Finding GNU/Linux replacements for Windows software

Short URL:


When discussing ways to switch to GNU/Linux, one of thebiggest difficulties I've found is finding answers to the question,"What can I replace this program with?" It's completelyunderstandable; people don't want to lose functionality. However, Googling for answers can easily lead to confusion andfrustration if you don't have the background or knowledge to be able todifferentiate between the wheat and the chaff. Is there a comprehensive resource for finding GNU/Linux replacements for Windows software?

Enter the LinuxEquivalent Project, a database of Windowssoftware and the GNU/Linux equivalents and alternatives. Currently, it's just a simple list with links to the homepages of eachsoftware package, but simplicity can be a blessing. The layout is easy to understand, all the important content is right on the first page. If youoverwhelm an interested person with information, relative or not,you'll probably lose their interest.

It's an excellent idea, but has opened the floodgates ofcriticism on other news and technology sites, stemming from a few keyareas. The first is that alternatives are not completelyequivalent. Fundamentally, they're not the same as theoriginal. Arguments can be made that the alternative is asgood, if not better, than what it's replacing, but one should not makethe mistake of saying that the alternative is an exact duplicate ofevery function unless it truly is. The author of the site hasaddressed this in his site blog, stating that "alternatives" or"replacements" would have been a better way of phrasing the site titleand purpose.

Another issue, related to the first, is that a number of thesuggestions don't hold up when compared to the original. Thisis tricky; subjective opinions of two similar, yet disparate productswill definitely clash. A common example of this is the GIMPversus Photoshop discussion. Some maintain that the GIMP issuperior, others say that Photoshop is the only tool to use, and othersjust cringe in the corner as the warring factions clash in a gloriouscacophony. Both Photoshop and the GIMP are mature products,yet each is fundamentally different than the other in manyways. There is some crossover functionality, but using one toreplace the other is in my mind the equivalent of using oranges insteadof apples in an apple pie. Just because they're both tasty,round fruit doesn't mean you can use them interchangeably.

One possible solution to this issue is to have a basic votingsystem where people can express how closely the products match, andanother where they can rate the product itself. On the otherhand, it complicates the site and will allow the possibility of publicabuse of the rating system. There is an elegance in itssimplicity, which should not be ignored.

A third issue is that the list isn't comprehensiveenough. It's a fine line; if you list every single piece ofalternative software, then the site will become bloated andunusable. On the other hand, if you're missing somethingimportant, then you'll lose the interest of the public. Todeal with this problem, the site author has published a submission formto collect suggestions from the public.

The Linux Equivalent Project is not the only site of its type;there are dozens of other sites. For example, hasa very long wiki topic, LinuxRSPoffers a larger, yet infrequently updated table with hundreds ofpackages, and offersa comprehensive list of descriptions of software in addition to justnaming them.

I'm glad to see a new information resource such as the LinuxEquivalent Project get public attention and continue to grow and evolvein the face of criticism. If anything, more eyes on theseproducts will lead to more adoption, criticisms and comments, whichshould lead to improvement and growth for all the projects involved.



Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on


You mention a couple of different open source (linux) software portal. But You missed my favorite Open Source Altnerative
It lets the users search for well-known commercial software - and lists primeraly high quality open source alternatives for these products. A really great resource.


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I think there is a fundamental problem with this type of exercise. If the message you send out to people is, "Use Linux! You can recreate all the good bits of your Windows experience without difficulty!" then you are setting people up to become majorly disillusioned.

We need to be honest with people, and admit that there are gains and losses with moving from Windows to Linux, but that any losses in convenience are more than made up for by freedom and flexibility. People need to know they are moving to something that is *different* from Windows and that isn't trying to *be* Windows.

You see this so often on forums: people saying, "Unless you Linux people can sort this out, you'll never beat Windows!" Since when was "beating Windows" - rather than providing a free-as-in-freedom means of using a PC - the aim?

I think that, in the end, people are not going to stick with desktop Linux unless they have an understanding of, and commitment to, software freedom. Only then can they understand why it is not *Linux's* fault that their ATI graphics card is a pain to configure, or why it takes so much work to get multimedia working properly.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Is there a list of most wanted but with no Linux replacement software?
This list would be a nice starting point for a new open source project.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

There is once more comparative table which located here:

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The switch is beautifully painful but the freedom given by GNU/Linux is bliss!

Right now I'm not dual booting -removed MS from my computers;
but at work is XP Pro; so having information like "The Linux Equivalent Project" is top resource for me.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Is to provide an alternative to a Windows only program that has Linux AND Windows versions.
I.e. for Office read OpenOffice as opposed to (say) KOffice

marienoelleb's picture

Finding equivalent or alternative solutions is an important topic. What people do will not change if people replace Windows by Linux.

For example, I do a lot of writing and many translations bewteen french an english. OpenOffice works well for me, but I am still looking for dictionnaries running on Linux. I need both monlingual (french and english) and bilingual (french to english and english to french) dictionnaries. I haven't found them yet under linux. And the dictionnaries available with OpenOffice (or with MS Office) are far from enough for this task. They weill not give the subtleties of the meaning of a given word, nor the expression to use in a given case, and so on.

I looked at all the sites mentionned by the author. These sites are interesting, but I did not yet find a dictionnary.

Marie-Noëlle Baechler
Belmont-sur-lausanne / Suisse

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on


Dictionaries are built in to Linux. You don't need to search for one as a separate application. That is true for a number of applications you must find and add to Windows.

Also, for a list, try GrokDoc's Application Crossover Chart and its Switching to Linux page.

Author information

Jon Peck's picture


Jon Peck is a Zend PHP 4 & 5 Certified Engineer and Staff Developer / System Administrator for He writes a blog about technology and web programming at