Anyone who has read anything about Linux will know that the many distros that are available come complete with the operating system and a whole host of bundled applications. In fact, since the Linux kernel is essentially a constant (ignoring the fact that there are multiple versions of the kernel available), it’s primarily the range of bundled applications (including the desktop software) that set the various distros apart.
Once the end user has selected and installed a distro, all of the included applications become available. But, there are typically so many of these it becomes hard to see the wood for the trees. Sure, we all know about, and regularly use, the big-ticket apps such as a web browser, E-mail client, and probably an office suite. But, how many of us delve deeper into the menu structure to find some of the “hidden” gems?
In this post, we will explore a few of the programs that are located in the Applications – Accessories menu.
Some of these, such as Calculator and Character Map, will be familiar to Windows’ users since they have the same name and essentially the same functionality as their Microsoft counterparts. If this is not the case, note that Calculator is useful for performing quick on-screen calculations without the need to load the Calc spreadsheet program, while Character Map allows “odd” characters (such as é) to be easily copied into an E-mail message.
Other utilities provide similar functions to Windows’ accessories but have different names. For example, Terminal is the Linux command-line window. Here you can enter manual commands, but note that these are Linux (Unix) commands and are often somewhat different than their DOS/Windows’ cousins. The Text Editor, gedit, is somewhat similar to Windows’ Notepad, but is actually more like to Notepad++ in that it includes the capability to open multiple files in separate tabs within the program.
The advantage provided by a Linux distro is the number of applications included in the package that, for a Windows’ installation, would be third-party products and hence require separate sourcing and program installation.
One such example is the Disk Usage Analyzer tool. This program lets you take a look at the file structure of a disk or folder and view the disk space allocation. Sub-folders are listed, together with their size, and a bar chart giving percentage use. This allows the files and/or folders that are taking up the most space to be quickly identified. Expanding any specific folder provides the same breakdown for files within that folder, so that exploring specific areas of the disk is quick and easy.
The Take Screenshot utility allows images of the entire screen, a single window, or a user-defined rectangular area of the screen to be captured and saved as an image file. One neat feature is the ability to grab the screen image after a specified time delay. This allows the user to navigate through a series of on-screen menus prior to capturing the screen image. For example, this technique was used to obtain the screenshot of the Accessories menu shown above.
Note also that there are quite a number of other utilities available as standard items on this menu, including a password manager and a note-taking program. Personally, I do not use these applications, but they are there for those who do have a need.