Editors' Choice 2006

Excellent competition forced our editors to make some difficult decisions for the 2006 Editors' Choice Awards for software, hardware and services.

Outside the open-source products that work on Windows as well as Linux, Windows continues to evolve into a Microsoft-only platform, as Microsoft continues to eliminate its commercial competition. But, competition thrives more than ever on Linux. Pick just about any category of software, and you can find at least two or three excellent candidates, often more. And, the available products are so good, it's difficult to claim that there is a hands-down best, such as the definitive word processor or e-mail client. One's choice often boils down to personal taste.

Here's how we approached the task of selecting winners this year. We asked vendors to nominate the products they released this year. We combined their nominations with our own choices, and our editors chose the best of the best for each category. If there's a flaw in our nomination process, it is that it is sometimes impossible for our editors to try out every product or service in the list of nominations. This is especially true of things like hosting and colocation services. In cases like these, personal experience had to trump vendor claims. For example, there may be a better hosting service than the one that earned our award, but we can vouch for our choice from personal experience, which carries more weight.

In the end, the process was fun, despite the challenge. We hope some of your favorites captured top honors, or if not, managed to get an honorable mention. So, on with the show.

Linux Distribution

Ubuntu 6.06

It was at once the easiest and most difficult decision to pick the distribution for the Editors' Choice. Ubuntu has a long list of features and design decisions to recommend it for our award. It is easy to install; it has a vast repository of software; it is stable and friendly; it protects users from logging in as root by default and much more. One of the most influential factors in our decision was the fact that Ubuntu has captured and held more popular interest than any other distribution almost since its release. Granted, this isn't a people's choice award, but it's not for nothing that Ubuntu is such a popular distribution. Many of us at Linux Journal run it, or its KDE-based sister Kubuntu, ourselves.

Nevertheless, the competition is so superb that a proper list of honorable mentions would be uncomfortably long. We should consider ourselves blessed that we have such a marvelous variety from which to choose. Although we can't name every distribution we could consider worthy of the Editors' Choice Award, we can't resist giving honorable mention to a few. Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 is arguably the strongest comprehensive commercial distribution available. Linspire could be the ultimate desktop-oriented distribution for new users, although Xandros gives it a run for its money. Gentoo is the definitive compile-it-yourself distribution. Debian deserves a long round of applause, especially since many of the most excellent distributions, including Ubuntu/Kubuntu, Linspire, Xandros, MEPIS, Knoppix and many more are based on Debian. rPath uses Fedora as the foundation for its roll-it-yourself distribution—a perfect choice for those who need to produce custom appliance-like distributions. Even Damn Small Linux deserves a mention for being one of the few distributions that still runs well on older hardware.

As difficult a decision as it was, however, we're more than satisfied with our choice of Ubuntu 6.06 for the Editors' Choice of 2006.


Desktop Environment

KDE 3.5.4

KDE is the desktop with everything. It is friendly, intuitive and simple enough for the casual user who wants to use it as-is, but it also packs nearly unlimited features and configurability for those who want to plumb the depths of its power. For example, click on the default Konqueror button, and it takes you to a default page with links to your home folder, network folders, applications, trash bin and storage media. Click on the home folder link, and you get a simple, intuitive, folder-based file manager.

That would be enough for most people, but power users who want more from Konqueror can open a navigation panel, split windows multiple times, open tabbed panels—there's almost no limit to what you can do. You can use the fish: kio-slave to view and manipulate files on another computer over a secure connection. And, when you're happy with a view into your own filesystem or that of another computer, you can save any combination of URI and window configuration as a profile you can restore instantly.

Or, as another example, you can pop an audio CD into your CD drive, and Konqueror opens a window with virtual folders of your songs in MP3, Ogg Vorbis and other formats (depending on which extensions you have installed). Ripping your songs to MP3 format is as simple as copying and pasting the virtual MP3 files to another folder or to your MP3 player.

According to research organizations such as Evans Data, KDE is the most popular desktop environment. How does that square with the fact that GNOME is the default desktop of one of the most popular distributions (Ubuntu)? We have no idea. Whether or not Ubuntu users are sticking with GNOME or installing KDE, GNOME certainly deserves an honorable mention on its own merits. GNOME has come a long way in recent times, and it is particularly appealing in its default Ubuntu configuration.

GNOME was first to integrate the Beagle search engine into the desktop. Beagle is a Mono-based adaptation of the Java-based Lucene search engine. It is capable of indexing files of a wide variety of formats, so you can search through the contents of those files almost instantly. KDE has a search tool called Kerry, which is the equivalent of the GNOME search tool. Although GNOME should get credit for introducing the feature, KDE's power is made more apparent by how KDE easily integrates Beagle into Konqueror as a kio-slave. Put simply, you can type beagle:ubuntu in the Konqueror location bar (where you might type a file path or Web URL), and Konqueror taps into the Beagle search index to find all files containing the word ubuntu. All the files found will show up in the Konqueror window as icons and previews.




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Annyka's picture

I agree with ya, it does miss some functions but for free .. its best tool.
Great selection, very useful. thx.

FireFox hands down for me

Perfume's picture

I have to choose FireFox. I hate IE 7. It has some issues but nothing like IE.


Tom Black's picture

According to several Evans Data Corporation surveys, it is the most popular development environment among professional Linux developers. To say that Eclipse is extensible is almost an understatement. There are plugins to make Eclipse do just about everything except groom your dog (although we hear that plugin is in the works).

Choice 2007

Kourech's picture

Great selection, very useful. thx.
But can you to do Editors' Choice 2007?

[s]All, who are in higher and lower comments – .[/s]

Anonymous's picture

The Editor’s Choice is some kind of strange.
Here’s the alternative list from [s]vile kashenit[/s] breaded liuneksoid with gray-haired balls.
That is – what works, not that what is beaiyutiful(tm) or sells well.
Bold - nomination from the list.
Italics: my nomination.
Coded - I coincide with editogr.

  • Linux Distribution: Debian.
  • Desktop Environment: KILL IT WITH FIRE. EVERYTHING.
  • Window Manager: wmii. For the interesting idea. Long time favorite: fvwm.
  • Office Suite OpenOffice.org.
  • Spreadsheet: used OO Calc's once in eight years.
    That is why: vim + bash + awk + grep + sort.
  • Word Processor: emacs + auctex + latex/pdflatex (I have it all in tetex) + xdvi/xpdf + make.
    For letter writing there is dinbrief (or how it was called? Installed packadge once and forgot about space formatting, envelope window and other horrors just forever. Yes, this is the style for latex2e.)
  • Presentation Software: emacs + auctex + pdflatex with corresponding packedge. seminar, it seems.
  • Web Browser: icewasel (the same as: fireferfogz 2.0 in the girlhood before marriage is he) and lynx. Rarely Opera.
  • Mail Client: yes, the icedove (the thunderbird is he) is installed, but only for the sake of local beicking up of the gmailbox. Using gmail really (works, although it is not very kosher), while if I gather myself once some day to make kosher, then: exim + fetchmail + mutt. Or ... + imapd + emacs + gnus.
  • Usenet client: emacs + gnus.
  • RSS Reader: Haven’t found yet. Most likely something like Google Reader or rss2nntp + inn2 + emacs + gnus.
  • Database: PostgreSQL.
  • Game/Entertainment Software: do not play. Alasъ. Or it is yes, Quake 4 Arena or [s]tuxracer[/s] some nethack, but... see above.
    In the “entertainment

Quake 4 Correction

Anonymous's picture

Nice research on Quake 4. Not only was the title sold only for Windows and Macintosh, it came out in 2005.

q4llinux for n00b5

Anonymous's picture

dude, you download the linux binary and use the files from the game dvd, its on the site, this page gave you a link to it, and if you stepped off your l33t 455 for 5 seconds you would have spotted that


fling's picture



firebird's picture

postgresql, yes. And check out firebird, it's a marvolious good dbrms, with triggers, stored procedures and easy to maintain. Don't be freightened by the ugly homepage. It's rock-stable and similar in apperance to ms-sql.


Michele Costabile's picture

I see MySQL less and less as your typical open source project, that you download freely and install in production without strings attached.
PostgresSQL has always been a better database, with stored procedures, integrity constraints and all the rest. It's time that it gets the credit it deserves.


Mickaël Rémond's picture

In the communication section, what about the ejabberd Instant Messaging Server ?
It is a very good, very scalable platform for XMPP based IM.

Mickaël Rémond

3d modelling

Henk's picture

How about 3D modelling?
My award goes to blender (http://www.blender.org/).
Its free and powerful with tonns of examples and documentation.

And it's made for 3D

Anonymous's picture

And it's made for 3D mathematicians for other mathematicians, making is very hard to use for anybody else, while at the same time stuck in the Gimp-loop: three people who has been using it since the start and that for some reason gets to veto any changes that could help its adoption by more users "because they've always done it that way".

Maya is a fantastic product, extensible and incredibly powerful - expensive and closed yes, but if you don't like it, then Blender will have to start think about *users*.


Anonymous's picture

I'd like to give an honorable mention to SQLite (http://www.sqlite.org). It's free (as in beer), free (as in speech - dedicated to the public domain, in fact), fast, capable (implements most of SQL92), embeddable and reliable. I've used it on a couple of projects, and have not been disappointed.

I want to know about 3D

dibos's picture

I want to know about 3D modeling too


Sierra's picture

Two word processors fit the bill nicely: KWord and AbiWord. We could justify giving either of these the Editors' Choice Award. We went with AbiWord 2.4.4 primarily because it has a slightly more familiar look and feel for Microsoft Word users, and because it sports a number of very useful plugins. For example, one plugin allows you to place the cursor on a word and run a Google search on that word. Another lets you look up the word in Wikipedia. Still another is supposed to translate selected text via Babel Fish, although that plugin wasn't fully automated in our experiment. Still other plugins add the ability to read and write various document formats, including OpenOffice.org Writer files and Microsoft Word.

I couldn't agree more

sennik's picture

I couldn't agree more with you - I used MySQL and after changing to SQLite I feel deferent in speed and reliability


Sam Fourman Jr.'s picture

GREAT Choice, I run OpenBSD and PostgreSQL it is ROCK Solid!

Graphics sotfware

Dragos Stefan's picture

Very dissapointing to see the superficial approach in the evaluation of graphics software candidates. There is Houdini, which is one of the most powerful systems for 3D animation and years ago was THE first professional 3D system to port to Linux. It surely deserved to be at least mentioned. And all the other softwares like D2 Nuke, IFX Piranha, Mistika etc. Not to mention that this was the year in which Flame (the most used and hailed visual effects system) from Autodesk was finally ported to Linux. This is something significant, much more significant and important for graphics in the Linux world than the release of Maya 8.


teknoloji's picture

good thanks...

OO.o Calc vs. Gnumeric

atom probe's picture

if you're really serious about doing spreadsheet work, your best bet is with OpenOffice.org Calc.

I disagree. OO.o calc is better for styles/templates & MS Office compatibility. These are important for some users.

But Gnumeric seems to be better in nearly every other way--statistical accuracy and better formula tools; computation speed and even manipulation of charts after you've created them. It also works better for pasting tabular data. I think all of these are what "serious spreadsheet work" is about.

(It should also be noted that KSpread probably has the best charting of the three (though I think Gnumeric's is already flexible & fast & OO.o does have a useful beta of their new charting feature).)

I don't know, it a bold

photographer's picture

I don't know, it a bold statement about Open Office. I've tried it and it was really nice,but that's all. It's missing a lot of nice functions. Well,it's free and for that,it's an excellent piece of software,but not the best...