Top 5 Programming Languages For Developing Linux Desktop Applications

5 Programming Languages For Developing Linux Desktop Applications
Written by Aaron Kili

Linux is fast becoming popular, especially with the declining use of Windows, (I stand to be corrected if that is not true) and to promote Linux and fight towards achieving the desired use of Linux on desktop, Linux programmers and software developers are putting in more effort and hard work in developing desktop applications that will match applications on Windows and Mac OS X desktops.

This is true, especially with countless number of Linux distributions that are focused on making it easy for new Linux users (previously using Windows or Mac OS X) to easily adapt to the operating system.

There are plenty of programming languages out there with new ones emerging every now and then, but as an upcoming Linux software developer focused on desktop applications, one needs to understand what it takes to build reliable, efficient, flexible, extensible, user-friendly and above all secure applications. And one of the first things one must know is to understand the appropriate language for the different software development.

Below, is a list of the best programming languages that one can use to develop desktop applications in Linux, the list is not based on the level of importance as all the languages here are good to go with and they are also cross-platform, meaning you can make the same applications work on other operating systems.

1. C/C++

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These two languages though considered different programming languages, C++ is just an enhancement of the C language and it adds object-oriented features to C, therefore, they can be grouped together.

As you may already know, Linux is basically powered by the C language with parts of assembly. You can therefore use C and employ GTK+ cross-platform toolkit for GUI applications.

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C++ is considered a better choice for developing software due to its high performance, but it may not be friendly to beginners because of its high demands for precision in areas such as memory management. It is also widely used for developing Windows software but has a sharp learning curve.

You can also use Qt which is a great cross-platform application development framework that is based on C++.

Qt is both commercial and open source and will help you a lot in developing desktop applications in combination with C and C++. It is much more simpler than C++ for application development.

Visit The C/C++ Homepage

2. Java

This is a powerful, full object-oriented and cross-platform programming language which offers extensive features for building network applications.

Java was originally intended for running applets in web browsers, but it has always had amazing capabilities to run desktop applications right from the start.

Java is one of best especially if you have intentions of developing applications that will run on practically any relevant operating system. Java is great when it comes to migrating from one operating system to another especially from Windows or Mac OS X to Linux, without the need to port your existing applications.

Visit Java’s Homepage

3. Python

Python is a high-level, general-purpose, dynamic and interpreted programming language that is slowly but surely becoming popular in the market. Many programmers are turning to Python because of its easy to read syntax and ability to enable programmers express concepts in few lines of code compared to other programming languages. It is easy to learn, and is a good option for beginners.

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Python is one of the popular languages on Linux, with many applications developed using it and you can employ frameworks such as Qt and GTK along the way.

Visit Python’s Homepage

4. JavaScript/GitHub Electron

JavaScript is easy to learn and when used in conjunction with HTML and CSS, you can build amazing desktop applications on Linux.

Electron is a framework used for developing native, cross-platform applications using web technologies, and it is actively maintained on GitHub and a community of contributors.

It is likewise a good option for beginners intending to develop desktop applications for Linux and other operating systems.

Visit the Electron Homepage

5. Shell

The Shell does not only allow a system user to communicate with the kernel but is also a complete programming language, with the common programming language constructs with GNU Bash(Bourne Again Shell) being the most common.

It is compatible with the sh(Bourne Shell) and also incorporates many useful features from ksh(Korn Shell) and csh(C Shell). You can use it with tools such as Qt et ‘al which allows you to display GTK+ dialog boxes from the terminal using scripts.

Visit the Bash Homepage

As always, you also have your own views, so any criticism that will enlighten and help Linux users out there is welcome. If you are using programming languages and frameworks not added to this list, you can let us know about it and any other opinion concerning the topic by leaving a comment down below.

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About the author

Aaron Kili

A Computer Science graduate who is most enthusiastic about Linux and FOSS. Aaron has been using Linux for over two years now and loves to share his ideas and knowledge he's acquired with other Linux users around the world.

  • Tigran

    “Java was originally intended for running applets in web browsers.” No it wasn’t.

    • Metin Çetin

      Then explain it. Don’t leave it there.

      • Tigran

        Java is a general purpose programming language. It was originally designed for interactive television. It was used for applets on the web, and some (like Microsoft) even had plans to make it the client-side language of the web, but it was not originally intended for applets.
        Wikipedia can explain better.

  • Eduardo

    Seems that electron has a lot of APP’s and I was using some of them without knowing the background, for example SimpleNote and ATOM Editor. I’m quite impressed with the quality of apps… seems for me the future path !

    • Martins Divine Okoi

      Yeah, a lot of developers think so.
      Time will tell 🙂

  • Titus Pullo

    Once you remove Java from the list, it’ll be a pretty good list.

    • Martins Divine Okoi


      What do you have against Java?

      • Titus Pullo

        It compiles to bytecode. With the JVM, Java can never properly harness the power of its environment. It is unecessarily verbose in the way it impliments static typing, leading to lots of redundancy and wasted time. OO methodology is forced, instead of being a tool at the language’s disposal. It is so closely tied with Oracle, and many proprietary agents, that applications using Java will often run into conflict with the GNU open source licensing that makes Linux as great as it has become (a recent example of this conflict occurred with NVidia drivers and the new Vulkan API. The linux community rightly rejected the “easy” way to maintain adherence with open-source). If none of that is reason enough, the creator of Linux is on record stating that Java is a terrible language, in his opinion. 😉

        • Ray54

          Java definitely deserves to be in this list, I have written many Linux desktop applications over the last 20 years in Java and they are easy to write and maintain over a long period. Java is not perfect, but none of the other languages are either. I would not advise anyone to write anything new in C or C++ unless they are writing commercial games. Java had a poor reputation some time ago, particularly when it was used in web browsers, but thankfully Javascript now fulfills that job. With Java version 8 and 9 and the new JFX graphics, it is again a good desktop application language and JVM is fast compared to Python or bash.
          I suggest readers of this article try writing a small desktop application in 2 or 3 of the languages to get a feel of what is right for you.

          • Martins Divine Okoi

            I agree.

            Jave, afterall, was built to improve the workflow C and C++ provided. It has a vast and excentlly documented and maintained library. It’s a definite must-have.