Cross-reference of Windows (or Mac) apps/programs with best Linux Substitutes

I’m a newbie both to Foss Community and also to Linux. I took a couple of tries to finally load Mint Cinnamon on an older Dell laptop (with the core running slower than i3). I play around with it and some of the apps that are common to Windows and Linux, such as Brave for browser, DuckDuckGo for search engine, LibreOffice for MS Office, etc.

But wondering if there is a general cross-reference chart that is operational for determining for ANY distro - by task/function - what the best Linux apps/programs are, and why you have found them so to be.

Thanks in advance!

I’ll kick it off with some of my favourite apps :

Mac / Windows                     Linux
- CorelDraw / Illustrator         Inkscape
- Music player (?)                Sayonara
- Office 365                      There is no substitute
- Office 365**                    Libre Office (if we're talking simple spreadsheets and formatted text - see below) 

Actually - considering I don’t run Windows - I’m probably not the best person to address this. I do run MacOs though…

If you’re collaborating with colleagues MS Office documents - and they’re smashed full of hideous corporate logos and management preambles and templated headers and footers - I’m afraid there’s only one choice :
Office 365 (90% of which works flawlessly in a modern web browser like Chromium, Brave or MS Edge [the Chromium based Edge]). I’ve recently come out the other side of having to edit a bunch of BUTT UGLY documents with revision markers and comments, crapped out with corporate logos and bullshit management language (thats speaks paragraphs, but SAYS NOTHING) - I ended up doing about 50% online with Office Web, and the other 50% with the MS Office application on my Mac… Just opening and saving one of these documents in Libre Office could potentially destroy all the formatting - so I won’t go there, and I didn’t.


Hello and welcome.
I’ll throw in some of my subjective suggestions.

Thunderbird for Mail
Gimp for Photoshop (in a way, this is a controversial topic e.g. for Mac users (ey, @daniel.m.tripp :wink: )
Scribus for DTP (if you do such tasks)
Zim Desktop Wiki for taking notes and organising information

As you will see, there are plenty of programs to discover as you go exploring GNU/Linux, far too many to cover them here.
Best thing to do: Start working with your OS and when you come to a point where it’s unclear how to do it or what to use, ask our friendly community.



Perhaps you could also note programs that move almost seamlessly across platforms, for example
R amd Microsoft R
Latex and PC Tex

And there are some that are totally unique to Unix, for example
although these have probably been cloned for windows.

Where does gcc stand? It is one of the foundations of Unix so it has a special status I think.

And the various window systems. Microsoft doesnt ‘have’ window systems, it ‘is’ a window system. So windows itself corresponds to X11 or Wayland perhaps?


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I don’t really like the idea of replacements or substitutes: If we look just for that, the Open Source alternatives will always be crutches which, in some aspects, will always fall short of their commercial counterparts.

In reality, many Open Source Projects are great in their own right and offer features, their commercial alternatives lack.

I believe, we should focus more on tasks, rather than on specific Win/MacOS apps.


Excellent point! Just shows how new I am!

Yes, “by function” is probably a better way to look at it, such as “word processor” or PDF creator/editor.


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Hi Bob,
You can make your own list of available software for a function.
Just use a search in the package system
For example in Debian
apt-cache search wordprocessing



Basically, you’re right, but people need advice and guidance. The repositories are filled with obsolete crap and near useless incomplete projects - both claiming to be the right tool for the job. That can be very confusing and often disappointing, leading people to the erroneous conclusion that FOSS is intrinsically inferior to commercial products.


I agree, Debian repositories are a mix of junk and good packages. I think Void repositories weed out some of the worst junk.
So the options are

  • make a filter
  • teach people how to discriminate
  • bypass repositories and make a FOSS recommended list
    I think the original post was for No 3.
    Christmas Greetings

Hi Bob,
On thinking about this over Christmas, I reckon there are a couple of websites which go close to answering your “by function” query

There are other sites. Have a browse. Some of this is a matter of opinion and personal preference.

You might also look at reviews of software in places like ‘Linux Magazine’

And, lastly, there is one distribution that I know of that has a very advanced package manager which has packages sorted into a range of categories and combines this with a package selection policy which only makes available one package per function. That is Solus Linux distribution. You dont need to install Solus to try it. You can boot a live DVD, and just use the graphical package manager . Then when you see what they recommend, go back to your ‘Mint’ Linux and install it from their repository.
You will find that any packages that come pre-installed with your ‘Mint’ Linux, are a reasonably good choice. The makers of distributions try to give people a good start.


Thanks! I will try to check into it. I guess maybe I will try to come up with the functions I am looking for first. Then look at the recommendations!

There’s also the “alternative to” web site / search engine… I don’t recall, but generally, e.g. in google, if you type : “alternative to coreldraw” it will come up as one of the search results (or it used to). It’s not great, and by no means indispensible, but useful if you’re just starting out? It even lists which platforms each answer runs on (i.e. it includes Linux) :

Result for coreldraw :

It lists “sk1” on that list - tried it a few times, because I miss CorelDraw - but - it’s a flunky flaky piece of crap and I’d never recommend it, ever (it does have some CLI utils for converting CDR files to other formats [e.g. SVG])…

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Ooooh. I like! Especially because - at this point - I’m not so confident even about burning images to DVDs or USB’s: it took me several go’s to get my Mint to install!

Good idea @daniel.m.tripp .
Might be better to go to the site
Can search from there, and will get only linux software

Bob, try Daniel’s suggestion for one of your functions.
Then when you get a choice, sound it out with another more specific post. Unless what you want is unusual there will be people here with experiences to share.

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The purpose is to look down the list of what I’m using right now to make sure I’m covered WHEN (NOT if!) I convert my Dell i7 laptop to Linux. And of course some Windows apps are also found in Linux, which is good as well. I won’t necessarily switch those just because options are in FOSS - but maybe someday that will happen.

I was a Windows user up to Windows 7. Now I use Debian based Linux (Ubuntu, Devuan, Star, Q4OS) on all of my computers. Some of my favorite and excellent Linux apps that can be easily installed or already preinstalled on Linux Mint:

Office: LibreOffice

Browsers: Firefox, Waterfox

Firewall: ufw, gufw

Audio & Video Players: Audacious, SMPlayer

Graphics: Viewnior, Nomacs, gcolor3, gpicview

PDF Viewers: Evince, katarakt

Text Editors: Leafpad, Mousepad

File Managers: PCManFM, Nemo

Bootable USB (write ISO to USB drive): gnome-multi-writer, usb-creator-gtk

Software Manager: Synaptic

File system cleaner: Bleachbit

Power Manager: xfce4-power-manager

Torrent clients: Deluge, Tixati

On-Screen keyboards: onboard, florence

Here’s my list (compared to @Deby’s )

Office: LibreOffice

Browsers: Brave, ToR, Firefox, Firefox ESR (portable), Google Chrome, Edge (latest Linux)

Firewall: none (my WiFi router / VDSL modem does that)

Audio & Video Players: Sayonara, VLC

Graphics: shotwell, kolorpaint, GIMP, Inkscape, AzPainter, MyPaint

PDF Viewers: no idea (whatever the default thingie is provided by Ubuntu)

Text Editors: vi/vim, gedit, VSCode / Codium

Terminal : Gnome Terminal

Terminal Multiplexor : tmux

CLI Shell : zsh (with oh-my-zsh)

File Managers: Nautilus, CLI

Bootable USB (write ISO to USB drive): dd

Software Manager: apt / dpkg

File system cleaner: none

Power Manager: default Ubuntu thingie

Torrent clients: Transmission, and transmission-daemon (on self hosted “internal” web server [an orange Pi running Armbian)

On-Screen keyboards: none

Hi Deby,
It is interesting that you use a quite different choice of software to @daniel.m.tripp . The only things I have in common with you are Firefox and Evince. The only things I have in common with @daniel.m.tripp are apt and vi.
I think @BobHerbon will be confused if I list my choices.
So people use Linux for a whole range of tasks and their choices of software are quite personal. Nothing wrong with that, computers are general purpose machines.
I was interested in your choice of Devuan and xfce. That is one of my favourites.

Gonna paraphrase “kinda” like, the silly, apocryphal, and fake, anecdote about old Henry, and the Model T ford : “you can have any computer you want, so long as it’s running Windows…”

With Linux we’re SPOILED for choice, and sometimes too much choice, which can spoil “stuff” (like a smorgasbord) …

User X prefers yum/rpm, so they run Fedora with Gnome 4…
User Y prefers apt/deb, so they run Debian with Gnome 4…

On the desktop the UX is nearly identical… It’s glorious actually :smiley:

And then over there - in another corner, a bunch of KDE users running Arch based distros, pretending to wink friendly at Debian based KDE users…


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