September 17, 2013

It's All About Choice: Alternate Applications For Your Kubuntu / NetrunnerOS / Linux Mint KDE Computer

We are very lucky here in KDE-land. By the grace and talent of hundreds thousands of developers and maintainers, we have excellent default applications that are carefully packaged together and installed on your KDE-based system. Everything one needs to get the most out of their computer in order to get things done. All of this is available to us via the wonderful concept of Open Source.

By default we have multimedia applications, office applications, games, email and PIM applications, vast system management tools and utilities. Not to mention web browsers and...well, you get the idea. Add to the mix the vast repositories maintained by the wonderful folks at Canonical, as well as the vast number of applications available via various Launchpad repositories.

Many times new people do not know that there are, in fact, many different applications available outside of the 'stock' apps that come with a typical default Linux install utilizing the KDE Plasma Desktop. Here are a few that you might want to look at for comparison's sake. Who knows? You might even prefer some of these over the pre-installed default selections.

The Incumbent (and very worthy) Audio Player: Amarok 

The Challengers:


Tomahawk Music Player - Forward Thinking, And Social
From the project's website:
  • Tomahawk is a music player that fundamentally changes the way music is consumed and shared.
  • It decouples the name of the song from the source it was shared from - and fulfills the request using all of your available sources.
  • This creates a universal translation layer across music repositories, streaming services and geographic territories.
Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tomahawk/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tomahawk


Clementine Media Player
From the project's website:
Clementine is a modern music player and library organizer. Clementine is a multiplatform music player. It is inspired by Amarok 1.4, focusing on a fast and easy-to-use interface for searching and playing your music.
Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:
Simply select the appropriate download from the project's Download Page.

The Incumbent Video Player: Dragon Player

The Challengers:


Screenshot of VLC doing it's thing

From the project's website:
VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.
  • Simple, fast and powerful media player
  • Plays everything: Files, Discs, Webcams, Devices and Streams
  • Plays most codecs with no codec packs needed: 
    • MPEG-2, DivX, H.264, MKV, WebM, WMV, MP3... 
  • Runs on all platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Unix...
  • Completely Free, 0 spyware, 0 ads and no user tracking
  • Can do media conversion and streaming

Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:

VLC Can be downloaded from the standard Ubuntu repositories for OS versions 12.04 through 13.10


KMPlayer streaming a video from Konqueror
From the project's website and KDE userbase:
KMPlayer is both a video player plugin for Konqueror and a stand-alone video player. KMPlayer is a native KDE application and thus is a viable alternative for your video viewing needs. KMPlayer supports Phonon, MPlayer, and Xine, and also has a NS Plugin loader or GStreamer. Finally, there are plugins available to allow playing of  QuickTime, MS Media Player and RealPlayer files.
  • Plays video from file or web site
  • Popup controls stay neatly out of sight until you want them
  • Can use plugins to play QuickTime, MS Media Player and RealPlayer files
  • Supports bookmarking
  • Supports recording if required backends are installed
  • Play from several DVD formats and TV

Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:

KMPlayer can be downloaded from the standard Ubuntu repositories

The Incumbent Office Suite: Libre Office

The Challengers:


Calligra Words 

From the project's website:

The Calligra Suite offers a comprehensive set of 8 applications which satisfies the office, graphics and management needs.
The applications in the Calligra Suite shares some common UI concepts that gives it a modern look better suited for the wide screens of today. One of them is that most formatting is done using dockers which are placed at the side of the windows instead of on the top. This makes more space available for the actual document contents and avoids opening dialogs on top of it. If the user chooses, s/he can rearrange the placement of the dockers around the document area or even tear loose them and let them float freely. The arrangement is saved and reused the next time Calligra is opened.

Calligra consists of a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation creator, diagram / flowchart creator, database creator, graphics creation, and project management. It is a well rounded and robust suite worthy of your consideration. There was also a discussion about making Calligra the default in Kubuntu; however as of today Calligra applications can not save files in Microsoft formats, which is a requirement for some students and business professionals. Though it should be noted that Calligra applications excel at opening MS files.  

Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:

Individual components, as well as the whole suite, can be downloaded from the standard Ubuntu repositories

Apache OpenOffice

Calc spreadsheet application

From the project's website:
Compatible with other major office suites, Apache OpenOffice is free to download, use, and distribute. It contains:
  • Writer: a word processor you can use for anything from writing a quick letter to producing an entire book.
  • Calc: a powerful spreadsheet with all the tools you need to calculate, analyze, and present your data in numerical reports or sizzling graphics.
  • Impress: the fastest, most powerful way to create effective multimedia presentations.
  • Draw: lets you produce everything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations.
  • Base: lets you manipulate databases seamlessly. Create and modify tables, forms, queries, and reports, all from within Apache OpenOffice.
  • Math: lets you create mathematical equations with a graphic user interface or by directly typing your formulas into the equation editor.
OpenOffice has been around for years, and is preferred by some who are used to it's features and particular nuances.

Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:
OpenOffice 4.0 is available for download from the project's website 

The Incumbent Email Client: KMail

The Challengers:


Thunderbird Email Client

 From Wikipedia:

Thunderbird is an email, newsgroup, news feed and chat (XMPP, IRC, Twitter) client. The vanilla version is not a personal information manager, although the Mozilla Lightning extension adds PIM functionality. Additional features, if needed, are often available via other extensions.
Many users, even KDE users and fans, prefer Thunderbird for their email management. It's a robust email client that can capably manage most people's email needs.

Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:
Thunderbird can be downloaded from the standard Ubuntu repositories

Trojita .3 Qt Email Client
 From the project's website:
Trojita is a fast Qt IMAP e-mail client.
Our mission is to deliver an application which:
  • Enables you to access your mail anytime, anywhere.
  • Does not slow you down. If we can improve the productivity of an e-mail user, we better do.
  • Respects open standards and facilitate modern technologies. We value the vendor-neutrality that IMAP provides and are committed to be as interoperable as possible.
  • Is efficient -- be it at conserving the network bandwidth, keeping memory use at a reasonable level or not hogging the system's CPU.
  • Can be used on many platforms. One UI is not enough for everyone, but our IMAP core works fine on anything from desktop computers to cell phones and big ERP systems.
  • Plays well with the rest of the ecosystem. We don't like reinventing wheels, but when the existing wheels quite don't fit the tracks, we're not afraid of making them work.
Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:
sudo add-apt repository ppa:brcha/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install trojita

The Incumbent File Manager: Dolphin

The Challengers:


The screen that greets you upon launching Konqueror
From the project's website:
Konqueror is one of the most advanced file managers for KDE. Thanks to the underlying KDE technologies it can transparently access FTP and SFTP servers, zip files (and other archives), smb (Windows) shares, and even browse and rip audio CDs.
Although more than just a file manager (which is precisely why many people swear by it), Konqueror has many advanced features when used as a file manager. Like Dolphin, Konqueror has such advanced features as split-screen (twin panel) view and quick access to the terminal. Konqueror has been a while for a long time now and has a faithful following.

Getting it In Kubuntu, NetrunnerOS, or Linux Mint KDE:

Konqueror can be downloaded from the standard Ubuntu repositories


Krusader's twin panel view
From the project's website:

Krusader is an advanced twin panel (commander style) file manager for KDE and other desktops in the *nix world, similar to Midnight or Total Commander. It provides all the file management features you could possibly want. Plus:
  • Extensive archive handling
  • Mounted filesystem support
  • File transfers with (S)FTP
  • Advanced search module
  • An internal viewer and editor
  • Directory synchronisation
  • File content comparisons
  • Powerful batch renaming
  • And much much more ...
  • It supports a wide variety of archive formats and can handle other KIO slaves such as smb or fish.

For the curious, there is a great review of the many features of Krusader over at TechRepublic.

Again, these are mere examples out of many out there. One of the great things about open source software and Linux is that choice is abundant and there is no shortage of alternatives out there to help you get things done.

For many users, the default applications are more than adequate. However some people like to experiment, and in some cases may have legitimate reasons to want to try out an alternative application. As your Linux journey continues, and you try out different distributions (or at least read about them on sites such as, you will notice that the default applications can vary from one distribution to another. It is a sometimes a very subjective topic. Again, the great thing here is choice.

No matter what your need is, in Linux you will find there is usually more than one way to accomplish what you have intended to do. Exploring and discovering a cool application that you didn't know existed can be a fun and rewarding experience.

What are your favorites?



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