3 Must-Have Apps for Any Linux OS, And My Preferences

posted in: Linux | 14

Kate text editor for KDE

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different GNU/Linux distributions available right now. They are all different in terms of used kernel versions, desktop environments, window managers and set of applications. But all of them have something in common. Whatever OS you use, you must have following three types of applications.

Luckily, most Linux distributions include these applications by default, but you also should know the options.


Any GNU/Linux operating system is like a Russian doll. The most central part of it is the kernel. This is Linux itself. Then comes the GNU part of the OS, which is a set of tools on top of the kernel. These tools allow you to make some basic functions. Then, the X-server comes, which is responsible for the graphical part of your desktop. The next layer is a window manager. And finally, facing you directly, is Desktop environment: KDE, GNOME, XFCE, LXDE or something else. Some distributions, though, do not have DE included, but only leave you with a window manager option.

Whatever the external layers of the Russian doll are, there are some cases when you need to dive to the level below the X-server, and run some command directly in the OS. A terminal or terminal emulator is the way to do so.

There are different types of terminal emulators available. X-server, for example, includes X-Terminal. More sophisticated options are Konsole or Yakuake in KDE, GNOME Terminal or Guake in GNOME, and so on. The difference between them, apart from different DEs, is their location on the screen. While Konsole and GNOME terminal are normal windows, Guake and Yakuake are drop-down terminals, which can be minimized into the stripe at the top of the screen.

My personal preference here is just a normal terminal window.

Text editor

Whatever distribution you use, you may need to edit some text, being it a configuration file, or some personal notes, or maybe some complex document.

There are different types of editors available, from command-line based Vi to GUI tools like LibreOffice or OpenOffice Writer. The other difference here is the functionality of text editors. They can be quite simple like Kate or Gedit, a little bit more advanced like KWord, or a full-scope word processor like LibreOffice Writer.

My personal preferences here are Kate/Gedit for basic text processing, plus LibreOffice Writer for serious documents.

File manager

A file manager is a tool to browse your file system and do some actions with it: copy or move files, create directories and so on.

Generally speaking, there are 2 major types of file managers: those that work with single folders at each moment of time and 2-pane managers, although some file managers can switch between those two modes easily.

Most desktop environments have a default file manager. Most often, this is Nautilus in GNOME, Dolphin in KDE or Thunar in XFCE. But the choice is wider. For example, you can use Konqueror as a file manager in KDE too.

Separately, I’d like to mention an old-style classic: the file manager for terminal. Midnight Commander is a leader in here.

I personally don’t have preferences among file managers, and use whatever the default manager in the OS is.

Of course, you can add more tools that you can’t live without in your favourite OS: browsers, instant messengers, multimedia players or graphical editors. They are all important. What are your preferences here?

14 Responses

  1. Isaac

    My three must-have hardware devices in my laptop:

    Now a days, laptops have a ton of hardware options, but I can’t live without these three:

    1. Display, sometimes I don’t use it, specially with wrong-configured X servers, I like the ones that have true 8-bit colors
    2. Keyboard, or some sort of input device, my favorite is the qwerty but I here there is a braille option, I love the ones with an included carriage-return key
    3. CPU, specially the one with the math processor, it’s really handy!!!

    What other hardware devices you can’t live without?

  2. Tavis J. Hampton

    @Isaac What you perceive as useless might actually benefit someone new to Linux. Rather than mock it, you could simply just move on.

  3. Michael Rudas

    My favorite add-in file manager is “Xfe”. It works fine under every DE I’ve used it with and can be configured in a variety of ways, primarily as a dual-pane file manager (like “Midnight Commander”), but with an optional tree view as well. It has its own basic graphics libraries, so the look-and-feel is consistent across DEs. It’s in most repositories. It most closely resembles the Windows FM “xplorer2” which I also use quite a bit.

  4. Isaac

    Oh, sorry about that, I thought if somebody is so “new to Linux” that manages to install it (or stumbles upon it) and can’t figure out where the file manager is, might as well be completely new to the computing world, in such case, I would rather suggest to read an introduction to the specific distribution he/she finds him/herself working with, for example: http://www.linuxnewbieguide.org/content/video-tutorial-ubuntu-desktop-basics I meant it as a joke, but I give it to you, it’s sarcastic, I apoligize for that, but if you allow me, the title is missleading, it should be something like: “3 Must-Have Apps for Any usefull work with your favorite OS”

  5. Tavis J. Hampton

    If your comment needed an apology, I wouldn’t have approved it. You’re entitled to your opinion and your sarcasm. I was just offering another perspective. Many people who read this may not have used Linux at all, much less installed it and seen any of the file managers or other software.

    I could be wrong, but I believe the author was trying to highlight the variety of choices that Linux offers and also attempting to get readers to share their own preferences, as Michael did.

  6. CK

    Isaac that made me laugh. My thoughts exactly. Anybody who is taking the step to install Linux is going to use the terminal, a text editor, and file manager. They all come bundled with the OS and the versions recommended in the article are indeed the very same programs already pre-installed.

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