Essential Software for Linux

Here is a list a few packages I install every time I setup a new Linux box. As this isn’t something I do often (probably only when I’m buying a new computer), I really have to write them down so I don’t forget about them next time. Here is a complete list with the package name and their description. The last update made for this post was made in July 24, 2008.

  • System
    synaptic – graphical user interface to apt-get.
    prelink – improves system performance prelinking libraries and executables. Commonly I use prelink -avmR for optimizing my systems. Please see manpage for more details.
    apt-build – builds your packages from source with any desired optimization level.
    unrar – the proprietary WinRAR command line equivalent for linux, from rarlabs. If you want a pure GPL system, stick to unrar-free. [considering ditching in favor of p7zip]
    p7zip – the free command line archiver tool for 7z packages. Compression ratios are usually considered to be better (source?) than those of .rar packages. Plus, it’s LGPL.
    less – improved more. Perhaps one of the first essential things you should apt-get if you didn’t have it already.
    module-assistant – essential tool for building kernel modules The Debian Way(tm).
    deborphan – Lists unused and orphaned packages that generally can be removed from your system.

  • Desktop Tools
    katapult – the most useful application launcher I’ve ever seen. Press Alt + Space and a nice, elegant-looking window will pop in the center of your screen. Type anything – a program name, a song name, a google query or even a mathematic formula – it will autocomplete your command and run, play, search or compute for you.
    yakuake – want a terminal? Just hit a keyboard shortcut (I have set mine to alt + ~) and a terminal you scroll down your screen just like the Quake console would. Impressive and useful.
    ark – graphical user interface for various command line compressing and archiving tools.

  • Internet Tools
    emesene – finally a MSN Messenger client worth looking. For years Linux lacked a decent Messenger clone with a consistent interface that didn’t want to implement every protocol under the sun.

  • Browsers
    opera – The Fastest Browser on Earth! Albeit Opera has been known to be one of the lightest internet browsers available, which in the past could fit inside a single floppy disk, it has built in support for chat, email, torrents, bookmark synchronizing, mouse gestures, voice recognition, thousand of skins and is known to be one of the most secure and standard compliant browsers. Runs everywhere, on computers, cellphones, fridges, televisions and Wiis. For me, it its my browser of choice. Isn’t open source, though.
    w3m – So you decided to upgrade X or your nvidia drivers and something went wrong. Now X fails to start and instead you are locked in the dark, text-only world of the linux terminal. Not a problem if you have w3m, a browser for text mode which you can use to call for help searching google. It even supports mouse clicking and the display of pictures through the framebuffer!

  • Development
    build-essential – essential build tools, such as gcc and libc development libraries. A must have if you plan to build Debian packages, including compiling and installing your kernel The Debian Way™.
    eagle – the proprietary circuit design tool from CADSoft. Although a powerful software for Windows, its linux counterpart has some issues, mainly with desktop integration. It looks really like a Windows app in your Linux box, not matching any your GTK or KDE themes. Sometimes it want to be run as root (!) to gain some additional privileges. Also it had some problems with X, but I think they were due to compiz.

  • Games
    mupen64plus – The best N64 emulator for GNU/Linux, fork of the original Mupen64, which hasn’t been updated for years. Anyone willing to pack it up for Debian?

  • Multimedia
    amaroK – THE best audio player ever coded. Well, at least until last time I’ve upgraded it. One of the biggest reasons for flipping the linux switch.
    kmplayer – video player fronted for various multimedia engines.
    xine libraries – acts as an engine for amarok and kmplayer, also providing mp3 support through plugin package. To replaced by xine 2 libs
    Packages: libxine1 libxine1-plugin

  • Office

  • Google Tools
    picasa – picture management tool by Google.
    google-desktop-linux – Google desktop for linux. It doesn’t have that fancy sidebar of the windows version, so it isn’t of much use for me.
    googleearth-package – tool for downloading Google Earth and creating a nice .deb package. If it only told you how to do so. After installing, type make-googleearth-package on a console to create the package. Ensure you have proper privileges and install using dpkg -i package_name.deb.
    ps: I really feel they should standardize package names for google things. To apt-get picasa and google desktop, you may have to add the Google Linux Software Repository to your apt sources.

  • Themes & Styles (KDE)
    gtk-qt-engine – enables both KDE and GTK based apps to share the same QT theme. A must have for KDE users if your choosen theme isn’t available to GTK. Well, a must have anyways.
    Some interesting additional styles for KDE 3.5
    Packages: kde-style-serenity kde-style-qtcurve kwin-style-knifty kwin-baghira

  • Themes & Styles (other)
    lxappearance – a tool for changing GTK styles. Useful for changing the style of applications that have to run with higher privileges, like the Synaptic Package Manager, if you use it together with sudo. i.e: sudo lxappearance 
    splashy – adds a nice bootsplash to your system without touching your kernel.
    Interesting themes for GTK
    Packages: gtk2-engines-qtcurve

  • Interoperabilty
    wine – The ubiquitous tool for porting emulating running your windows apps on linux. Has reached 1.0 state some months ago, has support for Windows XP themes and works really, really well. Under constant development, though.
    winetricks – A script with tricks and hacks to run applications which just wouldn’t work with a vanilla wine installation.
    mono – The .Net Framework for Linux. I still don’t know if there is a metapackage for downloading the entire library for a complete replacement of the .Net Framework. I usually install the following packages, as dependencies gets automatically resolved.
    Packages: mono-gmcs libmono2.0-cil libmono-winforms2.0-cil

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