To begin this analysis, I went through the list of 250+ applications and assigned each of them to category: games, file managers, editors, and so on. Here are the top 10 categories of applications and the top 3 programs in each group, based on our own readers' desktop preferences.
Believe it or not, our otherwise hardworking and industrious NewsForge readers voted more often for games in their top ten lists than for applications in any other category. There were 84 votes for 27 different games. The top three games NewsForge people play are Enemy Territory, Quake, and Epiphany.
Office suites and applications make up the second most popular group. There were 82 votes for 19 different applications or suites. The top three as picked by our readers are OpenOffice.org, Abiword, and gnumeric.
Browsers form our third most popular group. Readers named 7 different browsers and among them they garnered 73 votes. Mozilla was far and away the most popular, and to add insult to injury to its competition, Mozilla Firebird came in second. Opera took third.
In fourth place are editors, always the source of controversy. Readers chose 11 different editors to argue about and they totaled 71 votes among them. Number one position went to vi, followed by emacs, of course, and in third a tie between nedit and kate.
File managers were next in fifth place. There were a total of 6 voted on, and collectively they pulled in 66 votes. Konqueror is the undisputed king of the category, with Nautilus a distant second and the venerable Midnight Commander third.
Network applications and security apps make up the sixth most popular group, tallying 60 votes for 23 different programs. Most popular? That would be ssh, followed by nmap in second and a three-way tie for third: rdesktop, gftp, and ethereal.
In seventh place came development tools which included compilers, debuggers, languages, and IDEs. NewsForge readers named 27 different development tools which shared 48 votes. Honor was paid to gcc at the top of the list, followed closely by a tie between python and Quanta. A four-way tie for third occurred with gift, eclipse, sed, and anjuta (not ajunta as I originally typed it) crossing the line together.
NewsForge readers are big on multimedia, the eighth most popular application group. There 27 apps in this category and a total of 47 votes. The category included video players and tools, sound players and tools, and CD/DVD tools. Mplayer dominated the voting, followed by k3b and xine.
You gotta have mail, the ninth-ranked group. Just 7 programs got 43 votes for the group. And what a celebration of riches we have. Evolution came in first, kmail second, and the excellent sylpheed third.
Tools. Utility infielders. All sorts of them. That's the tenth most popular group chosen by our readers. A total of 16 different tools collected 37 votes. Most valuable tool? It's gkrellm, the popular system monitor. Second went to grep, and I awarded third to awk. Actually, awk and grep tied, but all the rest of the group came in with one vote each and I don't want to name them all.
So there you have it. The Linux desktop appears to be a varied and productive environment for all manner of folk. Not just gnarly old sysadmins playing nethack, but programmers and office workers and folks who like music and movies and browsing the Internet. It would be an interesting comparison to make if we could go back in time five years and see how use of the Linux desktop has changed in that time. Or five years forward, for that matter.
Joe Barr has been writing about personal computing for 10 years, and about Linux for five. His work has appeared in IBM Personal Systems Journal, LinuxGazette, LinuxWorld, Newsforge, phrack, SecurityFocus, LinuxJournal.com, and VARLinux.org. He is the founder of The Dweebspeak Primer, home of the official newsletter of the Linux Liberation Army, an organization in which he holds the honorary rank of Corporal-for-life. No IBM money-trees were killed in the preparation of this bio.