The Best Linux Applications: Office & Productivity


This is the second in our week-long series in which we're asking you to nominate your favourite Linux applications.

Yesterday's post, covering multimedia applications, was a great success! Some wonderful suggestions were made in the comments, including a number of applications that we hadn't come across before but look excellent. Looks like we'll be working our internet connection extra hard in the coming weeks as we download and test everything we can.

In the meantime, we're looking to carry on yesterday's success as we turn our attention to office and productivity applications. As before, interpret this category as broadly as possible. We want to hear suggestions on everything from word processors and spreadsheets all the way through to time trackers and task jugglers.

Be sure to let us know how you use them, what little tips and tricks help you to get stuff done when you're sat in the office and why you use one application instead of another.

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Your comments

Vim ... That is all.



That is all.

Religious war

Please nobody post Emacs!
Ooops... just did!

Vim and Emacs are for losers!

Real experts get all they need from an office suit by using cat, echo and sed!

But seriously: for most of my office (wordprocessing) needs I use LaTeX and Kile or gedit as my editors.

For opening files that others send me I rely on LibreOffice, which I also use for spreadsheets. It does everything for me, except sometimes filling out forms can be annoying.

My calendar is handled by Google (as I have an Android phone) and I usually use "gcalcli" to edit it. I also use conky to display my agenda on the wallpaper. For the to do list I use a programme called todo.txt, which uses a simple text file in my Dropbox folder.


I'm quite partial to the simple to do list tasque application.


Open/Libre Office

My two pennies worth

Libre/Open Office - A good all round office suite
Abiword - Nice and light-weight with the features I use most often
Gnumeric - When huge spreadsheets and more greater floating point precision are needed this is invaluable
Chromium - Because more stuff is shifting to the web (Docs, mail etc...)
GEdit - What's not to love
Gnome-Do - Because I can't be bothered with menu's
The Terminal - So many things are quicker on the command line

A real text editor

Sublime Text is really good, although it isn't open source, I still highly recommend trying it out.
LibreOffice and pen and paper fulfil all my other needs.


I've been playing around with the Labyrinth mind mapping software. It is quite useful for laying a number of interconnected ideas as well as making a few notes on things.

Office Stuff

At work I am forced to use MS Office, so this meand that Open Office is pretty much essential at home.

I haven't yet tried Libre Office, but I guess that at this stage it's not yet very different. I will be upgrading my desktop from Fedora14 to F15 shortly so I guess I'll soon see...

No surprises here

LibreOffice for almost everything.

Dropbox for synchronizing and sharing files.

Several online tools, like Gmail and Wunderlist, which is great to manage to-do lists.

xfig to prepare diagrams and figures.

Ubuntu at the office


I'm a MS SQL Server DBA/Web programmer at a small college. Bucking the MS trend, I run Ubuntu 10.10 on my office desktop. I use these apps extensively:

nano - text editor

gedit - GUI text editor

rdesktop - Remote access to MS servers

Google Chrome - Web browser, almost exclusively

Google Docs - For all the good stuff (documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.)

VirtualBox - Running a (gack) virtual Windows machine when needed

And, of course, any command line utility whenever possible. Even if it's just BusyBox sometimes ;)

A few worth mentioning

I don't use a massive amount of productivity apps but anyway...

LibreOffice - Used alot for college essays.
gedit - Not used for much except editing Bash scripts really.
Geany - Handy for simple stuff like web design or full on C++ programming. (can be used for other languages too)

Thats it really.

Thunderbirds are go..

I still use Thunderbird a lot. I think I'm a die hard Thunderbird fan. Even though it scared me when it changed.

Gedit for everything else.

And "Artha" A handy off-line thesaurus based on WordNet. It's just simple, and brilliant.

The terminal

I found command line tools really helpful, once I worked out how to use them.

dict and diction are great while writing text
cal if I've forgotten what day it is
locate if I've lost a file (usually piped to grep)
iPython does the trick if I need to do a quick and dirty calculation. And I love Vim.

Otherwise, as above, Kile.

The oldies

Vim with the Vim Outliner is fab - you can even embed executable commands in the outline, so you can put your backup script / awkward file conversion / unmemorable magical spell into a document along with an explanation, and even link to a manual page or helpful source. Notecad can do some similar execution of note links, but with more effort.

Nothing beats directly processing CSV files with cut / grep / sort / paste / join for lean, instantaneous results. The Perl XML::Simple and Spreadsheet::ParseExcel modules are really useful methods of extracting XML (e.g. Rhythymbox or iTunes library file) and Excel spreadsheets into CSV or plain text.


ok first one isn't software but;

DUAL SCREENS FTW. It will actually half the time you spend doing stuff, especially if you find yourself flicking between windows all the time.

Can I say nvidia for supporting dual screens amazinginglyly easily?

Then libre office and eclipse for programming. And virtual box to run windows faster than windows if I boot into windows...

the shell, text editors and email

Having thought about it a while the most productive thing I use regularly is Bash although I guess thats not really an application.
I use nano a lot usually in Guake or over SSH, Gedit or Bluefish for HTML and CSS and Claws-mail or even Mutt, I can't be doing with big swollen email clients and I don't want to read anything sent to me as HTML, although claws will handle that too. Ooo calc for spreadsheets, evince for pdf's. The biggest time saver of all Parcelite, it should be installed by default on everything.

How can I choose

How can you ask me to choose between LibreOffice, Firefox, Synaptic, Openshot, Gimp, Audacity, Gnome Terminal, Screenshot and RecordMyDesktop? These are all No. 1. The others take position 10 down.

Hmmm, productivity...

Just two none command line ones, ghex2 and gedit.
(One command line one, cat.)



I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Kontact yet. It's an astoundingly useful software suite. It literally organises my life for me; email, important dates and appointments, my entire address book.

One of the best things is the humble notebook plugin. As an example I use it to keep a permanent grocery shopping list. As I run out of stuff throughout the week it all goes on the list until it's time do place my order, so I never miss anything.

I honestly don't know what I'd do if I suddenly lost the use of Kontact.

With the emphasis on productivity

LyX/LaTeX - even more so with LyX 2.0

I use a lot of other programs for work - Inkscape, Scibus and mysql, for example - but these are the ones that offer the really significant productivity gains.

I don't produce much, but...

... I have found Scribus useful on many occasions, when I've wanted more control over layout than Ooo gives me.

productivity tools...

Gedit (drag n drop a textfile into it and being productive...there's nothing better =) )

Zim - for Notes
Gummi (Latex editor)
Gnome Shell (yeah, I like it :p)

Productivity Tools

Libre Office
Getting Things Gnome

Who needs car doors?

Libre Office beats Abiword, but both fail with some of them fancy "application forms" folks love to throw at you nowadays.

The ones I use:

Evolution - can't really decide whether I like Evolution or Thunderbird better but it is Evolution for now.
Libre Office
Inkscape - for producing website graphics.
Scribus for business flyers etc.
FontForge - particularly useful if someone sends you a MAC pdf & you need to edit it ;o)
GnoTime & GnuCash for my time tracking and business accounts.
Simple Scan, gscan2pdf & OCRFeeder
Skype or Ekiga - depends who I'm talking to.
Chromium & Firefox for testing my websites.
Virtualbox for when I need to set up Windows networks or play with specific installs - been playing with MythTV recently inside virtual machines.
Shutter for screenshots for client training.

I forgot the most important one!


vim & latex

Vim for note taking
LaTeX for sustained writing
Google docs for everything else

A few more...

KONTACT is awesome. My email, contacts, calendar and RSS feeds all in one place. Add the Kjots plugin and I can also manage my written work such as (film) scripts, projects etc. as it is an excellent way of arranging ideas, pages or whole projects.

OCULAR is awesome. As well as being a powerful pdf viewer, I can also annotate documents with notes, bookmarks, graphics and text highlights, which helps no-end with my OU studies.

KTHESAURUS with the WORDNET plugin has been so helpful - it's quicker than looking in a real dictionary, and plus it can be used offline - essential when I really don't need the internet as a distraction.

OPENOFFICE.ORG/LIBRE OFFICE has been absolutely essential, and in particular, the word processor. OOo draw has been especially helpful for posters/diagrams on occasions.

HOMEBANK has helped me get my finances in order this year.

DOLPHIN is just so functional, and the split window function has been so handy over the years (Konqueror has it as well).

...and finally KATE, for any text editing necessary for making my Linuxbox go better!

As you can see, many of these are KDE apps. Got nothing against Gnome, and am happy using GTK apps, but Gnome apps sometimes lack certain little touches that make my life particularly easier.

Mini but mighty...

My ABSOLUTE favorite Linux application of all time is, believe it or not, glabels!

While it is a simple little tool, it does what it does more flawlessly than any word-processing feature or plug-in I have ever seen. Printing a single label on a half-used sheet of labels and actually hitting a space on the sheet containing an as yet unused label has always been sort of a Zen art, and glabels makes it easy!

I am also a fan of Abiword and Gnumeric for their ease of use and collective ability to import and export virtually anything that I may encounter...

My Essentials for writing etc.

1. TeXworks (the best LaTeX editor for Linux)
2. Mendeley (for bibliography management etc.)
3. Zim Desktop Wiki (It is awesome)
4. FocusWriter (yes, I know I can use gedit, but I prefer using apps for very specific things)

This week i have been mostly eating turnips

For quickly looking at emailed documents I rely on Abiword and Gnumeric.
For most actual work I tend to use leafpad or nano depending whether I am in X or not at the time.
If I have to collaborate on a document I tend to use Gobby/Sobby.
For anything fancy I use LyX.
While it may not be called for in all "offices" I consider Gnu Octave an essential.

Nothing special, but they get the work done.

LibreOffice-Moslty I use the spreadsheet function.
XLingPaper-For writing papers/documents in XML.
TomboyNotes-Recording bits of my scattered mind.
Bibus-For bibliography creation and citation.
Freemind-I like mapping out complex problems.

A random title heralding a fantastic list!

* LibreOffice - for word processing and basic desktop publishing (using LibreOffice Draw)
* Scribus - for producing marketing flyers etc (this is a _brilliant_ piece of software)
* Google Calendar - for remembering stuff
* Thunderbird/Lightning - for remembering stuff and telling people that I've remembered
* Dropbox - so that I can access my files off-site (and have a nice backup at the same time) [Yes, it's closed source, but it does a fantastic job - and it works cross platform, too!]

LibreOffice mainly for

LibreOffice mainly for spreadsheets and Tomboy Notes.

Choice is good.

For mail and calendar, Thunderbird with the Lightning extension (got an Android phone, so I need sync with Google). Evolution just annoys me, plus it's nice to be able to use the same software on my Windows box!

Web browsing is split between Firefox (safer - because it's got AdBlock+ and NoScript) and Chrome (because it's quicker)

Office stuff, I tend to use Abiword for notes or short letters, and similarly Gnumeric for simple spreadsheets. If I need something more complex, then it's LibreOffice (removed OpenOffice because of Oracle's bad behaviour).

Other stuff that's useful is Komodo Edit (scripting), B-Folders (password store), VirtualBox (yes, I know that's Oracle's too). One tool I highly recommend (not sure this is office though) is the NX remote access software - superb way to use my Windows boxes to give a screen on my Ubuntu "server".


vim for losers? ha! you're too judgemental and not so openminded to say so... you can do some work in console, but vim can be a part of that too, and it is most usefull, better than anything else by the way and powerfull tool also

Work vs Home

Sadly at work we only have M$ and we are supposed to use MS Office, but you know I keep forgetting that and use OpenOffice instead. There have been no compatibility issues when I send docs on, but I do resave them in M$ format before emailng. I have several spreadsheets which use OOBasic macros, but since the people who read my docs only want to know the answer (they don't recalculate), this isn't a problem.

At home (Mandriva), I too use OpenOffice, mostly so I can ensure 100% compatibility when I work from home.

At home, I use kmail, simply because I've been using it for 11 years and I'm used to it. I've taken my mail boxes from Redhat 7.1 via Suse, Fedora and now to Mandriva and it just works! For remembering stuff, I use my own calendar application written in Perl/Tk. I've found kdepim, etc too comprehensive.

For editing most files, I use vi (even on M$). I learned it 20 years ago when I started in Unix support and it's just automatic.

Mouse Pad

Was going through all the comments !! personally i use Nano and MousePad (Just another simple notepad like app), for simple work, Have started using Libreoffice with the latest release of Ubuntu, looks good !!.

I am always trying to figure out apps that coud be used with the minimal RAM requirnment, CLI comes handy in this situation.

Commands like SED, GREP and CAT can be tricky, but forums like commandlinefu provide great online reference !!.


Noren Das

Brevity response

OpenOffice - soon to be LibreOffice for me?

Emacs, especially Org Mode.

Emacs, especially Org Mode.

The stuff I use regularly

The software I use regularly is:

Libre Office - for all my word processing and spread sheets.

GIMP - a brill Photoshop replacement, I've still to use all its capabilities.

Virtual Box - Testing new disros and for running that Redmond product so I can run the odd bit of software that will not work in WINE and I can figure out how to solve problems for those family and friends I've not yet convinced it's a lost cause.

Firefox - It might not be the fastest but it has loads of tools/plug-ins that make it a must for this user.

Inkscape – Fantastic vector graphics tool for design and art work

Thunderbird - A good e-mail client for those e-mail I don't want to trust to hotmail/Gmail

And not to forget what enables it all to WORK: Debian Mint it ROCKS. :-) For a community distro without a big sponsor they have done wonders in making the main edition one of the most recommended Distro's for NOOBs, and for those of us ready to start to get our hands a little grubby, you have the choice of the Debian based rolling distro.

The best productivity tools on earth.

Firefox nightly, the nightly builds of LibreOffice and Xonotic.

Xonotic sends my productivity skyrocketing every time I fire it up.

As a PM...

I make full use of some really nifty tools:

OpenProj - in my opinion, on an equal footing to the MS tool
Xmind - great for getting the mind around concepts and ideas
LibreOffice - putting the ideas into gloriously formatted words
Tomboy - for those hard to remember pearls of wisdom
Gimp - people love the stories pictures convey
Xsane - a CYA tool I cannot do without

the list could go on...

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