Reviewed: Top 15 must have Free Ubuntu Applications and Softwares till 2015

It has been 9 years I was introduced to the world of FOSS when I was in my graduation in Acharya Narendra Dev College, University of Delhi. It was very annoying actually, when our college decided that all of the official computer systems will run on Linux and Windows was restricted for use. However after initial resistance, we were quick to get accustomed to the ‘New Windows’ and everybody seems to be eager to learn the new OS. It was way back in 2006, and for the first time we understood there is a world outside Windows! There were a constant efforts by the Principal to make students aware why Ubuntu is better both technically and legally. The college even distributed free Ubuntu CDs for any one who want to install it in their own laptop or home PCs.

Well, I am not going into too much legality of Ubuntu and Windows, for me it is an experience of freedom, no licensing issue, no hassle of obtaining pirated copies of cracked Windows and Office from grey market or the torrent sites. Till the year 2012 I had both Ubuntu and Windows 7 installed side by side in my laptop. Since 2013, I have switched completely to Ubuntu deleting Windows forever from my laptop. The reason was now I can get all applications in Ubuntu which were earlier exclusive to Windows and was one of the greatest hindrance to bear with the later. So, here I am putting 15 most useful and best application softwares in Ubuntu, which I think I can not live without and made my switch over far more easier. I use many other applications in Ubuntu, but here I am putting only those which are of use for a general computer user.

Before reading through the next paras, let me tell you that I use Asus K52N laptop with AMD Turion 2.3 GHz 64 Bit Processor, 6 GB RAM (extended 2 GB). I have been using this laptop since December, 2011 and now have only Ubuntu 14.04 LTS GNOME installed.
1. WPS Office (an MS Office Clone with extra features)

WPS Office deserves to be the no. 1 application in Ubuntu which has made many users switch easily to Ubuntu. Lets be honest about it-MS Office Suite was the best Office Suite available in the market. But as it is said, all the best things comes at a price. It is not so in case of Ubuntu. It was originally developed as Kingsoft Office by a Chinese software firm but soon they released the english versions. WPS Office (formerly Kingsoft Office) is also available as Android App and S60 App since a long time and it is now available as Alpha version for Ubuntu and Windows. Though declared as Alpha version, I could not find any technical glitches as such.

Downloadable free of cost from their official website in just over 60 MB of .deb installer, you will be astonished to believe that you are actually running MS Office 2013 version. It not only boasts a superb interface and 100% compatibility with MS Office files, but I must say it is far ahead of MS Office as it has included the best of nearly all office suites available in the market. While the top bar is exact copy of MS Office, it has cleverly stealed the side bar formatting toolbar from Libre Office for which it was praised.

Well, it does not stop there, you can open several documents in just one application just like you do it in your firefox or chrome while browsing web. What impresses me more is the ability to present all the documents in single window side by side-which is very useful in proofreading or typing a document. And yes, WPS Office comes with a loads of online templates which it shows whenever you open the application. You can even manage backups of the file and revert to any saved changes made previously through its backup manager. This application is future of Office Suite and must be termed as father of all office suits available at the moment.

There are lots more feature which is beyond the scope of this article, so I recommend to install it and explore yourself. Following are few screenshots from this amazing application.


2. Firefox Web Browser (secured and trusted web browser)

We do not need any introduction to firefox web browser. It comes bundled with fresh installations of Ubuntu since I have been using it. Works same as Windows versions. I use all the extensions with no worries. Start up speed is far improved than its Windows version. What makes Firefox the unique browser from others is its security, privacy and plugins. It is integrated seemlessly to the Ubuntu and many GTK apps of Ubuntu are installed via Firefox browser only.

3. GIMP Editor (Photoshop equivalent app)

Photoshop is undoubtedly an amazing image manipulation software designed for Windows. Using Play on Linux you can easily install Photoshop in your Ubuntu which will download the required Wine and dependencies for you. But, I suggest give GIMP a try! Its free, its light and its near to Photoshop in most of its feature.


4. SM Player for Multimedia playback (advanced media player with wonderful UI)

For long years I used VLC Media Player, only reason I could think of is it is free and supports all formats..and of course I was unaware of its replacement. I read about its review on OMG Ubuntu, and then decided to go ahead with it. I was just amazed with the things this media player can do! Not only they worked on its superb eye candy interface which is not only simple and easy but they really worked hard on the decoding and handling videos. I always use the audio filter ‘extra stereo’ and just fell in love with this player. This media player supports sound up to 7.1 channel. Best thing is you can install plugins and make it a super media player. I use its YouTube browser and the videos run on this media player just as any other video file of which I can also edit its aspect ratio, filters and can also download it for offline watching. How nice! The media player is also available for Windows users.


5. Audacious Audio Player (lightweight audio player with superior sound quality)

It is the only Ubuntu app which I could not find any replacement. There are lots of other audio player available in Ubuntu like Rythmbox, Banshee, Amarok but this audio player is my favourite for its crystal clear sound and clean interface. Supporting lossless formats like FLAC, Audacious is one of the oldest native Ubuntu app and I hardly find any changes in its interface and performance. I think its simplicity is its biggest achievement.

6. Ubuntu Tweak Tool (advanced control on your ubuntu design)

Ubuntu Tweak Tool is available for both GNOME and UNITY versions. It gives you advanced control on how your OS treat you. You can change colours, fonts, change/install new themes of GTK, Windows and even define the commands for shortcuts. For eg. I had a water damage of my keypad and CTRL button would never work. I simply used the Ubuntu Tweak to replace the command of ‘Windows’ key to that of CTRL and it solved my problem.

This app is must have for all creative users who just can’t stand same interface everyday and want a personalized experience of their Ubuntu OS.

GNOME Tweak Tool:


UNITY Tweak Tool:


7.Play on Linux (automated installation of Windows softwares in Ubuntu)

Installing of Windows software is not impossible, thanks to the WINE windows layer developed to emulate Windows environment inside. Not all softwares are compatible with WINE but majority of Windows softwares like MS Office, Photoshops, Games are installable through Wine. Wine has many versions all of which are not compatible with all Windows Softwares. As a result, it became a hassleful exercise to install Windows softwares where users had to search online for the methods of installing the softwares which were more or less complex for a non-technical person. Play on Linux solves the problem for all non-technical users. You just need to have Play on Linux installed and the binary files of Windows Software on your hard disk or CD. Just run Play on Linux, select the software from its list and it will download the compatible Wine along with all dependencies required for the particular Windows software automatically for you. When it is done downloading the dependencies it will just ask you to locate the binary file and then relax, it will do it all for you. Installing Windows software was never so simple and easy without Play on Linux. And hence, it is a must have for all users who still want to use the Windows softwares and games from their Ubuntu.

8. Fragment Image Viewer (Light sized, fast, clean and high resolution image viewer

I have been using Shotwell for quite sometime when I came across this image viewer while reading a review about it. I installed it and was very much impressed with its clean interface and quick browsing through pictures. It does only what it is meant for-viewing pictures. I experienced the photographs also appeared richer in colour and sharper than other image viewers.

9. QPDF View (Advanced PDF Reader for Ubuntu)

I struggled a long time finding a replacement of the Adobe PDF Reader in Ubuntu. Even though Adobe PDF Reader was available for Ubuntu until last year when Adobe decided to discontinue its application for some unknown reasons, I must say the Ubuntu version of Adobe Reader was not user friendly at all and had very poor performance with each pages taking minutes to load completely. I was using Foxit PDF Reader for WIndows by running it on Wine and was very satisfied with its overall performance except few minor crashes while opening files, which would require restart of Wine. The reason is all the PDF readers available freely for Ubuntu did not have text highlight and comment function, which is very important for a person like me who need to read a lots of documents and mark important sentences for later use.

Well, finally Ubuntu managed to have its own native PDF reader which can be called a complete PDF Reader. I installed it few months back and quite satisfied with its performance. I believe it needs some more polishing in its usability, but overall it was able to provide the features of a professional PDF reader.

This yellow highlight is achieved by selecting the text area simultaneously pressing CTRL key

10. Pidgin Messenger (Chat client supporting Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype)

One of the oldest application of Ubuntu, Pidgin is known for the one place to chat with all of your friends. Just sync your accounts of facebook, gmail, skype, yahoo etc and you do not need to log in to all of the accounts separately or install separate messengers. However, to work with Skype, it also needs Skype to be installed and then it integrates with it. But I guess that is necessary for the video calls to work. I have been using Pidgin for all the years I have spent with Ubuntu and I just can't live without this app. There are many other alternatives to Pidgin available, but the easy synchronization with several accounts without any hassle and integration with Ubuntu GTK is what I like about it the most.

11. Blueman (Must have bluetooth manager which increases the bluetooth capabilities of Ubuntu)

Well, BlueMan used to be bundled with Ubuntu till few years back and then it is available as extra package to be downloaded. Ofcourse there is a bluetooth manager Ubuntu has replaced Blueman with, but it is not even near to what Blue Man is capable of. Blueman increases the bluetooth capacities of your Ubuntu many folds like connecting your phone as modem using bluetooth, or want to receive calls or answering calls using laptop's bluetooth, you can even play music from your mobile directly on laptop's speakers.

12. Transmission (Clean, Fast and Simple Torrent Client)

Transmission is a simple torrent client and it does only what is is designed for. No irritating advertisements forcing you to upgrade and no compromise on speeds. You can determine the downloading speed, uploading speed, seed ratio and all those tweaks which you could have imagined. And its free! There are several torrent clients now available in Ubuntu which are derived from transmission.

13. Google Chrome Apps(specially for apps and games)

Google Chrome works seemlessly in Ubuntu machines and it supports nearly all Chrome Apps. Best thing there are lots of offline apps and games which you can download from Chrome Apps Store and they integrate with Ubuntu as any other app. This also allows Ubuntu users to play Angry Birds game offline and install applications like Hangouts for video chat with Google users. I think Google Apps greatly increase the capabilities of Ubuntu and it is must have for all Ubuntu machines.

Google Chrome is not available in Ubuntu App Store and you may need to visit Google Chrome website from here and download .deb file and then install using Ubuntu Software Centre. Then you will be required to visit Chrome Apps Store and install Chrome Apps.

14. PDF Master (Modify PDF Files)

This is an all in one PDF modification application. You can edit contents of a PDF file, extract pages, add pages and many more.  Although, it used to be listed in Software Centre till a year ago, they removed it from their isting. However, you can still install it by downloading the .deb installer from here

 15. Geary Mail (Email client with powerful synchronization and awesome interface)

For long time, Ubuntu users depended on thunderbird and evolution for their emailing needs but both of them had their own limitation and for an Outlook user it only adds up to frustation. However, Geary Mail changes it all. Geary works out of the box when it comes to speed, user interface and the complete synchronization of folders from Gmail, Outlook and other IMAP servers. I just loved it. Geary is originally designed for GNOME users, however it should work in UNITY based Ubuntu systems as well.


Well this is not all. Most of the applications discussed above are also available for Windows users as well. Most of the Windows applications are now increasingly becoming available for Ubuntu such as Nero Disk Writer, Google Earth, Skype, Blender to name a few. The very purpose of writing this article is to show the readers that switching off from Windows is not as messy as you believe. Ubuntu is a very easy to use, free, boasts an awesome GUI, great update tool and installation softwares. Try it once and you will know the difference!

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