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Linux Migration Guide: Finding Linux Equivalents to Your Favorite Windows Programs

Which do you spend more time interacting with: your operating system, or your software? It's possible to get too pedantic with the answer as ultimately everything comes back to the operating system, but really, the answer is your software. You edit a file in a text editor or word processor. You read your email in an email client. You browse the Web in a Web browser. So when it comes time to move from Windows to Linux, one of the first things you want to consider is what software you rely on in the Windows world, and what you're going to use in Linux.

If you're not in a huge rush, you may find a number of programs that work in both operating systems. One way to prepare yourself for the switch, then, is to change over to the other program when you're still in Windows. You can make sure it works with your existing files and get used to the interface. Then, when you switch to Linux, you end up in a much more familiar experience.

There are a number of resources available online that list Windows applications by category, and the Linux applications that do the same thing. Some of the better ones are:

What Windows programs do you feel you can't live without? Make a list. Here's some common ones:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Internet Explorer
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Quicken

For how to keep your Windows games, see "Keep Your Windows Games," later in this series. For other commercial programs that you may own and not want to give up, see the following commercial products and free projects that let you run Windows software in Linux:

Replacing Adobe Photoshop

The more comfortable you are with a complex tool like a drawing and photo editor, the harder it is to switch to another. In the Linux world, the most comparable tool is The GIMP ( You can also download this program for Windows and give it a try without changing over. If you find its interface frustrating, there's an altered version of The GIMP called (appropriately enough) GIMPShop. You can also get this tool for either Linux or Windows, so why not give it a try?

Replacing Internet Explorer

Even the most dedicated Internet Explorer users these days must have heard of Firefox, the free Web browser that many people prefer. Firefox is available for Linux and for Windows, so there's no reason to wait until you make the switch if you want to try Firefox right now.

Those who find that their online banking sites don't work with Firefox might want to look into one of the alternatives for running Windows programs inside Linux, so you can run Internet Explorer for banking purposes.

Replacing Microsoft Office

If you use Microsoft Office, or really any commercial office suite, then you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the office suite is a powerful and free replacement. Better yet, you can download it for Windows and see how well it opens your existing Office files without having to switch operating systems at all. This suite offers a full collection of tools, from Writer for word processing through Base for databases. There's even Math for formatting complex math equations so you can present them correctly in the other documents. is one of those situations where you can change your software and get used to it before changing operating systems.

Replacing Microsoft Outlook

There are a couple of popular replacements for Microsoft Outlook. One of these is Mozilla's Thunderbird, and yet again, you can use this program in Windows too. Another is Novell's Evolution. Both of these emails clients are free. Evolution comes with many Linux distributions.

Replacing Quicken

If you can stomach the idea of replacing Quicken, try out GnuCash. This open source program offers full features for home and small business accounting. And, as you're getting used to hearing, you can try it in Windows before you even make the move to Linux!

However, if you really can't do without Quicken, look into the alternatives that allow you to run Windows programs inside Linux.



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  • JFTasse Said:

    Hello, I was juste wondering, why OpenOffice, why not LibreOffice?

  • OneTinSolider Said:

    Because this article is 4 years old... But many of the things it is talking about still apply.

  • JFTasse Said:

    Sorry, I just got this article on facebook ?!?! Thanks and take care

  • DJCrashdummy Said:

    @Daniel Sloan: i'm not sure but i think scribus ( will replace ms publicher very well!

  • Dewitt Said:

    Another popular programme that would be nice to have either an update to or complete replacement is Adobe Reader. For some reason Adobe only has version IX for Linux, and this version does not allow you to save your input information. Would be nice if there was at least Adobe Acrobat Pro or an alternative.

  • joseph Said:

    Adobe & oracle products offer more problems than solutions...better avoid them all

  • Moss Bliss Said:

    OpenOffice, LibreOffice, AbiWord... all are good, but not great, replacements for Microsoft Office. I used to work as Senior Editor of a small publishing company. When a Word document is brought into OOo, edited, and then sent back to someone using Word, the formatting is VERY LIKELY to be totally messed up. We had this problem many times, and reported the bug -- to be told they had known about it for several years and did not think it was important. SoftMaker Office (aka Ashampoo Office), on the other hand, has none of these problems. Current versions of the package are cheap but not free, but the company historically makes older versions available free, and it is available for Windows and Linux (but not Mac OSX). As with OOs and LO, make sure to set your default save to .DOC or .DOCX rather than the native filetype.

  • elptuxman Said:

    KompoZer... see others: or

  • Nico Said:

    I switched to Adobe CC a couple of weeks ago. I very sorry, but after more than 12 years on GIMP, I will not go back easily. The Open Source tools are good, but they are not good enough and for end-users like myself this is the final deciding factor. I don't want to write code or hack away to get the perfect image effect - it wastes a lot of time (and my money). I need applications that "just works". Do I still find Linux on the desktop useful? Well, yes. I currently use a VirtualBox image on my iMac for some batch conversion jobs on images and also to prepare and master DVD's. Also batch processing of audio files. Then the only other thing I use my Linux image for is testing of web applications, mostly because my hosting servers are Linux based.

  • k.rezak Said:

    Swear.... I'm still using ApacheOpenOffice 3.4.1 It's just fit my need!

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