Getting started with applications on your new Debian system
So here you are with your new Debian system. Now you might be wondering, “Which programs do I use?”
First you might want to get the “minimize, maximize and close” windows-buttons which aren’t default in Debian 7–only the close window-button is there. From the desktop go to Activities menu to the top left and select Programs >System Tools and the “dconf-editor.” There are a lot of menus here to open so look carefully. Click Org >Gnome >Shell >Overrides. To your left you’ll find the “button layout” row. Type “:minimize,maximize,close” without quotation marks and then hit enter.Flash player is a must these days so let’s get that next.
I prefer the terminal for installing. First you need to edit the “sources.list” file by adding two words. In the terminal login as “root/superuser” by typing “su,” then enter the root password. Type “nano /etc/apt/sources.list” and on the first row, that says “deb http://ftp.se.debian.org/debian/whezzy main,” add after “main,” “contrib non-free” making the row look like this; “deb http://ftp.se.debian.org/debian/wheezy main contrib non-free”. Then press Ctrl+o to save and Ctrl+x to exit. After that, as you should always do after editing files or adding repositories, type “apt-get update”. Then type “apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree” (without quotation marks) and you will have Adobe Flash.Usually when editing system files and installing programs you need root/superuser privileges. Always remember to update the system afterwards. Type “exit” to logout from the root/superuser account, which should only be used temporarily for editing/installing and not for normal computer use unless the system asks for it. Also, when installing packages and applications you might sometimes be prompted with the information that the installation requires some more packages. Since the questions comes during the installation process it’s safe to say “Yes.” In Debian 7 Evolution is the default email application. When you launch Evolution you are greeted by a welcome and setup screen. Just follow the steps and you will be fine. You could also read this guide if you need help: http://www.howtoforge.com/how-to-configure-an-email-account-in-evolution. It’s a little bit old but should get you there.
Then there is Thunderbird, which like Firefox has a rebranded and slightly tweaked version in Debian known as IceDove (Firefox is known as IceWeasel). IceDove can be installed either through the terminal by typing “apt-get install icedove” or by going to Activities >Programs >System Tools and “add/remove software.” Search for IceDove and click the little box followed by the “Apply” button in the lower right corner. IceDove is pretty easy to configure. If you have been using Thunderbird in Windows you’ll be fine. Personally I prefer IceDove/Thunderbird for it’s simplicity. It’s easy to setup and use.Moving on to image/photo processing/editing apps–GIMP is already installed. You access this app, as you do most apps, through “Activities” (top left on the desktop) and “Programs” or just type their name. GIMP is a very strong alternative to Adobe Photoshop and other photo app–and it’s free. It’s maybe a little intimidating at first, but you’ll soon learn it. Help on Gimp can be found at http://gimp-savvy.com/BOOK/. If you have camera and shoot pictures using raw image files, GIMP has a drawback; it won’t open raw files. However, there is darktable for raw files. There’s installation help for darktable at http://www.darktable.org/install/. Login as root/superuser then scroll down to the Ubuntu image. In the small box you’ll find installation instructions.
You’ll most likely also be looking for something to replace MS Office as well. LibreOffice is a fantastic office suite that comes already installed in Debian 7. In addition to ODF, it also supports Word and other Microsoft formats for both reading and writing files. There are more alternatives, such as Calligra and Abiword. Abiword can open and save MS Word documents but Calligra can’t. Both LibreOffice and Calligra will allow you to save your document as a PDF file.When it comes to music there’s Rhythmbox, included by default in Debian, which works fine for listening to music and playing CD’s. Movie Player is also included by default which plays music and movies. Rhythmbox and Movie Player work straight out of the box and the Debian team has included a lot of codecs; I haven’t had any trouble playing any material. When apps works straight-off I usually stick with them. However, you can always install VLC Media Player if you prefer. Just type “apt-get install vlc” as root/superuser in the terminal. If you are using online video services be sure to find out whether they use Flash player or Microsoft’s Silverlight. Flash works fine on Linux but Silverlight services might be a little more tricky. The mono project’s website has the instructions needed to install Moonlight (Silverlight for Linux). If you want to use Netflix you’ll need Moonlight. HBO, on the other hand, uses Flash. Pidgin is an excellent instant messenger app which handles a lot of services such as MSN, ICQ, Yahoo among others. Skype is also available. However, the service was bought by Microsoft some year ago and is one of the apps being used to spy on users so it’s not PRISM free; your privacy is not guaranteed. However, an alternative to Skype is Ekiga. It’s available from the terminal by typing “apt-get install ekiga” as root/superuser. I suggest you visit the site first and read up on it as they also offer regular telephone service. Debian 7 comes with an easy to use file manager. If you’re coming from Windows you shouldn’t have any trouble navigating. Your hard drives and DVD drives are still available on the menu on the left side. One thing I like is that when browsing images I get small thumbnail pictures of them.
My favorite file manager is Gnome Commander which offers two side-by-side windows, making it excellent for copying or moving files. If you use FTP or other network functions and work with files often, this would be an excellent choice for you.There are many more apps available for Debian to fill many different needs and purposes. Should you find something missing here that you need or if you just want to ask about something concerning Debian or Linux, you can always send me an email at gfridell at fossforce.com and I will do my best to answer your question.
Searching the Internet for help is also a great tool. Just start your search by typing “How to” followed by your question and ending with “Debian 7” and you’re most likely to find an answer.