Going Linux

   for computer users who just want to use Linux to get things done

Linux Software Equivalents in Business

Updated: 19-Jan-2014

The Linux operating system and its relatives, BSD and Unix, have powered the Internet for years while the adoption of Linux on home desktop computers has lagged far behind Windows and OSX. (NetMarketShare) Or has it?

Linux is actually more popular that it would appear at first glance. In recent years, the introduction of consumer products based on Linux have fueled the popularity of the Linux operating system and Open Source software applications among average, everyday computer users. Those users may not know, or care, they are using Open Source software. All Chromebooks and Android devices, and many smart televisions, network attached storage (NAS) drives, security systems, digital video recorders (DVR) and more, use Linux to power them, but the manufacturers of those devices do not advertise that fact. As a result, Linux is very popular. Many users are simply unaware that their favorite computing device is a Linux computer.

One company's efforts to increase Open Source adoption

Troy R. Schulz, of Home & Business Computer Services in Appleton Wisconsin, USA is a long-time listener to the Going Linux podcast and was higlighted in a recent episode. (Episode 233 Linux Software Equivalents in Business) Troy and the employees at his shop are doing their part to increase awareness of Open Source and Linux by providing to consumers and businesses, computers pre-installed with the software. Troy wrote to us in an email, "Our shop has been converting many customers to Linux and a question that comes up a lot is, 'What kind of software can I get to replace what I was using before?' Not stuff that's necessarily suited to one particular area of business. Stuff that many people use in a variety of businesses."

Troy provided an example of the kinds of things he tends to see in his shop. "We have a private school with about 150 student PC's and 20-30 teacher computers. They are on a tight budget and are having trouble coming up with the money to replace their antiquated XP machines and Windows 2003 server. However, they absolutely MUST have Active Directory and don't want to lose it." He continues, "... they think they may want to keep the server, but upgrade all the workstations to Linux. They were thinking of formatting their existing computers and installing... Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or Suse Linux for Education. But, again, they need to be able to authenticate to an Active Directory server. They need their home folders, shared resources, etc. I've been looking at a product that can be installed on a Windows server that sort of acts as a layer and allows Unix, Mac, LInux, iOS, and Android systems to authenticate to AD. It's called Centrify. They offer it for free, or they have a paid option if you want support." Although not a 100% Linux and Open Source solution, there is little doubt that this approach would save the school significant money on licenses for their students' desktop computers.

Recommendations: Substituting Open Source for the proprietary software

Troy provided us with a list of proprietary software used by his customers on their old Windows computers and the Open Source software they recommend and provide as replacements. Here is his list:

Windows Application
Open Source Application
Adobe Acrobat Reader
People want to be able to view PDF files quickly and easily. We usually recommend KPDF, but if someone uses Google Apps for Business they can view PDF's right in their Chrome Browser.
Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW!
Some of our customers (including myself) do vector graphic design. Some are sign shops. Honestly, most use Corel Graphics Suite, but many are begging Corel to make a Linux version, or at the very least a Wine port for it. Some have elected to use Inkscape.
Adobe Photoshop, Corel PhotoPaint
Gimp, Cinepaint, MyPaint
Again, some of our graphic design customers and photographers need to be able to edit photos. Some actually paint pictures for advertising.
Microsoft Publisher, Adobe Pagemaker
Folks in offices that have gotten used to MS Publisher (most) or Pagemaker (not too many) tend to like Scribus. The only beef they usually have is you can't import your Publisher files into it. But, I always point out that you can't import Publisher files into ANYTHING except Publisher. They should be using a real page layout program.
Adobe Lightroom
This is a really big one for a couple photographer customers we have. One of them who is just getting started has no problem using Darktable and really likes it.
AIM, ICQ, YahooChat, MSN Messenger, mIRC, Trillian, GoogleTalk, MySpace Chat, Facebook Chat, Skype
Pidgeon, Empathy, ChatZilla
There are a large variety of chat programs on the market. Most are specifically geared toward that chat service who provides the chat program. However, there are some programs, like Trillian, which will let you chat with people on multiple chat services all through one program/interface. The closest equivalent I've found, that is the most user friendly, is Pidgeon.
Windows Media Player, iTunes, RealPlayer, WinAmp (music players)
Banshee, Rhythmbox, Audacious, Amarok
WMP and iTunes are just a pain. iTunes is horribly slow. Real Player is not reliable at all. WinAmp is fantastic. Of the Linux equivalents, most of our people like Rhythmbox the best so far. Many people who work in offices like to listen to music on their computers instead of having a radio or CD player on their desk while they work.
iViewMedia Pro, Adobe Lightroom, Picasa
digiKam, fSpot, Shotwell, Darktable, Picasa
We are specifically talking about photo management and organization. We've had business and home users that all want something to do this easily. So far, most people have liked digiKam and Picasa the best.
Microsoft - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Math
LibreOffice Suite, OpenOffice Suite
These should be obvious. We put LibreOffice not only on the Linux machines we sell, but on all the new Windows machines too.
MS Frontpage, Adobe Dreamweaver, MS Expressionweb, Sharepoint
Bluefish, KompoZer, Nvu
Not too many people use Frontpage anymore since it's discontinued but there are a couple that still fiddle with the last version that was out. For those that used to use Dreamweaver, most like Nvu the best overall. It's available for Win, Mac, and Lin.
Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari
Firefox, Opera, Chromium, Google Chrome for Linux
IE just plain sux bricks. Safari is slow. We put Chrome on ALL our Windows machines. We put Firefox and Google Chrome on our Linux machines. We usually use Google Chrome instead of Chromium because the brand is already familiar to our customer base and because we are Google Apps for Business resellers.
MS Outlook, Windows Mail, Windows LiveMail, Eudora
Evolution, Thunderbird
For those in a business environment, Evolution is a comfortable transition if they have been used to Outlook since it looks so much alike. However, that being said, most of our customers have loved Thunderbird. Plus, if they are Google Apps customers there are a variety of plug-ins to add Google Apps Synchronization support for mail, calendar, and contacts.There are several plug-ins we always put in a Thunderbird install (ESC to close, Minimize to Tray, Google Calendar, Google Task Sync, Google Contacts sync, and more).
MS Paint
TuxPaint, MyPaint
Believe it or not, this tends to be a hot spot with some customers, both business and home users. They don't want to lose MS Paint! Oh my goodness, that would be the end of the world! Puh-lease. Spare me. While Tux Paint is suited more for small children you'd be surprised how many adults like it. However, a more professional program with more features and the one I prefer is MyPaint.
Nero Burning Rom, Roxio Creator, ImgBurn
If you've ever used ImgBurn on Windows I think it totally beats everything else available. It's so simple to use, it's very fast, and it just plain works! However, Brasero on Linux is the same. It's really the best alternative.
NewzCrawler RSS Feed Reader
Akgregator, Feedly App for Chrome
Honestly, I used to use Google Reader and was very VERY put out when they closed down the project! So were many many other people. One company stepped up and worked with Google to take over handling Google's old customer's feeds. That would be Feedly. They have apps for almost all major devices and platforms....except Linux. However, you can use feedly in your web browser and it works great! We usually install the Feedly app in Chrome.
Notepad, TextPad, Notepad++
gEdit, Kate
Almost everyone uses Windows Notepad for one thing or another. For those businesses that are trying to troubleshoot website page issues they want a text editor that shows line numbers so they can more easily debug their page designs. We usually recommend gEdit
Partition Magic, Acronis, many many others....
Being a computer support shop, we have to partition discs all the time. There really just isn't anything better than gParted! It seems to be the easiest and most user friendly, and they even have a LiveCD you can run the application off of while you are building or rebuilding your system.
Quicken, Microsoft Money
GNUcash, KMyMoney
Honestly, most businesses still use Quickbooks. There really just isn't an equivalent out there that I have found that does what they do the way they do it. There's a reason they are an industry standard. However, for those customers that need something for their home or some small business finances, most have opted to use GNUcash. Some have like KMyMoney though.
Variety of torrent readers....
Ktorrent, Transmission
There are so many torrent readers out there that people use to download or share files and video presentations. Most of the customers on Windows usually use BitTorrent. I have found that most people like Ktorrent the best, though.
CinePlayer, WinDVD
VLC, Totem
We have home and business users that tend to watch a lot of DVD's on their computers. Some of our customers are financial planners who record some of their seminars and want to present them or share them with their customers. They burn their presentations to DVD's. Some actually want movies at their desk while they work. There simply is no better multimedia player than VLC. It plays just about every media format on the planet and just plain works. To make the transition more comfortable we always install the Windows Media Player 12 skin on it after installation. This way it looks a lot like the old Media Player they were used to before.
Some of our customer are into music production. Or, they are editing audio from seminars they have done for their MP3 streams to their customers. Both kinds of customers love Audacity both on Windows and Linux platforms.
Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premier
Cinelerra, Kino, OpenShot, VideoLan Movie Creator
Those of our customers that are actually producing their video presentations or home movies usually ask for an alternative to Windows Movie Maker. So far, they seem to like Cinelarra or OpenShot the best.
There are a ton of FTP programs out there. While there are several open source equivalents, most people whether on Windows or Linux like FileZilla the best.
Variety of music ripping programs....
Sound Juicer
We've got some customers that want to rip music to MP3's to install on the drives of the systems that manage their hold music on their phone systems. Or, they like to listen to the music while they work but don't like having to swap CD's all the time.
Variety of programs for tethering a dSLR camera to a computer for remote shooting....
Another thing our photographer customer want is a way to tether their dSLR camera to a laptop so they can do tethered shooting and see their images on the screen after. I am also a photographer and have searched for the same thing. While there better, more seamless solutions, those usually involve spending a bunch of money on special hardware interface devices and special software and wireless modules, etc. You can plug your camera into your Linux laptop with a USB cable and use Entangle. It took me a long time to find this program, but it works great, at least with the Canon camera I and a couple of our customers use.
Variety of scanning software....
Many times you buy a scanner or MFC device it comes with the manufacturer's scanning software. Much of it is bloated and very slow. Other times, please will just use a TWAIN driver of some sort and scan directly into the program they wish to edit the image in (for example Corel PhotoPaint or Gimp). Xsane is, in my opinion, the best stand alone scanning software available.
Windows Remote Desktop (MSTSC)
KRDC, Vinagre Remote Desktop Viewer
Many many of our business customers need to be able to remote connect to a desktop computer or Windows server back at the office. While a couple use VNC, most use Microsoft Terminal Services. The best RDC program I've found on Linux so far is KRDC. It seems to be the most compatible, reliable, and fastest.
HP Universal Print Driver
HP Universal Print Driver for Linux
Instead of downloading a specific driver for a specific model of HP printer, HP has been offering a "Universal Print Driver" which is supposed to allow your computer to connect to and use MOST of their printers using this single driver. It seems to work pretty darn well. HP also happens to be a really big Linux supporter so they offer this and many other drivers for Linux on their site. While you can download the latest version "for your particular distro" I have had better luck installing the latest version directly from their site.
Windows Vista/7 Post It Note Widget
Tomboy Notes
I can't believe the number of customers who actually use those desktop widgets - especially the post it notes. If they have to get a new computer they complain they don't want to lose their notes. The closest equivalent I can find is Tomboy Notes and it's full featured and works great!
Adobe Encore, DVDfab
Handbrake, Make MKV for Linux
Many of our financial planning customers who like to record their seminars to share with others, want to convert their video to a format that can be viewed on their iPads. Many of our home users want to save their ripped movies to their iPads. Handbrake really is the best solution for this.
Windows Backup
Back In Time, Deja Dup, Simple Backup
Customer both large and small, business and home, always ask what they can use for backup. Honestly I've had people use all three of the above listed apps and they all like them for one reason or another. Of course this also depends upon whether you want to initiate a simple backup yourself or to automate a backup on a schedule.
This has been sort of a sticky issue depending upon the customer's needs. For a lot of our business customers, when they buy a Windows server from us, I install VMware ESXi as the primary operating system and then install their Windows server(s) into it as virtual machines. This allows for easy expansion later on in case they need additional servers, they just virtualize it.They can remote manage their virtual machines using vSphere Client. There is even a vSphere Client app for iPad that works great too! However, some of our smaller customers just want to add another server (maybe SQL, Untangle, etc..) to their existing server. Or they want to virtualize another machine for some other special purpose. We always recommend VirtualBox in these cases. You can setup a customized Linux system to run VirtualBox in a manner similar to ESXi, but it just isn't as polished or easy to use. Keep in mind, VMware is Linux based anyway. ;-) Another thing you can do with either VMware or VirtualBox is to create virtual workstations on your virtualization server. You can then install Linux-based think client software on an old machine you have lying around or boot to a special think client flash drive and you now have a remote virtual desktop machine that runs right off your server.
Desktop Recorder
Many homes users, like gamers, use Fraps to record their gaming sessions to post and share on YouTube. However, we've had businesses that record desktop sessions when they are making how-to tutorials for their customers on how to do things on their computers.
Windows 8 Metro and/or Apple OS X Dock
Compiz, Cairo Dock
There are those that think that Windows 8 has a more polished look to it (but they still detest it and how it works), and there are those that love the beautiful, shiny, polished look to OS X and the dock interface. While Ubuntu has a sort of dock, it's just not quite the same as the 3D dock on a Mac.
Believe it or not, I've gotten more feedback on this from some of our business customers than from the home users. So, I can install Compiz on their systems and turn on several effects, like desktop cube and wobbly windows, or annotating on the screen with fire, etc.... This really blows them away since they like to show off to their colleagues. "Hey! I bet your computer can't do THIS!", that sort of thing. It's quite funny. I also may add Cairo dock for those users that like the Mac interface. I can make it look and work exactly like the Mac dock, or I can change the look of it in a variety of way. The dock can be flat, 3D, shiny, plain, bouncing icons, zooming icons, and so on and soforth.
I'd have to say, using Compiz and Cairo on my personal laptop has been the number one selling point that has gotten many customers to switch to Linux. They can see things they simple cannot do in a Windows or Mac computer and are just blown away. Many times it doesn't even matter if we give them the default installation of Ubuntu or Linux Mint without the effects. They are still just excited at that point to be using something new.
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