Q. I'm new to GNU/Linux world and a single query (apt-cache search office or yum search 'office') shows so many application for a single task such as network monitoring or office applications. The number of apps choices just confusing. How do you select application from so many choices?
A. GNU/Linux and open source software offers lots of choices to end users. This can create a problem for new users. Most Linux distributions provide a program for browsing a list of thousands of free software applications that have already been tested. A digital signature guarantees that no one has added a virus or a spyware to these programs. You can download program from the Internet and install it on your computer. Some of free applications are so popular that versions have been developed for use on Microsoft Windows and other operating systems such as GIMP, Pidgin, Mozilla Firefox and Openoffice.org etc.
Few tips for selecting the best Linux apps
- Define user requirements - Set your criteria. Find out what users really wanted to use. For example, find out if users wanted to use files created by Microsoft Windows-based applications such as MS-Word.
- Test - Install various application on your local computer using vmware or virtualbox or xen. Each work environment is unique, so make sure software works with your network and hardware devices such as printers.
- Community support - Find out more about active community support. Plenty of free and friendly support available for many packages via mailing lists and discussion forums.
- Binary package - Make sure package is included with your Linux distribution via CDROM or the Internet repos. This will not just save building time but it works best as it may be tested by thousands of users.
- Performance - Find out performance of each application. Once satisfied move selected app to production.
- Stable packages - Test and install only stable packages. Many packages are in beta or alpha development.
- Project activity - Some project get popular and remains in an active development for a long time. But, few packages may stop development and bug fixing all together. If the mailing list or forum associate with application has not active for months, it's in inactive status.
- Popularity - Find out application popularity using search engines and pages located at SF.net or Freshmeat. Try Google trends to get more information about apps popularity.
Finally, there are other ways to run popular Windows application through Linux using an emulator.