While Windows and Mac OS X are still the leading operating systems on the market, Linux and its many distributions have grown and improved considerably over the past several years, as well. One of the best Linux distributions is Ubuntu, and the latest versions are not only good – they’re actually better than Windows and Mac OS X in many ways.
No longer is it the clunky OS that is hard to install and even harder to keep running – it’s now basically a one-click install and use operating system that can easily be used as your main OS if all you’re doing on your computer is browse the Web, chat, watch movies and listen to music, check your email, write documents and do other tasks that don’t require specialized software.
If you choose to install Ubuntu as your main OS, here are a few apps (or packages) that you should definitely install and try out – they’ll make your life easier and your Ubuntu experience much better:
Firefox ships with Ubuntu and is the default browser, but if for some reason it’s not there or you removed it (older versions were a bit unstable), you should definitely reinstall it and give it another go. As of version 10, Firefox is very stable and fast, and with the many plugins and themes it has available (most of which are free), it’s the best browser you can find – the ability to surf the Net without being afraid of viruses, Trojans and other malware (using NoScript and AdBlock Plus) alone is worth it.
Chrome (or Chromium)
If you like listening to music, there’s really no better player for Linux than Amarok – this thing simply rocks. It’s got all the features you can think of, and new ones can be added using one of the dozens of plugins from the community. The interface is nice, as well – it reminds a lot of iTunes, actually. If you haven’t tried it yet or tried a version older than 2.4, be sure to install it again – you won’t be disappointed.
Just as Amarok is the best music player, so is SMPlayer the best video player. It’s basically a front GUI for MPlayer (which installs along with it), which as you may or may not know, is the best video player on any platform. It can play most of the video files out there, has a nice interface that supports skins, and it plays nicely with Linux and the various video card drivers – perfect for worry-free movie watching.
Ubuntu Restricted Extras
If you haven’t installed the Ubuntu Restricted Extras packages, you should do so at once – these packages include some important codecs and apps (like Adobe Flash and mp3 decoders) that Ubuntu can’t have installed by default for legal reasons. It’s perfectly legal to install them yourself, so be sure to do so right after the OS finished installing.
Wine (aka WineHQ)
If you like Ubuntu but can’t move to it because you have some Windows apps that you really like or simply need, Wine can solve that problem. Wine is a well-known package that lets you run Windows applications like you would on a Windows installation – it’s pretty amazing when you see it in action, and the list of supported apps is very, very long – even Photoshop CS5 and Crysis (a video game) work fine, so chances are high your favorite app will, too.
There are plenty of other apps that I would recommend for an Ubuntu user, but the above ones are definitely the most important when it comes to a good experience with the OS – be sure to at least try them out – you don’t have anything to lose, since they’re free, after all.