Originally Published: Sunday, 26 September 1999 Author: Ed Matthews
Published to: corp_features/General Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Software Download Sites

"So you've loaded Linux, you've made it past the naysayers who tell you there's no Linux applications, you're ready for the applications, ready to get some work done. So, where do you go?" Ed Matthews attempts to point you in the right direction with this piece about two popular Linux software sites.

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So you've loaded Linux, you've made it past the naysayers who tell you there's no Linux applications, you're ready for the applications, ready to get some work done. So, where do you go?

First, depending on how you obtained your copy of Linux, you may already have a CD full of titles, waiting for exploration. Most distributions purchased from the distributor include such an application CD these days. If you didn't, your next option is the download sites available through the web.

There are many, many sites offering both Linux distributions and applications. Let's take a look at two popular areas to see what each offers, and what kind of preparation you need to take advantage of them.

If you want to follow along online as you read, open the links in a second instance of your browser.


First, let's consider the software section of LinuxLinks. As its name implies, this site has links to just about everything Linux, divided into categories on the home page. Clicking "Software" takes you where you'd expect, and you're ready to consider what kind of software you're hunting today. Note the number of titles listed beside "Software". As of this writing there were 3745. I had to count, but the titles are broken into 24 categories, each with their respective numbers appearing.

I'm always interested in web apps, so let's follow the internet link. Okay, now there are six categories within Internet, so I'll take the HTML Editors connection, showing 15 sublinks. At this point, I can see a list of the editors, along with a short description of each. What happens when I try one of these links? I try Webmaker, the editor for KDE, and I'm whisked away to a Russian site, though I find there is a link to a mirror in the USA.

Though not all of them go to sites around the globe from me, I conclude that each link is connected to the home site for the product, where I can learn more about its version, status, and usually download the files.

A quick look around the rest of the site tells me I can submit a new resource, if I know of one not listed, or I can modify one, although modifying the description for one link on the page looks like someone at LinuxLinks will have to paste in my comments. I can hit the New link to see only those titles added today (in addition to everything new in the rest of the site). Hitting the Cool link lets me see the most visited pages within the site.

My current location within the site appears at the top, with links back to the home page (TOP) or any of the pages I've visited in between.


The second site is CNET's Download.com. This one is all about software, and it includes titles by category, not just for the Linux OS, but also for Apple Macintosh, Windows CE, and PalmPilot. Presumably Windows is the default, since it isn't listed separately? At any rate, I choose the Linux link, and off I go. I notice some different kinds of information not found on LinuxLinks. First, there is a section called Today in Downloads, and there are categories: pick, new, and updated. Also, over on the right, I can see the most popular downloads, and the number of times downloaded for each. I don't see a total listing of how many different titles the site contains.

On the Linux software page, all titles are divided into just six major categories, and there are links to Most Popular, New Releases, and Our Picks. Since first-hand reference is important, I check out the Our Picks section to see what CNET is saying today. There are seventeen listings sorted alphabetically by title, but I can resort by a number of categories if I choose. Adobe's Acrobat Reader is at the top.

I go back to the Linux home download site and try the section, Internet & Networking, again looking for an HTML editor. However, under this link there are none to be found. So, I try the Development Tools section, and voila. There are some different tools listed than those I saw in LinuxLinks, and CNET has done a lot of homework about each one. I try the CoffeeCup HTML Editor for Linux, because it's a pick and it's one of the Most Popular. Instead of the home page for CoffeeCup, however, I see a page with all kinds of information prepared for me by the CNET editors. There is a paragraph of description about the product, a list of Quick Facts telling me everything from the type of license to the version, to the file size of the download. Also, there are links both to the developer's site and the to multiple download sites. Finally, it even gives me the format of the file to be downloaded, a tarred, gzipped binary file. It is very handy to have all of this information available at a glance.


It was hard to tell whether these two sites had comparable offerings. Clearly the paid staff at DOWNLOAD.COM have put in a lot of effort to gather and format the information listed above. On the other hand, I found LinuxLinks' additional categories useful in narrowing my search, and I could amend a description of a link by completing their form. I did appreciate CNET's screening and labeling of their own picks, and having the download mirror sites with every application in the catalog was a true plus. For ease of use, I give CNET the edge. For the most cutting edge news about Linux, I would keep an eye on LinuxLinks, and use it as a secondary option if I didn't find a title at

The bottom line is that if you can't find what you want on your application CD, or if you don't even have one, it doesn't matter. You can find the titles you want on these or other sites across the web. You will need to know how to use the tar and gzip utilities, and as usual, the faster your modem the better. Happy hunting.

Stay tuned as I download and install several different applications in the coming weeks.

Comments? Email the author of this piece.

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