Desktop FreeBSD

As I mentioned in this post, I am aiming to use FreeBSD as my desktop OS either at work, at home, or both in the near future. As such I’m seeking out replacements for my current applications and the like. Now, this isn’t necessarily going to end up being FreeBSD specific. It’s more about free/open source replacements for tasks and functions that need to be performed. I just happen to like FreeBSD as a whole more than any Linux distribution (I will leave the OS flamewars for others…)

As it stands, a great deal of the applications I use are already cross-platform and open source. Using those will be quite easy. There is a large table of open source “replacements” out there, but it’s more Linux-centered and impersonal. It tells you what you could use, but not if it’s a viable replacement or even if it will be usable.

I would consider myself quite the “power user” — but with a catch. I am extraordinarily lazy. Surely one could do almost anything with emacs, but I have no desire to learn it when I can click a few buttons in another program and accomplish the same tasks. That’s not so say I wouldn’t learn it, just that for my day-to-day usage I’d rather go the lazy route and point-and-click. Yeah, I’m that lame.

So here’s my personal list of applications that I use, or intend to replace. This list is subject to change at any time, and without reason. I may also stick non-application entries in here such as printers, scanners, hardware, etc. I’ll add more as I get time.

I’ll also put this into a much more readable format as soon as I can whip one up. Read on down to see the table. Something in this layout is causing a huge gap before the table shows up. CSS at its best…

I originally wrote this back in 2005. I’m updating it now in 2012 as things have changed in some areas (all for the better!) – one thing people might consider is using PC-BSD instead of FreeBSD as the base OS. The underlying OS is the same, but the folks at PC-BSD have done a lot to make the end user experience better for a desktop.

Task/Function Currently Using Replace With Notes
Web Browsing Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer Chromium, Mozilla Firefox, Opera Then: IE is holding me back for several IE-only sites I need for work, including an ordering system. It’s done in Java, but the geniuses coded the page so only IE loads the Java applet properly. I’ve had success with loading it in Opera, but not Opera on unix yet. Update: Java works great with Opera 9.x, but now the page I needed doesn’t work in Opera on Windows even! Go figure.

Now: Thankfully I no longer have to use that system… Chromium is the way to go now!

E-mail Mozilla Thunderbird Mozilla Thunderbird, Kmail, Evolution Then: Thunderbird rocks! I’ve never had a problem with it.

Now: I use KMail to access a separate account and since their latest update it’s a bit of a pain. T-Bird is still the best for me.

Office Suite Microsoft Office, Corel Wordperfect Office,, Google Docs Then: I’ve only encountered minor glitches when loading Microsoft Office files in Open Office. It does a pretty good job. I do need to convert some older pre-office docs (Works, Works spreadsheet) from about 10 years ago inside of MS Office, but that should’ve been done a long time ago.

Now: Google Docs gets the most use by far, OO is still good for offline docs.

Text Editor / HTML Editor / Programming Editor UltraEdit ?? Kate, Jed, and ScITE show promise, UEX Then: Nothing seems to come close to what I want. Good column editing, Open from/Save as to FTP/SFTP, easy macro functionality, etc. Kate is the current leader. With some plugins and KDE’s SFTP/FISH IOSlaves, the main thing missing is really good column-based editing not just rectangular selections.

Now: Kate is definitely the leader over time. Though there is now UEX, a Linux version of UltraEdit that works on FreeBSD as well, when I used the trial version I still found it lacking in a couple areas. Definitely worth revisiting as it really would be worth the money to use it.

Web Development Environment Macromedia Dreamweaver ?? Possibly Quanta+, Amaya, Nvu, ByHand 2.0 ;) Then: For the times I’m feeling lazy and need to churn out a web page/site.

Now: Coming back to this after a couple years, I don’t need anything like it anymore. Doing everything in WordPress, Joomla,

Instant Messaging Trillian Pro 3.1 Pidgin Then: Seems to be the multi-protocol IM program of choice for *nix. I really would like a Rendezvous plugin though. (I understand one is in the works)

Now: Pidgin is good, and it has had a Bonjour/Rendezvous plugin for a while now, and it works great (though has some quirks).

Graphics Viewer ACDSee GQview, Gwenview Then: This looks to be a good choice for replacing ACDSee, it can look similar and does what I need.

Now: These are both still good choices

Graphics Editor Photoshop Gimp / Gimpshop / Krita Then: I just need to get the hang of the interface.

Now: Still about the same, though I don’t do much image editing, GIMP is still king here.

SSH Client / Session Manager SecureCRT OpenSSH / PuTTY Then: Of course the ssh client works fine, what I need is a nice front-end or session manager. I need to do more research on this. I know that some terminal programs like Konsole can save sessions, but how good they are I do not know.

Now: I still haven’t really found a good SSH session manager. There is a port for PuTTY which works OK, but I’d still like to see a decent OpenSSH client session manager.

CD Burning Nero / Easy CD/DVD Creator K3B, command line utils Then: K3B looks good. I haven’t had a chance to fully test it, but it seems to do most everything that I need.

Now: Aside from some initial setup quirks (devd changes to make sure users can access the CD devices), K3B works wonderfully. Of course the need for burning optical media is much, much less these days…

Media Player Winamp amaroK Then: I have some issues with how it reads files lacking ID3 data, but I may be able to sort those out.

Now: I don’t do much with Audio on my FreeBSD workstation but when I do listen to music, amaroK is still what I tend to use.

Programming IDE Eclipse Eclipse Then: Gotta love cross-platform solutions!

Now: Eclipse is still good – though these days I use it for oXygenXML rather than Aptana or other dev work.

PIM (Calendar, to-dos, contacts, etc) & Sync my Palm Tungsten C Palm Desktop Kontact / Kpilot Then: I still have to sort out how to get everything I want to sync to move both ways, but it gets the job done nicely.

Now: I haven’t had or wanted a palm device in years. Android phone and tablet are fine and everything syncs to Google Apps, no need for dedicated desktop sync anymore.

HylaFax Viewer JHylafax, etc ? Then: I’m searching for a usable HylaFax client. I need to get a Java 1.5x installation going to try a native java client, but that may work as that’s what I use on Windows. Update: Java 1.5 works fine now, using the new Diablo-JDK package, but I don’t have access to the fax server from home where my FreeBSD desktop is now so I haven’t tried it lately.

Now: Really haven’t had a need for this in years either.

15 thoughts on “Desktop FreeBSD

  1. >cd /usr/ports
    >make search key=acdsee

    gqview is okay. i use it myself.

  2. I’ll give that a try.

    In the graphics editor front, I hear that Xara is releasing an open source graphics editor that is supposed to be great.

  3. you won’t go around photoshop easily… the gimp is not that good yet… personal opinion

  4. I know gimp has a ways to go, but for the limited things I actually need to do, it may be fine. I am mainly doing corrections and minor alterations of digital photos, layouts for printing photos, etc. I think it will do what I need, given time to learn the interface.

  5. Text editor: Bluefish is fairly decent. I use it for PHP/ HTML/ JS.

    Here are my personal choices for multimedia applications:

    MP3 player: beep-media-player
    Video: VLC

  6. So I tried gview (supposed to look like ACDsee) and it does not. It does an OK job, but I really would like a program that has a three-paned layout with a folder tree, file list, and image preview. GQview seems to fit the bill but I haven’t used it enough to say for sure.

    Bluefish looks interesting, but I didn’t see anywhere that it does block (rectangular) selections or column-based editing. These are must-haves, unfortunately. Column-based editing is one of those things that you don’t know how great it is until you get used to it and have to go without. Upon searching some more, I may have a look at NEdit ( to see if it’s any farther along than Kate.

  7. GQview is pretty much what I was looking for in a graphics viewer. I updated the page to reflect this.

  8. For the record, printing is a pain in the rear. Mainly because the printer I want to use has no driver or Linux support (Canon ImageCLASS D320) and speaks a proprietary protocol nobody knows. I can print to an HP LaserJet III ok, but it’s old, slow, and low quality.

  9. The best investment that I’ve made has been a JetDirect 500X network print spooler with a HPDeskJet printer. Can print from any machine (Win32/FreeBSD) over ethernet to the HP inkjet with reasonable quality output.


  10. Text Editor : Jedit. TONS of plugins. Supports block vertical selections. HexEditing via a plugin.

    JDK : install diablo-jdk15 – easiest thing under the sun ( ) , just works.

    Multimedia : xmms-esound for small footprint winamp-like interface. For heavier stuff, gmplayer (mplayer gui interface) with as many plugins as you want to use.

    Opera : www/linux-opera


  11. I gave Jedit a try, and it was a little odd. Must be something with my setup. My enter key and backspace key didn’t work at all. It crashed when I attempted to install a plugin and actually managed to crash KDE in the process, which I had never seen happen before.

    I have been using the diablo-jdk, it works very nicely. I’m glad they were able to overcome the licensing issues they had with distributing Java packages before.

    Also now that Opera 9 is out, Java works very well! No need to use the Linux version. I prefer to keep things native unless absolutely necessary. Now, if only there were a FreeBSD native Flash plugin.

    I need to work on updating this page a little. My printing problems were solved by the fact that we now have a decent printer at work, an HP 4050N, networked and postscript-capable.

  12. I’m aware of putty, but I’m not a really big fan of its session management and some other features. I haven’ t updated this page in quite some time, it may be time to reevaluate many of these choices…

  13. I have to wonder how that comparison would fare if it was Vista vs Linux? We bought a new HP Vista machine and converted an old WIn 2K based desktop to SUSE Linux – . After 2 months the hassles with Linux are far fewer! There are hassles with both, but the Linux hassles are well documented and Novell ($60 SUSE Linux support) actually DOES provide solutions in real English! We are preparing to convert the new machine to Linux as well.

  14. Linux has come a long way on the Desktop, especially distributions geared toward desktop use like Ubuntu. And BSD now has PC-BSD which is making headway on the desktop and looking very nice while doing it. This article is rather old, but it does focus more on FreeBSD than anything else, even if some of the comparisons are valid for any desktop unix (or unix-alike) OS.

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