A (cool) list of Linux tools

Updated: October 16, 2006

Note: New, up-to-date collection is available. Please take a look!

We've had a (sweet) collection of Windows programs. Now, it's time for Linux tools. First, most of the applications listed in the (sweet) collection are open-source, cross-platform applications and will run on Linux. In fact, only a few of the Windows applications listed will run ONLY on Windows.

So, in a strange yet beautiful way, A (sweet) collection of Windows programs is a good place to start! The cross-platform applications listed include: AbiWord, aMule, Audacity, DOSBox, Eclipse, eMule, GParted, FileZilla, Firefox, GAIM, GIMP, Nvu, Open Office, Opera, Privoxy, QEMU, Sunbird, Thunderbird, TrueCrypt, VirtualDub, VLC, Wireshark, and several others. All of these will run on Linux.

Nevertheless, I have decided to compile a separate list of dedicated Linux tools, which will be of great use for anyone, even including sworn Windows users. You might have already read about some of the applications listed below in my other articles (like SUSE and Ubuntu). And I intend to review a few more in future articles. Regardless, I hope this list will serve you well and provide you with a wealth of useful information. For people with little knowledge of Linux, this is a good place to start.

Some extras

One more important note: unlike the Windows list, it is rather difficult for me to compile the best in class for each categories, because a) Linux distributions are so many and so diverse, it would be frankly impossible b) it's harder to narrow down the choices, all being fairly good. Therefore, the list below is a compilation of especially highly useful tools across a range of categories. For example, Ubuntu CD offers hundreds of superb applications; disassembling it would be tricky. 

Anything missing? Feel free to email me with your suggestions. You can find programs suggested by other readers under Users' Recommendations. OK then, let's rock.

Disclaimer #1 (valid down to Appendix A included): I have used the software listed below and found it satisfactory. In my experience, these programs caused me no grief of any sort. I cannot guarantee the same level of experience for you, nor the validity of programs at their destined links. Use them at your own discretion.

Table of contents

  1. (Cool) list of tools, by alphabetic order
    1. Anonymizers
    2. Backup
    3. Browsers
    4. Chat
    5. Converters
    6. Emulators
    7. Live CD/DVDs
    8. Media manipulation
      1. Encoders
    9. Media Players
    10. Partitioning
    11. Rescue
    12. Security tools
      1. Anti-rootkits
      2. Firewalls
      3. Intrusion prevention
      4. Malware control
  2. Appendix
    1. Useful links
    2. Users' recommendations
    3. General advice

(Cool) list of tools, by alphabetic order



Vidalia is a cross-platform GUI controller for Tor anonymizing proxy.


Simple Backup Solution

This tool is intended for backup of files, using a desktop GUI.


Partimage is a Linux partition backup utility. It allows you to save partitions in many files formats to image files, compress the image files, split image files for burning, and even save them across network. NTFS support is under development.



Konqueror is a combined browser and file manager for KDE.



XChat is a popular multi-platform chat client. It supports multiple channels and file transfers. As said, it is also available for Windows.



alien is a program that converts between Redhat rpm, Debian deb, Stampede slp, Slackware tgz, and Solaris pkg file formats.


AODC stands for An OpenDocument Converter. This small tool is intended to convert Open Office documents into html files on machines that do not have Open Office installed. This means you can open your documents on any computer. Now, AODC will run on Windows - but it is a tool well suited for Linux users.



Wine is an open-source implementation of Windows API on top of X and Unix. In other words, it allows you run Windows applications on a Linux machine by creating a simulated environment. Wine is nicely complemented with VMware products, which are also available for Windows.

On a side note, to convince you that you can run Windows applications - hell, Windows itself - on Linux, you might want to refer to my article Installing VMware Server & Windows in Linux.

Live CD/DVDs


Read about it in A (sweet) collection of Windows programs under Anonymizers.

Damn Small Linux

Damn Small Linux is a versatile 50MB desktop-oriented Debian-based distribution. You can boot with it from CD, USB drive or even run it inside Windows. It can also be installed onto hard disk. It's light, fast and packs a solid range of applications, including Gphone, Firefox, Naim, XMMS, Xpdf, and many more.


Elive is a live CD running Enlightenment Windows manager, which is an amazing visual experience while being very low on requirements.  Like all other Linux CDs, it offers a mature and rich package of programs. It offers some very interesting programs like Blender 3D studio, MPlayer, Grip audio ripper, as well as the usual XChat, GAIM, Firefox, Open Office, and others.

Feather Linux

This is another small Linux, intended to provide a user with a safe and comfortable live working environment. It takes only about 120MB and offers in return AbiWord, Dillo, Firefox, CTorrent, NTFS resize support, Samba, Fluxbox, and more.


Gentoo is a combined live and install CD. This allows you to test the feel of the distribution before deciding whether you want to install it (warning: Gentoo is NOT the friendliest distribution for beginners!). It offers a full, complete working environment.


Helix is a dedicated incident response and forensic analysis live CD. It is not intended for beginners. The CD includes many useful tools like e2recover - for recovering files under ext2 file system, ClamAV and F-Prot anti-virus scanners, chkrootkit and rkhunter anti-rootkit scanners, Galleta - cookie analyzer for Internet Explorer, Regviewer - Windows registry analyzer, wipe - for secure file deletion, and more. The full contents of the CD are available here.


Read about it in A (sweet) collection of Windows programs under Live CDs.

Update: Recently, there have been reports of a virus that destroys the Partition Table of hard disks and renders them unbootable. A tool called TestDisk can be used to remedy such a failure, if it occurs. TestDisk is included in the powerful package of utilities that can be found on Knoppix CD. It is also included with GParted live CD.

Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is another small desktop-oriented live CD. Puppy Linux comes in a wide range of flavors, including the static live CD but also the multi-session CD/DVD, which allows you to save your live sessions to hard media every time you use Puppy and reload them on the next use, virtually eliminating the need for running an operating system from a hard drive. This option can also be useful for people who have to travel a lot. Puppy Linux weighs 50-70MB and offers many useful applications. Puppy comes in many flavors, including custom and specialized derivatives.


In addition to a very powerful desktop operating system, you can also enjoy a SUSE live CD. You can read more about SUSE in my article Installing SUSE Linux - Full tutorial.


This is a live CD specifically geared toward rescue and recovery. The tools package includes some of the most important tools available for Linux user, like GParted, QTParted, Partimage, Grub, Lilo, sfdisk, security tools, network tools, and more. The full list of tools is available here.

Ubuntu 6.06

Ubuntu is a combined live and installation CD. Ubuntu runs with Gnome desktop. You can also try Kubuntu with KDE and Xubuntu with Xfce. You can read more about (K)ubuntu in my article Installing (K)ubuntu Linux - Full tutorial. You can read all about some 50+ live CDs on FrozenTech LiveCD List.

Media manipulation



MP3FS is a read-only FUSE file system which transcodes audio formats to MP3 on the fly when opened and read.

Media Players


MPlayer is a highly versatile media player for Linux, with a very good support of audio and video formats. It will play most MPEG/VOB, AVI, Ogg/OGM, VIVO, ASF/WMA/WMV, QT/MOV/MP4, RealMedia, Matroska, NUT, NuppelVideo, FLI, YUV4MPEG, FILM, RoQ, and PVA files, supported by many native, XAnim, and Win32 DLL codecs. You can watch VideoCD, SVCD, DVD, 3ivx, DivX 3/4/5, and even WMV movies.


xine is a lightweight, powerful media player, capable of playing AVI, MOV, WAV, and MP3 formats. The player has many guises and is constantly being developed.


XMMS is a multimedia player (mainly audio) for UNIX-based systems. It supports MP3, MOD, WAV, and other formats. A variety of plugins is available. XMMS is included on Elive and Knoppix live CDs.



QTParted is a clone of Partition Magic. It is capable of handling NTFS partitions.


Super Grub Disk

Super Grub Disk is intended to run from a floppy disk or CD and is used for system rescue. Most importantly, it can be used to restore boot loaders, including GRUB, LILO and even Windows boot loader.


TestDisk is a utility specially designed to recover lost partitions and make non-booting disks bootable again. This highly useful tool can be found on a number of live CDs, including Knoppix and GParted. It supports NTFS partitions and also comes in Windows flavor.

Security tools

Note: Most Linux security tools are geared toward knowledgeable users. If you are not Linux-savvy, you should not meddle with these programs.



This tool allows you to look for unwanted spies on your machine, not that there should be any/


rkhunter is another tool for uprooting undesired self-hiding toolkits.



FREESCO is a lightweight, powerful firewall based on CISCO. It supports up to 10 network cards, 10 modems, 5 printers, NAT, a whole lot more, and will run from a single 1.44MB floppy. You can use an antique 386 machine to run it.


SmoothWall is a powerful firewall with a self-contained operating system and a web-based GUI. It can be installed on a machine as lowly as a 486.

Intrusion prevention


AppArmor is an application security framework, most easily described as heuristically-inclined HIPS. It will run on Linux distributions based on Red Hat. Mastering AppArmor takes knowledge and patience.


Snort is a very popular open-source network intrusion detection and prevention software. It is intended for experienced users.

Malware control


Truman is a sandbox-like malware analysis tool, running on native hardware. It is NOT recommended for people who do NOT understand the full implications of using this tool.


Useful links

Disclaimer #2: I have NOT personally tested each and every application at the below sites. I cannot guarantee their quality. Treat the below links as a good reference point from which you may expand your searches.

Eric L. Howes' Linux Privacy & Security

Fresh RPMs - a site compiling listings and download sites for hundreds of packages

FrozenTech LiveCD List - a list of live CDs

Linux Online! - a long list of applications for Linux

Users' recommendations

Thanks to the following people for their suggestions: Alphalutra1, Ben, dog, Durad, romanlance.

Some of the suggested programs have been incorporated in the list above. All future suggestions will be listed below. Again, the same criteria as for Windows programs apply: the proposed applications should be fairly simple, free beyond any reason of doubt, non-offensive to me, and preferably suggested by a member of a respectable forum.

Here are some of your recommendations:

Amarok - this is a light, simple, beautiful, and highly versatile for Linux running KDE; natively, it does not support MP3 format, but the necessary libraries can easily be added - for example, in Ubuntu or SUSE, via package managers - libxine-extracodecs.

Bluefish - a web editor that supports a range of languages, including CSS, HTML, Java, javascript, Octave, PHP, R, and many others, unlimited undo/redu funtionality, and compliance with both KDE and Gnome environments.

Democracy Player - an Internet TV platform; the player incorporates video RSS feeds, automatic downloads of videos, BitTorrent, and much more.

F-Spot - a photo management program for Gnome desktops; the program supports 16 file types, allows easy editing and tagging of photos, simplifying cataloguing of large batches of images.

Guarddog - a firewall with goal-oriented GUI, intended for beginner and intermediate users.

IEs4Linux- an excellent script that enables you to run Internet Explorer on Linux (with Wine installed); it will offer you three versions of Internet Explorer, making invalid the excuse of not switching to Linux because your favorite site only loads in Internet Explorer.

K3B - is a CD burning utility for KDE, with lots of excellent features, including support for multiple El Torito boot images, audio CD burning, VCD, SVCD, mixed-mode CDs, eMovix CDs, CD copy and CD/DVD ripping, DVD burning, DivX/XviD encoding, blanking of CDR-Ws, writing of ISOs, and a whole lot more.

Kopete - an Instant Messaging program for KDE; Kopete supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber, IRC, Gadu-Gadu, Novell GroupWise Messenger, and more, as well as message encryption and archiving.

KTorrent - BitTorrent client for KDE.

Openbox - a lightweight, extensible windows manager; it can be used instead of the heavier Gnome and KDE.

pfSense - a firewall based on m0n0wall, using OpenBSD ported Packet Filter; supports a wide range of devices and protocols.

Quanta Plus - a WYSIWYG web development program for KDE, with a wide range of plugins.

ROX-Filer - a fast, lightweight desktop (based on X Windows). It can be a suitable alternative to heavier environments on older systems.

Streamtuner - a stream directory browser, supporting SHOUTcast, Live365 and other stream directories, as well as full support for ID3 and Vorbis metadata editing; it goes well with Streamripper, which allows you to record the streams.

Sylphweed - a lightweight e-mail client; also supports Windows.

General advice

I guess that's it. By the way, most of the general advice for Windows users also applies here. There's no need to Ctrl + A  the entire Internet and download it onto your machine. With Linux, you're in an even greater peril of getting carried away, because there are tens of Linux distributions - whereas Windows is only one.

Don't download anything and everything - make sure you trust the download site, make sure you understand what you're doing, visit the forums and ask questions before you start meddling, and always have your personal data backed up. Most importantly, in Linux, when you think something is not working - DO NOT INTERFERE, LET IT BE! It Is working. Believe me. Kernel updates can take as much as a whole day to complete, even more. When you're downloading packages off the Internet, they are often recompiled locally on your machine to suit your architecture. This process can be quite lengthy - and it is NOT healthy to interrupt. Wait for your machine to tell you it's failed before you do.

If in doubt, please refer to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 1.

Have fun!

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