There’s something very appealing to the hacker community about lightweight programs. This is usually because they are functionally superior to their heavy counterparts, with far more elegant code. Not to mention the fact that they are more speed-oriented and efficient. However, they sometimes sacrifice ease-of-use (that’s something hackers usually don’t care much for anyways).
These are all of the best lightweight programs available to us, in my opinion (for what it’s worth). This should answer all of your questions when it comes to necessary programs.
Categories with only one item means the program is that good. You simply should not use another program, unless you code a better one. All of these programs are listed by their package name, so they can be installed from your repo using the names found below.
These control the desktop environment or window manager selection and log in.
- xinit – The default X LM
- slim – A lightweight and highly configurable login manager
Tiling Window Managers
Tiling window managers are extremely lightweight graphical interfaces that can tile your windows in an easy-to-access fashion. They often do not have titlebars, and maximize screen real-estate.
- awesome – A lightweight tiling WM that’s extendable with lua scripts
- i3 – A dynamic tiling window manager inspired by wmii that is targeted at developers and advanced users. A personal favorite
Floating Window Managers
Floating managers are nearly the same as tiling window managers. However, they do not tile. They also keep their titlebars, which doesn’t make good use of screen space. They are very light, and quick to respond.
- openbox – A lightweight and highly configurable window manager with extensive standards support. By default, all you get is a programs menu on a blank desktop
Desktop environments are full-fledged graphical environments that come with everything you need, ready to work.
- razor-qt – My favorite. By far the best DE, and it’s only in beta. Coded in C++ and Qt. It looks like awesome, and runs nearly as fast, but uses any choice of window manager. With kwin, it’s like having the lightweight version of KDE that you’ve always dreamed of. It uses only 230MB of RAM with kwin…Pretty amazing.
- lxde – Lightweight version of Gnome DE, like razor-qt
- kde4 – An extremely gorgeous DE that comes with everything you need to maximize work-efficiency. Coded in C++ and Qt
- e17 – A gorgeous DE that is capable of running on even the oldest PCs. Very minimal and speedy
Shell interpreters. This is what is used to execute our terminal commands. The default Linux shell is bash.
- zsh – A powerful shell that can replace bash. Features over bash include: Faster, improved tab completion, improved globbing, improved array handling, fully customisable
- bash – Linux default command-line interpreter
These are to extract or archive files (.zip, .rar. etc.).
File managers are what you use to navigate directories with a graphical interface and manage files. Point, click and drag to manage files on your system.
- qtfm – A small, fast, and lightweight file manager written in C++ and Qt
- dolphin – Another Qt file manager, comes with KDE. A bit heavy, but still my favorite file manager
- gimp – The GNU Image Manipulation Program. Better than photoshop in many regards
Image viewers are the small, non-editing programs used to look at picture files. This is what you would see after you double-click a picture file.
- feh – A lightweight and powerful image viewer that can also be used to manage the desktop wallpaper for standalone window managers lacking such features (openbox, awesome, etc.)
- gpicview – LXDE’s lightweight image viewer
Instant messenger clients are for instant messaging protocols. Pidgin supports nearly every protocol in existence and has plugin support (as well as great plugins already).
- pidgin – A multi-protocol instant messaging application. Has plugins support, including off-the-record messaging
IRC clients are used to connect to IRC servers and channels.
- irssi – A curses IRC client. Need I say more?
- quassel – A Qt IRC client that can stay connected even when you’re offline. Very convenient and quick
- xchat – The classic IRC client. Everyone on Linux knows xchat
Network manager are what is used to connect to your internet connection.
- netcfg – A CLI wireless and wired network manager
- wicd-curses – A curses version of wicd. Very fast and detailed interface
A word processor is just an advanced text editor with formatiing options. Think MS Word.
- abiword – Clone of MS word
- libreoffice – Clone of the MS Office suite
A package manager manages what software is installed on your system.
- yaourt – A wrapper for pacman that grabs packages from the AUR, as well as Arch repos
- zathura – Zathura is a lightweight, terminal-like PDF viewer. Incredibly small and fast. It also saves bookmarks
RSS readers are used to feed you the latest updates from all of your RSS subscriptions.
- newsbeuter – A CLI RSS feed reader with Podcast support
- ncmpcpp / mpd – A tiny curses frontend to mpd. The best, hands-down
- tint2 – A fast, highly-customizable system panel with a task tray
Terminal emulators are used to access the command shell from within a GUI.
- rxvt-unicode – The unicode version of rxvt. Customizable in every way you could imagine
Text editor are simple programs used to modify unformatted text. Usually used for notes, or for programming.
- nano – CLI text editor with syntax highlighting. Pretty comfy to code in, and makes editing text files a breeze
- vim/vi – A very advanced and feature-filled text editor with loads of plugins
- emacs – Emacs has so much extra crap in it, I don’t even know if it can be considered a text editor
Torrent clients are used to download bit torrent files.
- rtorrent – Curses bittorrent client that uses libtorrent. Very quick, and scriptable. My favorite
- transmission-qt – A Qt version of transmission, a fast and wel-supported torrent client
These play every kind of video format you could imagine. Streaming, TV, and lots of other option are available. These are better than any media player for other platforms in my opinion.
- mplayer / smplayer – Shits on VLC, repeatedly. Capable of playing nearly any media format, and feature-packed
Web browsers are used to access the world wide web.
- webkit – A browser framework that is really easy to buld on top of. I created my own browser in Qt on top of webkit that trumps other browsers with ease
- luakit – Luakit is a micro browser framework that is barebones. Everything about the browser has to be customized
- firefox – Classic, fast, and tons of plugins
- chromium – Secure, fast, and a plugin counterpart for every Firefox plugin. the only downside is that it’s made by Google, and thus, can’t be trusted
Let me know if you have any favorites that you would like added to the list! Follow me on Twitter.
Image via wallpaperpassion