Linux Mint programs for Windows XP users

Linux Mint programs for Windows XP users

Summary: Yes, many of your Windows programs aren't available on Linux, but some of them are and there are Linux programs that can do just as well as your old XP software.


The biggest challenge for Windows XP users switching to Linux Mint is having to change the programs you've known and used for years. Fortunately, some programs are available on both Linux and Windows. In addition, there are Linux programs that duplicate the functionality of your favorite Windows programs.

My Linux Mint desktop running LibreOffice for office work, Pidgin for IM, Steam for games; Evolution for e-mail and Skype for, well, Skype VoIP.

I'm not going to lie and tell you that all your programs are available on native Linux. They're not.

Now, there are ways to run Windows applications on Linux. Indeed, you can run Windows itself on Linux. But I'll take up those methods in my next XP to Mint story. For today, I'm going to focus on native Linux and Web-based programs that you can use to duplicate your Windows XP software functionality.

E-Mail: I've never liked Outlook, but if you're wedded to Exchange and Outlook, you can use Evolution groupware instead. Evolution has been my favorite e-mail client for years and, yes, you can use it with Exchange.

You can, of course, also use any Web-mail client with Linux.

Windows XP and Linux Mint: Brothers at the interface (Gallery)

Finances: There's no real equivalent to Quicken on Linux. GnuCash, which is very good, is more like QuickBooks than Quicken. So what I've started doing is using — no relation to Mint Linux! — for personal finances. It's free and, unlike Quicken, doesn't demand that you pay for an update every three years.

Gaming: Almost none of your games will run natively on Linux. Again there are ways and means to get them to run on Linux, but that's a story for the next chapter. However, many of Valve Software's Steam-based games are now running on Linux. In fact, Valve CEO Gabe Newell thinks that Linux, and not Windows, is the future for PC gaming.

To run Steam-based games on Mint, your hardware has to be fairly powerful by XP standards. You'll need a 64-bit processor, 4GBs of RAM, and an AMD, Intel, or NVIDIA graphics card. If you have the gear, you'll need to run Steam-Launcher from Mint's Software Manager. After that, just follow the Steam client's instructions and you'll soon be playing your game.

Linux also has quite a few native games. For a good selection, visit the site LinuxGames. Many of these will be available via the Software Manager.

Graphics. Linux has a great photograph editor, GIMP. That's the good news. The bad news is it doesn't work anything like Adobe Photoshop.

If you're willing to learn a new program, GIMP's worth the effort. But if you make your living from Photoshop and require a half-dozen different Photoshop add-on programs, you're going to need to run XP and Photoshop in a virtual machine; I'll describe that in the next chapter.

Instant Messaging/VoIP: For instant messaging (IM) I use Pidgin. With it, I can connect to most IM services including AIM, Google Talk, and MSN.

For Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) I can use Skype. Yes, there is an official Microsoft Skype program for Linux. You can also use Google Voice for VoIP and all the rest of your home or business uses as my colleague David Gewirtz explains in his comprehensive Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide.

When it comes to video-calling and conferencing, my favorite, on any platform, is Google+ Hangouts. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Office Suite: You can't run Microsoft Office natively on a Linux desktop. You can, however, use LibreOffice instead. I've been using it since it split off from OpenOffice and it works enough like Microsoft Office that I can go back and forth between them and never even notice which one I'm using. If you know how to use Microsoft Office, you already know how to use LibreOffice.

In addition, the newest version of LibreOffice, LibreOfice 4.2, does an excellent job of saving files to Microsoft's own file formats. My one caveat is that if your job involves creating elaborate spreadsheets you will not be happy with LibreOffice Calc. Instead, you'll need to use one of the ways I describe to run Excel on Linux in the next part of this series.

Web browser: Mint comes with Firefox by default, but I'm not a big Firefox fan these days. Instead, I use Chrome.

To get Chrome for Linux Mint, download the 32-bit Debian/Ubuntu version if you're running a 32-bit system. If you have a 64-bit box download, naturally, download the Debian/Ubuntu 64-bit version. Once downloaded, left-click on the downloaded file and choose to open it. This will bring up the Package Installer program. Then all you need do is click on Install Package and in less than a minute you'll be running Chrome.

Put it all together and you'll see that you can pretty much do everything you ever did on your XP PC on a Mint Linux computer. It won't be exactly the same, but I think you'll find that the lower price, faster speed, and improved security makes the jump worthwhile.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Linux, Software, Windows

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  • Spot on

    Steve's essay is very much "spot on". I switched from Windows/7 to Linux 2 years ago. First to Ubuntu but now to the LMDE Debian based MINT

    I use the Thunderbird e/mail client rather than web-base e/mail and Thunderbird is "standard" with these Linux versions.

    I use the Audacity and Audacious packages for my music library and they have good CD programs too.

    Their Filezilla is an outstanding FTP program and the Bluefish editor is good for programing HTML, C etc

    Their Gwenview programs is outstanding for browsing photo libraries

    I like the "Openshot" video editor

    recently I added the recoll search and index program and this seems to be the best sear and find utility i've used thus far
    • Mint can replace XP by just using a USB/SC Card

      Currently its as easy as getting a preinstalled set. I have set my own up, so I have a 32GB sdcard and a couple 128GB usb cards.

      Just find a computer and start up, you're up and running in no time.

      You can do full web development, astronomy, and even run every app on your Android or Chrome box, as well as some if not many of the Windows apps.

      In the past Linux fonts were ugly and the interface was crude. Currently Mint works better than anything else MS has to offer besides XP, and it all fits on an SD Card that does not use FAT.
      • Kinsoft Office and Quick Office under Chrome

        as Chrome doc viewer more than compensate anything that MS Office has to offer. And they both are better than Libre Office and considerably light weight.

        Compatibility is great! I've been using them on Android for years now without a hitch.

        For SQL Server you have MariaDB and MYSQL, both work real great. So there simply isn't a reason not to go over to Linux, specially when you have Android underneath.
        • Windows absolutely necessary for the over 50 croud

          I have seen this first hand. At work the older people, especially those over 50 find it impossible to learn new applications. Word, Excel and PowerPoint is all they know and they are afraid that if the company switches to non Microsoft software that they will be fired. In my opinion they should be fired anyway because they are slow and ask really dumb questions. For this reason, until they retire, we will need Windows.
          Tim Jordan
          • Re: Windows absolutely necessary for the 50 crowd

            Really??? I am 63 years old and I use both Windows (7 & 8.1) and Linux (Mint and Bodhi). I run Linux both as dual boot and on a virtualized environment. My wife who's 55 has been using Linux for the last five years. Be careful when you make broad generalizations.
          • Tim Jordan coments about over 50 people.

            Sir,you are a total ignorant ass by the uncaring comment you made about people over 50 being fired. If you have that kind of mentality ... you sir are the one that needs to be fired.
          • Windows absolutely necessary for the over 50 croud

            Go ahead and flag me if you want,but the truth is still the truth.
          • over 50

            It might be true when you're over 50 but I've got my mom running Linux on a netbook since her job requires her to be away from home using various public networks. She has no troubles at all. She's been over 50 for a few years now.
          • If you think there's no relearning by sticking with MS...

  're gonna have a bad time. While projects like Linux Mint and LibreOffice keep some semblance of the traditional Windows products, Microsoft has gone out of it's way to throw all prior concepts out the window. If you think Office 2003 users will struggle with LibreOffice, imagine trying to teach them the Ribbon interface. Was Windows 7 a bit of a stretch for your guys? Try teach them Windows 8 and the Metro interface.
          • Horsepatootie

            I've been using Linux for over 17 years as my main OS and I was over 50 when I started. Your condescension toward coworkers is profoundly stupid.
            D Soup
          • You are wrong!

            I am 65 and use XP, Win 7, (have access to Win 8) and my main machines run Ubuntu Unity and Gnome and Mint Cinnamon. The Win 7 laptop is duel boot with Ubuntu.

            I teach IT at Age UK and all of my students so far have found Ubuntu or Mint with LibraOffice etc. MUCH easier than Win 8, easier than Win 7 or XP. Office 2007 and 2013 are, with very few exceptions, considered a nightmare to use. Once people know about Linux and see the quality, only a few go and buy from Ms.

            Having taught IT for 28 years, I found the transition to Linux over 8 years ago to be slow. However, the last 3 years have seen astonishing progress and I would not return to an Ms product.

            As an IT lecturer, your problem moving systems is more likely your approach than the age of your staff.
          • over 50 croud (sic)

            I trust you will do your part and never become one of the "over 50 croud (sic)".

            As a matter of fact, how about never becoming one of the over 40 crown.
          • got a feeling

            He's not even out of his teen years yet. Otherwise, I'd hope he'd have a bit more knowledge than is displayed here.
          • Resistance to change

            Some of the strongest resistance to changes in applications or OS that I've seen (in person or on the Internet) is among younger allegedly tech-savvy people.

            ****Windows 8?!? OMG!!! It sucks! I can't do *anything* without extra steps!!! It's the worst piece of crap in the history of software!!!

            **** GNOME 3?!? OMG!!! They're going to DESTROY Linux!!!

            blahblahblah. Put the changed systems in front of them, give them some training and documentation as necessary, and they'll get on with their jobs. They might whine about it for a while.
          • Well over 50

            Absolute crap unless your 'Work' happens to be a facility caring for sufferers of dementia.
            We're both over 70 & happily switch between versions of Windows or multiple Linux distros & applications.
            We're both presently assisting younger family members with their 'really dumb questions' as they attempt to wean themselves off M$.
            In your situation I suspect their difficulties are likely due to exposure to a poor quality level of instructon?
          • Re: Windows absolutely necessary for the over 50 croud

            That generalization is not well supported by the facts. Resistance to change is a personality trait that is distributed across all ages. Where one falls on this dimension is determined in no small mart by genetic factors that manifest themselves to the degree that they are positively or negatively reinforced by the environment. The same is true for your apparent tendency to overgeneralize.

            Chances are good that your school teachers and your contemporary colleagues would tell us that you tend to be opinionated in excess of the facts.
          • Dumb Questions

            I've been in IT for a long time and I'm not quite sure which annoys me more, dumb questions or dumb comments. They're both up there pretty high on the ignorance scale.

            I think we need to address the challenges of IT vs company policy and enforcement and with our own personal behavior.

            Let us observe that there's a difference between Computer Illiteracy, Lazy and Stupid.

            As a generally not so patient person, Computer Illiteracy doesn't really get to me. These people are incapable of what they have not experienced. Most of us are. You need to reach people associatively with the things they have experience with.

            Stupidity will always exist somewhere and a blue face isn't going to change that, short of the blue face being the result of choking someone - not an advisable action, by the way.

            I've saved the Lazy item for last because I think it floods us with easily greater than 80% of all that we blanket as "Computer Illiterate" or "Stupid." When someone says they don't know how to do something, they need explanation, not for someone to do it for them. If you keep doing it for them, they not only lack the opportunity to learn, but they develop a dependency or expectation for people to keep doing it for them. I have countless times of people who are capable of taking a screenshot of some dancing cat, laughing chipmunk or whatever and emailing me the mountains of crap email and email forwards of forwards that seemingly can't manage to fulfill the same process when I ask them to email me a screenshot of the error message that is currently on their screen.

            Lazy will never be addressed until their lack of personal effort becomes a personal obstacle. I'm not against dropping those people to the lowest priority on my list. During work hours, it's a little hard to simply ignore people without the risk of getting in trouble. I understand that. But if I've got 10 problems to address, then I've got 9 things before you.

            As for the over 50 crowd, I'm not so sure I'd call it stupid. I think the really old people have been raised with a certain level of fragility that they expect these sensitive devices to be. Way back when, the prime technologies of the era (maybe not quite computers) were really expensive and really fragile. That meant if you messed up, you broke some really expensive stuff that wasn't cheap to fix. For farmers and industrious elders, complexity meant physical risk. Loss of limb or life means going over the process again and again before going off on your own to handle that process. At this point it's a confidence thing, not an intelligence thing. Considering the trouble that people clicking on every attachment, every popup, installing every facebook game, and those who download and install every pirated software they can get should take it from the elders and actually think before making an action. Run through the process a few more times before securely erasing your home folder, my documents folder, or for the previous decade, before formatting c:\

            Only part of the learning curve is the users responsibility. Get a different job if you can't grasp that IT professionals have at least -some- responsibility to teaching people of -all- ages and backgrounds.

            As for these people needing Windows, I think there's another falsity there. Windows XP and Windows 8 are not logically similar. Nor are they aesthetically similar. Their functions are despairingly different and the end user will be forced to change and learn something new anyway. Windows 8 was the only way I got my parents off of Windows. They needed to upgrade from Windows XP, acknowledged that Vista was junk and saw that Windows 7 has already been out for nearly 5 years. Knowing that the lifecycle of Windows XP was abnormally longer than usual, investing into Windows 7 this close to its end of life made no sense. Windows 8 was seen as complete garbage. Windows 8.1 was seen as a refusal to backtrack enough to what they considered usable and they conceded to the need to learn something unfamiliar either way. We identified that Windows was not the best answer, so we looked into Windows and Mac and they've gone that direction ever since. Simply put, we just needed to apply the sudden need for change and a learning curve to what we deemed the best path.
    • VLC media player!

      How can you not mention VLC as media player for Linux.
      I use VLC for Windows and Android as well.
      XBMC as a media player for HTPC as well.
  • Alternatively...

    They could upgrade to Windows 7, which will be instantly familiar to the user unlike Linux Mint, and all the existing software they know and love will continue to function.

    The sad fact of the matter, though, is most XP users today have no intention of upgrading and will then try to blame someone else when their files get encrypted or the bank account emptied by some malicious software.
    • Requires hardware replacement

      Win7 demands more of the hardware, so if they don't want to buy a new box it's easier with Mint. And it really isn't that hard to learn.