Quotations are often misquoted. But it is believed that Dennis Ritchie once said "UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity." Though I do not work much on Unix, I have been using various flairs of its cousin, Linux, on-and-off for over 10 years. I am neither an expert nor a newbie. I have listed a bunch of Linux add-on tools that I use quite regularly to make my life easier. Of course, it goes without saying that awk, grep, perl, sed and xargs are a linux user's best friends. If you have any comments, do let me know.


AllTray allows you to dock applications to the system notification area as a tray icon.

Website | Download from SourceForge


ATerm (AfterStep terminal emulator) is a lightweight replacement for the various terminal emulators that are available by default. For aesthetics, it provides fast pseudo transparency and off-focus text fading.

Website | Download from SourceForge


CDargs is a neat terminal utility that will let you navigate through your directories quickly using a visual inteface. By setting up an alias (cv), as shown in an example shell script in the package, one can quickly navigate and change to any directory. Directories can also be bookmarked for quick access.

Website | Download from FreshMeat


Conky is a cool system monitor that can draw its ouput, as text and graphs, to the root window (or standalone window). Conky can also display data from music players and even output from custom shell scripts that are executed at specified intervals.

Website | Download from SourceForge


Filelight is a graphical tool to visualise where your diskspace is being used.



gDesklet is a framework for making your desktop look more pleasing. You can add a range of applications to your desktop including news tickers, system information, navigation bars, etc.

Website | Download older desklets


Gnofract 4D allows you to create amazing fractals.

Website | Download from SourceForge


One of the first linux tools one is exposed to is 'top'. But there is a lot more you would want to do with the information that top displays. Htop does exactly that. It lets you view the processes as trees, send kill signals, renice jobs, sort and search, etc. using a pleasant coloured interface.

Website | Download from SourceForge


Kile is a user-friendly LaTeX IDE for KDE with lots of features.



Ever been impressed with the drop down command window in Quake? Meet Kuake - the drop down terminal emulator for KDE. You can set the key that drops down the terminal and it disappears if the key is pressed again or if you click outside the terminal.



At some point you would have inherited a rather long perl program that is probably hard to go through. PerlTidy could help you clean it up a fair bit.

Website | Download from SourceForge


rpl is a simple text replacement utility that can replace text in multiple files and directories.



xbindkeys can be used to define keyboard or mouse shortcuts to launch applications.



If you use ssh to login to a lot of machines frequently, it can be quite irritating to type in the password each time. A smart way to login without passwords is to use ssh keys. Here is a set of steps to get it to work.
  1. Change to ~/.ssh (Create the directory, if it doesn't exist and make sure only you have access to this directory) and run 'ssh-keygen -t dsa'. Ensure that your passphrase is long and secure.
  2. Copy 'id_dsa.pub' (your public key) to 'authorized_keys2'
  3. Copy authorized_keys2 to the ~/.ssh directory on the target machine. If you have an authorized_keys file on your target machine, append to it.
  4. Next, ssh-agent must be started automatically to hold your key when an X session starts. To do this modify your .xsession or .Xclients-default file generated by running 'switchdesk'. This file will load up your favourite desktop environment (KDE, GNOME, ...). Place 'ssh-agent' before the keyword 'startkde' or 'gnome-session'. So the line in .Xclients-default should read 'exec ssh-agent gnome-session' or 'exec ssh-agent startkde'
  5. To add your key to the agent each time you login, add 'ssh-add' to the list of applications that are launched automatically (typically under Preferences->Sessions) when you login to an X session. This will prompt you for your passphrase each time you login. After you enter the correct passphrase, your key is cached by ssh-agent and available throughout the session.
  6. After restarting X, logging in and entering your passphrase, you should be able to connect to your remote machine by typing 'ssh username@host'. If everything worked fine, you should not be asked for a password or passphrase and you should see the prompt on the host.