Best Free Software for Ubuntu

I’ve been using Ubuntu since December 17th of last year.  So far these are my favorite programs that I’ve tried.  Keep in mind that they’re all free.  Some have a Windows equivalent, but some do not.  I’m using Ubuntu 11.10 with a GNOME desktop.

System Utilities:

  • Ubuntu Software Center: Really cool utility included with Ubuntu.  Just search for the software you want, click install, and it takes care of everything for you!  There are some paid programs you can buy in the directory, but lots of free options as well.  Most of the programs in this list can be installed with it.
  • Dropbox: Works just like the Windows version.  Put your stuff in the folder and it’s backed up and shared to each of your computers automatically.  This was incredibly helpful when my hard drive crashed in December.  See my Windows review for an extra 250 Mb of space on whatever OS you use!


  • phatch Ubuntu batch photo processing opening screenGIMP: I’ve used this program on Windows for around 2 years, and considering the price (free), it’s a great alternative to Photoshop and light-years ahead of Paint if you want something to compare it to.  Using the layers function is really where it shines, and I’ve done a few tutorials and articles about it mostly using the Windows version.  The Ubuntu version is nearly the same, although it seems a bit more polished for Linux.
  • Inkscape: A vector graphics drawing program with a lot of keyboard functionality.  If you’ve never worked with them before, vector graphics is very different than a GIMP-type program that works by editing the pixels themselves.  Everything works in lines or curves (vectors) instead of pixels and it can be scaled however you want.  I’ve written several articles about using Inkscape, especially relating to it’s ability to generate Gcode for my CNC router.
  • Phatch: A tool that allows you to edit photos as a batch process instead of one-by-one.  Great if you want to reduce the size of photos or add a watermark for you blog, like for example.

Video Editing:

  • Openshot Video Editor: Really good simple video editor similar to what comes with Windows XP by default.  Coming from XP, one difference seems to be that clips don’t automatically slide over when you insert a new one, but this isn’t too bad.  The “slicer” tool is really neat too.  After using the “Pitivi” editor that comes with Ubuntu, Openshot seems a lot better.

Engineering (making/hacking):

  • Draftsight:  Although this program had a few issues when I first tried it, they seem to be fixed now (see my Ubuntu Draftsight review), Draftsight is quite similar to AutoCAD and extremely useful for generating or editing .dxf files before sending to my CNC router.  Even the text commands and many keyboard shortcuts will be quite familiar to ACAD users!
  • Arduino IDE:  I haven’t used this except to open it for Ubuntu, but I’m glad it’s available since I have one of these chips.  The GUI looks similar to the Windows version.


  • Quake Live: Just like Windows, it plays in your browser.  Mindless FPS fragging at it’s best.
  • hedgewars game for UbuntuHedgewars: Very similar to Worms for a lot of different systems.  At it’s core, it’s an artillery-style game where you control the angle of your “cannon” and the power and try to shoot the enemy.  In this one, though, you’re a team of hedgehogs and there are all kinds of variations in weaponry from the powerful “mellon bomb” to accessories such as girders and parachutes.
  • Battle for Wesnoth: I’ve yet to play this for Ubuntu, but the Windows version is a really interesting and addictive turn based strategy/role playing game.  If it’s anything like the Windows version, don’t install this if you have anything important to do.


  • Empathy IM client: Consolidate all your IM clients into one with this tool.  If you use Gchat, Facebook, AIM or several other tools, all you have to do is to sign on to this program and it logs on to each in a single client.  Also, if you have several accounts (at least with Gchat) it’ll sign on to each one at the same time.

So those are my favorite programs for Ubuntu so far.  Be sure to check out the other articles about my conversion to Ubuntufrom Windows XP!

Draftsight for Ubuntu screenshot

Draftsight for Ubuntu. Looks kind of like AutoCAD.

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