20 Linux apps you can't live without

The Sims Carnival
We've included one online game portal to show that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of games available to the Linux community from a browser, regardless of whether they make a Linux version. One of the newest is The Sims Carnival, which features a slew of arcade games, puzzles and even adventure games. What's most interesting about Carnival is that other users create the games for you to play, so it's an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of programming: gameplay, graphics, design, testing.

This Tetris knock-off works because it's so simple and finally dispenses with the 3D bricks. In their place, Cuyo presents cartoonish smiley faces that plunge down into a grassy knoll. In later stages, the game gets horrendously difficult as you try to colour-match the characters and form a chain of faces, some of them falling at different rates, others causing nearby faces to explode.

Another twist is that you sometimes have to form a row of smiley faces diagonally before they'll explode and sometimes a descending smiley will change colour, so you have to be quick to react to the new variables.

Google is well-known for making sky-mapping software Google Sky, but Stellarium is an open source equivalent that's gaining traction with good community support and an interface that emphasises stargazing over traditional (and complex) planetarium features, such as azimuthal grids and scripting coordinates.

The program actually has most of the features in Google Sky, including the star grids – which enable you to find as many as 600,000 stars – but first it just shows you a wide open perspective of the sky to encourage creativity and experimentation.

Warzone 2100
Warzone 2100 is based on a real-time strategy game developed by Pumpkin Studios way back in 1999. In 2004, the giant publishing house Eidos Interactive released the source code into the public domain and Warzone 2100 was born.

Gameplay follows the traditional mechanics of Command & Conquer, with heavy resource building and gang-rush tactics, using a graphics engine that's definitely showing its age. Yet Warzone 2100 is free and has a much deeper tree structure – with as many as 400 technologies to research and a branching unit customisation structure, three campaigns and 24 instant action maps.


Freshly minted as a version 1.0 product, Bluefish is a powerful text editor for programmers. Billed as "extremely lightweight", the program uses about half the memory of more well-known editors, such as Quanta, so it could run just fine in a lightweight distro – for example, Fluxubuntu – or alongside programming environments such as Eclipse. It also loads files quickly: in a test, we opened ten HTML files in almost the blink of an eye, even though they were fairly complex.

Even though Adobe has recently opened up with its Labs initiative and supports Linux with more and more of its utility computing products (such as Flex and the Air platform), it's still nearly impossible to find versions of its main productivity apps that runs on Linux, such as Dreamweaver or Fireworks. Salasaga makes up for this deficiency by enabling you to make animated Flash movies using the native SWF format, and will eventually support Ajax for fully interactive content in

Octave 3
This development platform is intended to aid programmers with computational problems – including non-linear equations and polynomials, working with differential-algebraic equations and other complex maths problems – through its own custom-built programming interface.

The main improvement in version 3.0 is better interoperability with Matlab, the data analysis and visualisation tool that helps programmers with complex workflows in high-end computing development.

Article first published in Linux Format, issue 107

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John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.