10 Lightest Linux Apps and Programs to Speed Up an Old PC
You could tune up a car by yanking out the engine and putting in a new one, but that’s pretty drastic. Sometimes, so is switching your Linux distribution. Sure, that’s a great way to breathe life into an aging machine—but it’s also a lot of work!
Even if you go through that effort, it doesn’t matter if you’re using heavy applications. So if you want to lighten the load on your Linux-powered machine, these are the programs you want to run.
1. Web Browser: Vivaldi
Vivaldi is simultaneously one of the lightest and most powerful web browsers you can place on your Linux desktops. Vivaldi may not have the name recognition of Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Mozilla Firefox, but it’s not lacking in expertise. The browser comes from one of the co-founders of Opera.
Vivaldi isn’t fully free and open-source software, due to the code powering the browser’s interface being closed. But as a Chromium-based offering, the vast majority of the browser is open, and unlike other proprietary Chromium-based browsers, the Vivaldi team appears to have values that largely align with the free software community.
2. Email Client: Trojitá
Trojitá is a Qt-based email client that feels at home on KDE and GTK-based desktops alike. That’s an advantage over other mature options such as Claws Mail, which uses GTK.
Trojitá is not the most configurable or feature-rich—only IMAP is supported. But the developers prioritize speed and efficiency in regards to both system and network resources. That’s a win for you.
3. Word Processor: AbiWord
AbiWord is a word processor great for typing up papers or your next big novel. It loads up several times faster than the likes of LibreOffice. Plus the built-in collaboration feature offers functionality akin to Google Docs.
The application can save documents in the widely used Microsoft Office and OpenDocument formats, but the experience is best when working in the native ABW format.
When you’re sending a document to someone who doesn’t have AbiWord installed, consider saving it as a PDF. Unless they need to make edits, it’s a sure-fire way to make sure the file loads as intended.
4. Spreadsheet Editor: Gnumeric
Gnumeric is to spreadsheets what AbiWord is to documents. Much of the same critique applies. The program is likely more than capable of serving as your sole spreadsheet editor, especially if you aren’t exchanging documents with other people.
There aren’t many other standalone options to consider in this category. If you want a full office suite—LibreOffice, Calligra, and WPS Office can all manage spreadsheets. But if you don’t need all the extra weight, this is the way to go.
5. Text Editor: Leafpad
What do you want to do with a text editor? If your answer is to write text, then Leafpad is the tool for you. This application doesn’t come with a toolbar or any other form of distraction. The few options, such as word wrap, are tucked away in the menubar.
Leafpad is lightweight enough to make regular appearances on LXDE and XFCE-based desktops. It’s nowhere near as powerful as gedit, but that’s not its goal either. There’s no need to bog the program down when you’re only writing basic notes. Keep the focus on what you’re writing, and switch to something heavier only when needed.
6. Image Viewer: PhotoQt
You need a dedicated program to view images on your PC, and some are slower than others. If it takes your computer a second or two to load a JPEG, you may need to install something else.
PhotoQt shows you what it’s like to watch an image instantly load and to see how quickly you can browse through folders when you aren’t caching a thousand thumbnails. The application keeps controls off-screen until you want them, keeping the focus on your pictures.
7. Photo Manager: Shotwell
Desktop photo managers are complex pieces of software. Most allow you to organize folders, apply tags, and edit your pictures. Shotwell does all of this without putting too heavy a burden on most Linux desktops. Shotwell requires more resources than an image viewer like PhotoQt, but it’s light compared to the likes of digiKam.
If you happen to use elementary OS, you may be surprised to know that elementary Photos began as a fork of Shotwell. So Shotwell can serve as a way to keep a familiar interface should you switch to another desktop.
8. Music Player: Pragha
Many commercial music players attempt to offer everything—play music, edit tags, burn CDs, and provide stores where you can download more. These features weigh a music player down. Pragha scans your albums and plays them.
Pragha is not the most exciting option, even if it is very lightweight. Fortunately, music players are some of the most common Linux applications. More than a few of them are quick and zippy.
Streaming media sites might have cut back on the number of videos you keep lying around on your hard drive. But when the time comes to watch those remaining files, you’re going to need a video player. Parole is a lightweight and minimalist option that keeps the focus on what you’re watching.
At the same time, Parole doesn’t skimp on options. You can view subtitles, toggle audio tracks, edit the aspect ratio, and more. And there’s the option to extend functionality further with plugins.
10. File Manager: PCManFM
PCManFM is the default file manager for LXDE, but don’t let that put you off if you use another desktop environment. You may find this option to be a lighter alternative to Files (Nautilus) on your GNOME desktop. Alternatively, you can check out Thunar, the manager used in XFCE.
Feeling Lighter? Try Lightweight Linux Distros Too
These are hardly the only lightweight programs you can install on your Linux box. Reviving old hardware is something Tux is good at, which means there’s plenty of software out there for underpowered machines. Plus there are tons of old applications that run faster now simply because computers have gotten better.
Need a lightweight operating system? These special Linux distros can run on older PCs, some with as little as 100MB of RAM.
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