along to www.distrowatch.org and pick a distribution. Download the ISO file and burn it to a USB drive using UNetbootin.

Of course if you prefer to use CDs or DVDs to a USB drive then option 9 for Brasero works better.

11. Disk Utility

The Disk Utility tool is incredibly useful especially if you like to try out different versions of Linux and use the Unetbootin tool a lot.

I use Disk Utility to format the USB drive before using Unetbootin to burn the ISO to the USB drive.

12. XChat

An IRC chat tool might seem an odd choice for a 20 must have application list but this tool gives you access to the IRC chat rooms of all the major Linux distributions and therefore a world of help.

13. Thunderbird

It was a bit of a dilemma for me whether to put this in or not because I'm not sure how important email clients are any more.

I generally use a web based email provider and I think the majority of people are the same. 

If you prefer to use a dedicated email client then Thunderbird makes it easy to import your email and it provides most of the features you would find in Microsoft Outlook.

14. RipperX

If you want to convert all those CDs to MP3 format so that you can play them through your computer or transfer them to an MP3 player then you will need RipperX.

Simply insert a CD, click the CDDB button to get a track listing and then click go. Your music will be converted into MP3 files.

Click here for a review (This link takes you to an external site).

15. Tasksel 

If you are a web developer and you want to easily install the LAMP stack of Linux (Xubuntu), Apache (Web Server), PHP (Scripting Language) and MySQL (Relational Database) then you can do it with one easy step in Xubuntu by installing Tasksel.

Tasksel actually provides the ability to install a range of predefined options including mail servers, dns servers, print server, samba servers, tomcat servers and various installations of *Buntu such as edubuntu, mythbuntu, kubuntu etc.

16. Geany

If you do any sort of software or web development then Geany is a great editor. Unlike some of the applications in this list it is a lightweight tool but it provides great integration for different scripting and programming languages such as PHP and Python.

Click here for a review (This link takes you to an external site).

17.  DOSBox/Fuse/Stella/DGens/UAE/ZSnes/GFCE Ultra

Like to play games? Like to play old games?

In order:

DOSBox enables you to emulate a DOS environment to play all those old DOS games that probably won't even work under Windows anymore. 

FUSE is a Sinclair Spectrum emulator. It emulates 48k, 128k, +2, +2A and +3 computers. It can handle .TZX, .TAP and .SNA files which can be downloaded from www.worldofspectrum.org. It can also be used in conjunction with an XBOX controller.

Stella is an Atari 2600 emulator. It provides a neat graphical user interface which can be navigated with an XBOX controller.

DGens is a Sega megadrive/genesys emulator. To be honest I am yet to find a really good Megadrive emulator but DGens is the closest in terms of complete emulation. 

UAE is a Commodore Amiga emulator, ZSnes is a Super Nintendo emulator nd GFCE Ultra is a NES emulator.

18. DVD::Rip

So you went through the process of converting all your music to MP3 format but you still have loads of disk space left and you want to convert all of your DVDs so that you can have one central multimedia experience.

DVD::Rip provides a plethora of options to convert your DVDs into a range of different file formats. The only thing I would say is that there are loads of options which makes the process a little complicated.

19. Digikam / Shotwell

If you have a digital camera and you want to store all your images on your computer then you will need a tool to import and manage the photos.

There are basically 2 tools that I think are good for this. Personally I like Shotwell but I know other people swear by Digikam. 

Click here for a review of Shotwell (This link takes you to an external site).

Click here for a review of Digikam (This link takes you to an external site).

20. XBMC

XBMC turns your computer into a media center (a bit like Windows Media Center). It provides a great user interface for browsing your music and video files.

Click here for a review (This link takes you to an external site).

.... and finally

Xubuntu (and all *buntus) come with XPad installed by default which makes the XBOX 360 controller work.

I prefer to use XBOXDRV as it provides better support for most emulators.

Summary

If I have provided one application in this list that you didn't know about and find useful then this article has done its job.

If others leave comments with suggested applications and you find them useful then this article has also done its job.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to buy Xubuntu on DVD or USB




To make it easier for everyone who wants to read my Ubuntu based articles and tutorials I have formatted them, rewritten them and added extra content which has resulted in the eBook "From Windows To Ubuntu".

The book isn't massive like a SAMS guide so it isn't going to take you forever to read it but there is certainly a lot of content.

Click here to buy the eBook "From Windows To Ubuntu"








About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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19 comments:

  1. I wanted to recap a couple of late comments I made on the other articles.

    One is that the xfce4-goodies metapackage in the *buntu repositories includes a lot of useful Xfce plugins and applications to round out the desktop. You will particularly find more options to add to your panel if you install it. Other nice things are additional themes and wallpapers. Of course, it also installs a few Xfce targeted apps, which you may or may not find interesting or already have installed.

    An often overlooked music player that I like is Quod Libet, and, though I'm not a big Internet streaming radio user, it is one that will automatically fetch a lot of Internet radio stations if you want it to.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would suggest MESS for your emulation needs...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Surprised you wuld choose Brasero when Xfce has the rather good Xfburn.
    I do not actually use optical media anymore, but I used Xfburn when I did - I wrote a review of it: http://writtenandread.net/xfburn/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a personal choice thing. I am used to Brasero. It is installed as a default application on many distributions and therefore the application I am most used to.

      Delete
  4. Do you advocate Xubuntu because: (1) It is not Ubuntu (Unity); or
    (2) It is Xfce and lightweight?

    It looks suspiciously like (1). If you pile a lot of heavyweight apps on a (fairly) lightweight distro it will slow it down significantly.

    If it were (2) then the recommendations would be lightweights apps such as those shown in http://wiki.xfce.org/recommendedapps

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The answer to your question is definitely 1. I don't see Xubuntu as just a lightweight version of Linux. There are lots of laptops out there that are perhaps 4 to 5 years old. They are good enough to run the applications listed above but maybe don't have the power to run Cinnamon or Unity. I see a Xubuntu base install with all the added applications as a good alternative. It isn't the only one. You could go with Mint and the Mate desktop or Zorin works really well. I find XFCE very appealing which is the point of the articles I have written above Xubuntu.

      Delete
  5. Quod Libet and Mplayer completely beat out Rhythmbox and VLC

    ReplyDelete
  6. One of the things I learned installing Lubuntu a couple of years ago, was that you can spend a heck of a lot of time finding and installing what you want and removing what you don't, when there are other distros that make those choices for you - in my case Mint would have been a better choice. I think Mint or other XFCE might get more users who don't like Xubuntu's choices, off on the right foot, instead of spending hours turning Peter into Paul.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like to think of it as using Xubuntu (and this works for Lubuntu as well) as a pizza base. Just add the toppings you like.

      Delete
  7. Imagine the dependencies...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I installed all 20 applications on a Samsung R20 which is around 5 years old. It isn't any special specification wise but it isn't old enough for the scrap heap. It doesn't need to run lightweight applications as it is more than capable of running all 20 applications listed. Due to the poor graphics capabilities though it doesn't handle Unity or Cinnamon well. The boot time is still pretty decent and the applications are responsive. Yes there are dependencies but if your machine can handle them then why not?

      Delete
  8. Just one correction Winetricks doesn't help you to easily install games (that's Playonlinux's job) it help you install components like .NET, directx, etc....

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have been using xubuntu since 11.04, not because it is supposedly light weight (it is not, though pure xfce on a bare-bones instal is), but rather because I feel it is the best looking and easiest to use of the big DEs. Since then I have become a convert to gmusicbrowser and xfburn, for their simple but effective interfaces.

    My must add programs are Xtile, Pinta (this should be the default image editor in all *buntu's, and GIMP as an optional download for advanced users), Cherry Tree, Evolution, and totem/movie player for video. (every release I try to use VLC, and I always find it all but useless).

    Almost forgot, Cairo Dock at the bottom, and a single tall bar at the top. The perfect DE!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Plank (lightweight dock) makes a good replacement for bottom panel; it has windows dodge and looks great

    ReplyDelete
  11. using xubuntu at work, can't imagine it without the excellent 'kupfer'...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi! I love this list! I prefer Kubuntu on my first Workstation and think VirtualBox is a punishment compared to VMWare in performance, but thank you for some ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Xubuntu is the most pointless exercise I've ever submitted to. Thousands of stupid differences from Ubuntu, for no good reason, where you're left hunting for something simple. Reviewers do a 90% assessment and proclaim their verdict. Case in point, re: "Chromium is the best browser for Xubuntu". Try dealing with a proxy. Yeah, you can set all kinds of environment variables and files in /etc and restart the box, but I'm talking about "I just want to use a proxy for this one site" kind of use. Can't do it under Xubuntu/XFCE. No proxy settings applet. Firefox does it right, but java script is now broken with it. It never ends, and we're not getting any different functionality. This is what we left Windoze for.

    Thunar. Ugh! Has no one noticed that the .gtk-bookmarks file functionality is broken? It doesn't seem to understand what a network connection is. Uses a different format string for copy/paste from Nautilus so you can't copy and paste between them. Oh, but you can set your file manager to be Nautilus. Kind of. More schlock programming from unaccountable groidy groids- SOME IDIOT compiled Thunar into the desktop! Set your file manager to be nautilus. Insert a DVD. Thunar comes up. Open your Desktop. Thunar comes up. RENAME THE GD THANG or DELETE IT! Still comes up. Copy Nautilus to thunar. Breaks.

    Have to open a terminal session to run a csh file. Thunar's managed to mess that up as well. Point being, you will end up with a list of 10-15 stupid things that wasted hours of your time EVERY.DAY with xubuntu, and I've yet to come across one that was a fix, enhancement or anything I would ever want. This is Windoze- unaccountable, blank check IT now. "Here's a new 'feesure' you didn't want; You can't turn it off, and BTW, it doesn't work". 100% Windoze mentality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a review on my other blog http://myubuntublog.com/ubuntu-vs-xubuntu/ that looks at using XFCE with Ubuntu to see if it is a better experience than Xubuntu. In the instances you have mentioned that may be the case.

      Delete
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