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Some Useful Linux Programs

by Michael Burton

Many new Linux users believe that once they have installed Linux, they have everything they will ever need. Indeed, most Linux distributions do come with a lot of applications already installed, but that doesn't mean everything you need is there, or that alternatives to installed applications don't exist.

Once I install the latest version of Linux Mint, I run a shell script I have created to install many other applications. This web page presents to you many of the applications I use that are not pre-installed.

Agave (Graphics)

Whether you create Internet content or just like to fancy up your desktop, Agave is a handy program to have.

Agave is an application that allows you to select an initial color and generate a variety of different colorschemes from that color. The primary audience of this application is graphic designers (and particularly web designers) though it can be used for anything where you might need to pick several colors that go well together, such as painting rooms in your house.

Once you have a set of colors you are happy with, you can copy their numeric value to the system clipboard by pointing at a color, right-clicking and selecting 'Copy'. You can then paste that number to any application that will accept text numbers.

Bleachbit (System Tools)

If you want to maintain as much free space as possible on your computer, or if you are just obsessive compulsive, BleachBit can help you with that task. It is a program that can remove unnecessary files from your computer. BleachBit is a fast and safe system cleaner. By checking boxes in the application, you can remove unnecessary files such as cache, logs, cookies, recently used file lists and more. BleachBit can be run either as root user or as a normal user.

BleachBit can also securely wipe files and even wipe entire disks. It can overwrite specific files to hide their content, wipe free disk space to hide content of previously deleted files and wipe memory to remove data stored in RAM (such as passwords and web pages).

disks (System | Preferences | Hardware)

The disks utility may already be in your distribution, but is one of those applications that just kind of sit in the corner, waiting to be invited to dance. disks tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the mass storage devices attached to your computer.

disks can tell you what temperature your drive is running at, how much of the drive has been used and can provide information about the firmware in the drive that controls the dirve.

disks will also allow you to format a disk, benchmark the disk, create a disk image and restore a disk from a disk image.

Filezilla (Internet)

FileZilla is a full-featured FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client with an easy-to-use GUI. Transfering files between systems is as simple as dragging and dropping. Filezilla makes short work of web site maintenance for web masters. It allows you to copy, delete or remove files and copy, delete or remove file directories.

Filezilla also supports copying, deleting or removing hidden files, that is, files whose name starts with a period (.).

Since I maintain five web sites, I use Filezilla on a daily basis, especially during the summer when I am updating car club web pages on a daily basis. Doing this kind of maintenance from the command line would be sheer agony.

grsync (System Tools)

grsync is a simple graphical interface for the rsync command line program. It currently supports only a limited set of the most important rsync features, but can be used effectively for local directory synchronization.

grsync provides a more intuitive method then the command line 'rsync' command for backing up your data files. Anything that can make this chore easier has to be welcome, doesn't it?

galculator (Accessories)

Ever since I got my HP programmer's calculator back in the 70's, I've been a big fan of Reverse Polish Notation (RPN). I even went so far as to become proficient in the Forth computer language, as it has an RPN-based syntax. I also wrote an RPN-based hours/minutes/seconds calculator of my own. So when I have a new operating system, one of the first things I do is find a calculator I am comfortable with.

galculator is a scientific calculator. It supports different number bases (DEC/HEX/OCT/BIN) and angles bases (DEG/RAD/GRAD) and features a wide range of mathematical (basic arithmetic operations, trigonometric functions, etc) and other useful functions (memory, etc) at the moment. galculator can be used in algebraic mode as well as in Reverse Polish Notation (RPN).

HandBrake (Sound & Video)

HandBrake is a versatile, easy-to-use tool for converting DVDs and other videos into H.264, XViD, or Ogg formatted media. It's particularly useful for making videos that are compatible with portable video devices such as the Apple iPod/iPhone or Sony PSP.

HandBrake can provide between 6 and 10 times space saving when converting files into H.264, so an 8GB DVD may end up as a 1.2GB (or smaller) .MKV or .M4V file.

sigil (Office)

Sigil is a free, open source, multi-platform ebook editor. It is designed to edit books in ePub format. Some sigil features are full EPUB 2 spec support, multiple views, WYSIWYG editing in Book View, Table of Contents generation and support for importing of EPUB and HTML files, images, and style sheets.

The two defacto standards for publishing documents to the Internet are PDF and EPUB. LibreOffice supports exporting documents to PDF and sigil takes care of publishing documents in EPUB format. There are other EPUB editors out there, but I like this one and can recommend it.

SimpleScreenRecorder (Sound & Video)

SimpleScreenRecorder is a feature-rich screen recorder that supports X11 and OpenGL. It has a Qt-based graphical user interface. It can record the entire screen or part of it, or record OpenGL applications directly. The recording can be paused and resumed at any time. Many different file formats and codecs are supported.

Many YouTube content providers use SimpleScreenRecorder to do much of their YouTube recording. As a matter of fact, I found out about this program from a YouTube video by Joe Collins (Ezee Linux). He uses it for the majority of his videos.

SimpleScreenRecorder can also be used to capture videos on your screen, but I don't recommend doing that. Use the Chrome web browser instead.

terminator (System Tools)

Terminator is an efficient way of filling a large area of screen space with terminals. The user can have multiple terminals in one window and use key bindings to switch between them.

At first blush, this may seem to be a frivolous application, but if you ever have to ssh into several systems and perform the same command in each system, you would not think that. Terminator has an option called 'Broadcast All', which allows you to type a command in one terminal window and have that command echoed in all the other terminal windows. This saves a boatload of typing and time.

htop (command line)

Htop is an ncursed-based command line process viewer similar to top, but it allows one to scroll the list vertically and horizontally to see all processes and their full command lines. Tasks related to processes (killing, renicing) can be done without entering their PIDs.

ImageMagick (command line)

ImageMagick is a software suite for the command line that can create, edit, and compose bitmap images. It can read, convert and write images in a variety of formats (over 100) including DPX, EXR, GIF, JPEG, JPEG-2000, PDF, PhotoCD, PNG, Postscript, SVG, and TIFF. Use ImageMagick to translate, flip, mirror, rotate, scale, shear and transform images, adjust image colors, apply various special effects, or draw text, lines, polygons, ellipses and Bézier curves.

All manipulations can be achieved through shell commands as well as through an X11 graphical interface (display). The GUI can be invoked from the command line by typing 'display-im6'.

Obtaining These Programs

For Debian-based systems such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint, you can obtain most of these programs from the repositories by using your upload manager or Synaptic. If the program is not in your repositories, do a Google search for the program and append 'PPA' to the search terms. This will instruct you on how to add the program to your repository list with a Personal Program Archive.

For those of you who use RPM-based or other kinds of repositories, you are kind of on your own, as I have little experience in those systems.