Linux Apps

20 Must-Have Ubuntu Apps in 2017

Best Ubuntu Desktop Apps
Written by Martins D. Okoi

As the month of March comes to a close I thought it is only fair that I share my preferred apps for Ubuntu users so far with you.

Most of these apps will run on any Linux distro so this list isn’t restricted to Ubuntu OS and it includes applications for the most important tasks a typical user will run during the course of his day. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

1. Unity Teak Tool (or Gnome Tweak Tool)

Unity Tweak tool is one of the first tools application consultants advise users to install immediately after installing a distro like Ubuntu because it provides users with the ability to configure their system the way they want via setting options that include desktop hot corners, icon sizes, theme and icon customization, workspace number and colors, etc.

Unity Tweak Tool

Unity Tweak Tool

Install Unity Tweak Tool via the terminal:

$ sudo install unity-tweak-tool

2. Google Chrome (Browser)

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Google Chrome Browser is arguably the best browser you can have. As a Google project, you can trust it to have features the best browsers offer including developer tools, web development standards, and support for the newest technologies.

Google Chrome Browser

Google Chrome Browser

Download Google Chrome for Linux

3. VLC Media Player

VLC is arguably the best cross-platform video media player you can use. It has a ton of features including extensive theming options, a clean and responsive UI, audio and video quality tweaks, multiple audio streams, online video streaming, etc. VLC media player can play virtually any audio and video format you throw at it.

Vlc Player

Vlc Player

Download VLC for Linux

4. GIMP (Image Editing)

While you might be complaining that Adobe has not ported Photoshop and Illustrator to Linux yet, Gimp is the ideal alternative for Linux users.

Gimp Image Editor

Gimp Image Editor

You can even theme it to make it look and act like Photoshop (with regards to shortcut keys) if you miss Adobe that much.

Install Gimp Tool via the terminal:

$ sudo apt-get install gimp

5. Shotcut (Video Editing)

Shotcut is a free, Open Source, cross-platform video editor with a sleek User Interface and support for a broad range of video formats.

Shotcut Video Editor

Shotcut Video Editor

6. Steam (Linux Gaming)

This one is a no-brainer. It’s thanks to Steam that thousands of games are now available for the Open Source community and gaming issues on Linux are almost completely a thing of the past. If you’re a gamer, you can’t go wrong with Steam.

Steam for Linux

Steam for Linux

Download Steam for Linux

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7. Visual Studio Code (Text Editor)

One of Visual Studio Code’s best features is its educational feature in which it explains how HTML tags (for example,) are used as it makes suggestions while you write.

Visual Studio Live Theme Preview

Visual Studio Live Theme Preview

It has out of the box integration with Git, the flexibility of Sublime Text and beauty of Atom text editor.

Sublime Text 3 was my favorite text editor until I began to use Visual Studio Code. You might fall in love with it too.

8. Peek (Screen Recording)

Peek is a handy utility tool with which you can record your screen and quickly turn the videos into Gif animations. It is beautifully designed, lightweight, and straightforward.

Peek - Gif Recorder for Linux

Peek – Gif Recorder for Linux

9. Nylas (Email Client)

Nylas is already my favorite email client even though it isn’t available for Linux yet.

Nylas Mail Client (Coming Soon to Linux)

Nylas Mail Client (Coming Soon to Linux)

It has such an excellent performance and artillery of features on the Windows and Mac that you might not want to use anything else when it’s finally available for Linux.

In the meantime, Trojita is another email client you can check out.

10. Simple Weather Indicator (Weather App)

If you want to keep track of the weather conditions in designated locations without stress then Simple Weather Indicator is the way to go. Interact with it from your desktop panel bar.

Simple Weather Indicator

Simple Weather Indicator

Another indicator app you can check out is Battery Monitor to keep track if your system battery status from desktop bar.

11. GitBook Editor (GitBook Workflow)

If you’re a GitBook user then there isn’t any desktop client better than GitBook’s own cross-platform GitBook Editor. It is nicely designed and free to use.

GitBook Editor on Linux

GitBook Editor on Linux

12. Ramme (Unofficial Instagram Desktop Client)

Ramme is an Electron-based unofficial cross-platform Instagram desktop app with support for theme customization, keyboard shortcuts, background behavior, and automatic updates.

Ramme Instagram App for Linux

Ramme Instagram App for Linux

If for one reason or the other you’re not able to constantly be on your phone to interact with your Instagram account, Ramme is the way to go.

13. Whatever (Evernote Alternative)

Whatever is an Electron wrapper for Evernote’s web version possessing the same look and feel the Evernote client apps for other platforms possess by mirroring all of its functionality including a background working mode and tray icons.

Whatever Unofficial Evernote Client

Whatever Unofficial Evernote Client

14. MOC (Music On Console) (Console Music Player)

You might need to run a native console-based music player especially of you’re a console power user and you can’t go wrong with MOC music player. It is lightweight and would never negatively get in the way of your system’s process flow.

Moc - Linux Terminal Music Player

Moc – Linux Terminal Music Player

Another console-based music player you can check out is Tizonia.

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15. GPMDP (Google Music Play Desktop Client)

Google Play Music Desktop Player is an Electron replica of Google Play Music that is interestingly more awesome than its parent app.

Google Play Music Client for Linux

Google Play Music Client for Linux

It integrates nicely with Unity, requires fewer web resources than Google Play Music, features integration and is HTML5 based.

16. Skype (VoIP)

Skype is another no-brainer on this list. It has the most market share and you probably want to have it on your desktop since apparently, one is more likely to have a Microsoft account than any other.

Install Skype in Linux

Install Skype in Linux

If you don’t want to swing in Skype’s way yet then you can always use Wire – it’s an awesome alternative messaging app to Skype for Linux.

17. Stacer (System Optimizer)

With Stacer you can perform system diagnosis to check your CPU, memory, and disk usage, start-up apps, wipe cache, and uninstall apps. It is an Electron app that’s FOSS and features a clean UI.

Stacer Dashboard

Stacer Dashboard

18. Conky (Customization Tool)

Conky is a lightweight system monitoring tool that lets you display system information like memory and disk usage, weather, battery and network statistics, running applications, etc, on your desktop like a boss as long as you can fit the instruction into its configuration settings.

Serene Conky Theme

If you’re a customization buff and you don’t have Conky then you’re missing something.

19. GDebi (Package Installer)

Gdebi is a utility tool that works as an alternative to your default Software Center for installing applications – specifically, .deb packages while resolving and installing its dependencies and you can use it right from your terminal.

GDebi Package Installer

GDebi Package Installer

20. Open Pics (Free Image Resources)

Need free high-resolution images to work on your web and photography projects? Search and download them right from your desktop using the Electron-based Free Stock Image App for Linux OpenPics.

OpenPics Image Preview

OpenPics Image Preview

There are a lot more apps that can go on the list but the idea is to make a blanket case for Ubuntu users. Nevertheless, if I failed to mention any apps that are a must-have for your line of work feel free to make your suggestions as well as edits in the comments section.

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About the author

Martins D. Okoi

Martins Jr. (Dillivine) Okoi is a graduate of Computer Science with a passion for Linux and the Open Source community. He works as a Web designer & developer, technical writer, and programmer.

  • Alex Macafee

    Quite a decent list but would just like to add krita as a very good option instead of gimp, has a much more elegant UI and user friendly workflow

  • B.Max

    Why is Gdebi even there when the CLI already has a package manager which is also natively available as a GUI ?

    • Oh yeah? Which tool is that?

      • I think he is talking about APT and DPKG default package managers for installing packages in Ubuntu..

        • Gdebi works like Apt except that it works with local files. I don’t know any GUI app for DPKG

      • B.Max

        Apt-Get / Aptitude.

        • I didn’t know the CLI has a package manager that is natively available as a GUI app. Enlighten me if you may.

          • B.Max

            There’s also Synaptic which is native to some distros like Ubuntu.

          • Synaptic package manager, right? Yes, it’s a good alternative too.

          • B.Max


    • NetraAmorosi

      gdebi is a good GUI oriented way at handling .deb files you download. Software Center handles .deb by default, but is bulky. gdebi is light and a lot quicker at handling them. Also last I check synaptic itself doesn’t handle the .deb files themselves.

      • B.Max

        Fair enough. I suppose, now being on Arch, I don’t have to worry about bulkiness with that.

  • pixel8in

    Great list but I am surprised that “Dark Table” did not make it.

  • GMaster

    It’s surprising you did not include Atom Editor.

  • Stephen MacIntosh

    digiKam is a good photo editor. I use it much more than Darktable and Gimp. Linux and Open Source rock!

  • Don’t Electron apps run a full instance of Chrome? Some people may not care, if they want a good interface, but Chrome is a memory hog, and people might want to avoid such apps if they have limited RAM. Five of the 20 were Electron apps, plus Chrome itself was listed, so if running them all together, one would have 6 full instances of Chrome running. Might be brutal on a 4 gig laptop.

    • True.
      People can make use of Chrome-based browsers more memory-friendly, though.

    • AutoSniper

      4 GB in 2017, really? My laptop has 64.

      • Martins Divine Okoi

        Lol I know right? Even my flash drive is 32GB

        • Your flash drive is storage not memory.

          • Martins Divine Okoi

            True that. I stand corrected. I was distracted.

      • Ok, so? Even my desktop only has 32. Is the whole world supposed to base their decisions on your setup?

        • AutoSniper

          Not at all, but at least 8G is desirable for a non-technie and 16G for a techie. It’s not a lot to ask for.

          It’s true what you said about Chrome being a memory hog. I have seen it use 30G memory on mine.

          • Martins Divine Okoi

            8GB for a non-techie? That’s a memory-hungry non-techie then.
            Perhaps they are music/video producers, editors, graphic designers, etc.

        • Martins Divine Okoi

          Not at all. You’re right.

          Many of my colleagues have laptops with 4GB memory and they have no complains. *Even with Google Chrome*

      • AutoSniper

        FWIW, my Note 8 phone has 6G memory.

        • Martins Divine Okoi

          To have 8GB is one thing. For a mobile phone to need half of it is another. Seems like nothing but a price bump to me.

          And Samsung? The phone will probably begin to freeze a year or two later. But we’ll see how it goes hehe

  • Lee PriceJohnson

    Open Office.

    • Thanks.
      It’s an excellent addition; especially since in most cases I prefer it to LibreOffice.

    • AutoSniper

      I will stick with LibreOffice but thanks.

      • Martins Divine Okoi

        Hehe I feel you bro.

  • BGB

    I feel like this list would be easier to use if you offered an easily-visible link directly to the homepages of each of the packages, instead of to another page on fossmint.

    • I see your point. But I wanted readers to find the specific blog post for the app titles.

  • Sergey Yanzin

    Really console mp3 player is must-have-app-for-ubuntu??

    • Martins Divine Okoi

      It’s ultimately down to preference.

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