If you read user opinions, Microsoft Windows is losing popularity and favour quickly and users are seeking out alternatives to the software giant’s operating system thanks to their inclusion of adverts and system-wide tracking software. One of the alternatives to Windows is Linux, which has come along in leaps and bounds when it comes to useability and user friendliness. And, thanks to an enormously passionate userbase, alternative applications exist for almost everything you’ll find on Windows too. Here are some of the biggest and most important ones.
It’s only natural to start off our list with an alternative to Microsoft Office, the giant Office and productivity application that runs natively on Windows. LibreOffice is the most popular alternative for Linux, and in fact has versions for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. In the LibreOffice suite you’ll find:
- Writer, an alternative to Word
- Calc, an alternative to Excel
- Impress, an alternative to PowerPoint
- Draw, an alternative to Visio
- Base, an alternative to Access
- Math, a formula editor
LibreOffice is completely free and open source and is actually a successor to the popular OpenOffice, which got its last update in 2014. It fully supports all the Microsoft Office file types and can read and edit them interchangeably.
Perhaps the one downside of LibreOffice is the lack of Microsoft Outlook alternatives, but there are other options for that! If you’re a student studying something like Aston University’s MSC Finance and Management, you’ll definitely need something like LibreOffice.
From the same company that creates the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird provides an excellent alternative to Microsoft Outlook on Linux. It’s another free and open-source application and is supported by a huge range of free plugins and addons to enhance it in any way you need – a feature that Outlook is yet to take full advantage of.
Thunderbird has rich email, calendar and address book components, and even supports RSS feeds so you can keep up to date with news from your favourite news and information sites. You can add email accounts from all the major providers too, like Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook and even Office 365.
For those who work with PDF files, this application is a must. It’s completely free and offers the equivalent features of the paid versions of Adobe Acrobat and Foxit Reader like annotations and binding of documents. It provides support for not only PDF, but also for TIFF, XPS and ODT document types. The app layout focuses on getting things done, with a minimalist interface, but with powerful features under the hood.
Another application from Adobe that is often missed when Windows users make the switch to Linux is Photoshop. Thankfully, there’s an alternative there too. GIMP (The GNU Image Manipulation Project) is another open-source alternative to its Windows counterpart. It supports many of the same tools that Adobe Photoshop supports and once again comes in at the unbeatable price point of free.
There are many customisations and plugins available for the application to enhance it and make it even more useful, so whether you need a tool to resize some images and adjust some photographs or you need a more powerful set of features for image manipulation, GIMP will have you covered. There is even a modified version called “GIMPShop” which aims to mirror many of the menus and options from Photoshop to make Adobe Photoshop users feel at home.
GIMP is also available for Windows if you’re so inclined.
If you don’t need anything as complex and powerful as GIMP, then a perfect replacement for Microsoft Paint on Windows is Krita. It’s definitely more feature rich than Paint, but it doesn’t have the steep learning curve that GIMP or Photoshop has. If you just need basic image tools then Krita is for you – and of course, it’s free and open source!
Following on with more Adobe alternatives, our next suggestion is InkScape. As with all the other entries in this list, it’s free and open source and is gaining in popularity amongst both Windows and Linux users thanks to its intuitive design and comprehensive set of features.
InkScape provides a powerful alternative to Adobe Illustrator or even CorelDRAW for those looking to produce and edit vector graphics. If you’re familiar with either of these paid applications, you’ll be at home in InkScape in no time.
If you make use of note-taking apps on Windows like OneNote, Evernote, or Notion, then you’re spoilt for choice with Linux alternatives. Joplin is the app of choice in this space thanks to its comprehensive set of features, like markdown support, support for attachments and its availability cross-platform – and it’s free and open source.
No matter what notes you’re looking to take, Joplin has you covered – plan notes, to-do lists or markdown. Joplin can also use cloud services like Dropbox and OneDrive to save your notes to the cloud, both as a form of backup, and so you can use them on any device thanks to its support for Linux, Windows, Mac OSX, Android and even iOS.
What If You Just Can’t Find an Alternative?
If your specific application doesn’t have a Linux alternative or if you need a piece of proprietary software that your company uses, it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. There are different ways you can still run your Windows software on Linux.
The first is using a virtual machine through software like Oracle’s VirtualBox, which allows you to run a full Windows operating system on top of your Linux computer. It’s not always the most convenient if you need to share files between applications, but it does work.
The preferred way is with the emulation software called WiNE which allows you to install many Windows applications just like you would on Windows pretty seamlessly. This works really well if you need business applications like SAP, where you have to use their first party client.