Using a computer with multiple operating systems on it generally means having to learn different programs for the same task, depending on which OS you’re currently using. You might use Microsoft Word in Windows, Pages on the Mac, and Abiword when using Linux. Wouldn’t it be nice to use the same programs no matter what system you’re running? I thought so, and with the idea in mind went in search of different types of programs that were available for Windows, Mac and Linux. In this article I’ll talk about different types of Internet programs, such as web browser, email clients, chat programs and more. Having programs available for all the operating systems you use not only means having the same interface wherever you are, but in the case of extensions for your web browser, means not having to install a wide variety of addons, simply to get the same experience on different computers.
Web Browsers – Firefox And Google Chrome
There are two big ones I would reach for first in looking for a good, multi-platform web browser. The first is Firefox, one of the most popular web browsers today, and for the past few years. Internet Explorer is still the king of web browsers, likely due (at least in part), to it being the default Windows web browser. Firefox, however, was the first browser to really make inroads into Internet Explorer’s market share. This was doubly impressive because aside for many Linux distributions, Firefox doesn’t come installed by default, and certainly not for Mac or Windows users. Firefox has a great extension system, which makes it possible to add features to it that the Mozilla developers left out. These extensions can be download managers, music and video players, extra toolbars and even stuff like FTP and chat clients. It’s a thriving community, and it helps make Firefox a great choice.
The other choice, and one that’s only been around for a couple years, is Google Chrome. Google was a late entry with their web browser, but an incredibly rapid development pace has brought it up to speed quite quickly. Google Chrome is a very fast browser, both in starting up and navigating pages, and also has an extension community to rival that of Firefox. The extensions currently aren’t as full-featured as those Firefox offers, but for many people the speed and light footprint Google Chrome offers, plus nice page rendering thanks to WebKit, make it a better choice. Regardless, you won’t go wrong with either Firefox or Google Chrome.
Email Program – Thunderbird
The world of email seems to be heading to the web browser. More and more people are using web-based email solutions, such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail, instead of a desktop client. But the desktop email program is still a necessity for some people, and for those using multiple operating systems, the best choice (and one of only a few), is Mozilla Thunderbird. Thunderbird is from the same people who created Firefox, and shares many interface similarities. It has support for standard POP and IMAP protocols, meaning you can use it for your regular Internet provider’s email, as well as web-based email, such as Gmail. In addition to email, Thunderbird also lets you read your RSS/Atom feeds, making it a nice multi-purpose program. It also offers extensions, with the biggest (in my view), being a calendar option, which edges it closer to being a full-fledged information center – capable of appointments, addresses and email – and not just messaging. Other extensions make it possible to synchronize your contacts and calendars with Google or Yahoo services, making Thunderbird an even better choice for multi-OS users.
Chat Clients – Pidgin And Adium
Part of the problem with choosing a chat client is that there are so many different chat protocols available. There is MSN Chat, AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk and dozens of others. The four I mentioned are the biggest, but still, each has its own native client, and who really wants four different instant messaging clients installed? Thankfully, there are many programs that allow you to chat on multiple networks at once. Create a new identity on the network you want to use, and the program then logs you into that network whenever you start up. You can then chat – using the exact same interface – on whatever network you want. Unfortunately, there really aren’t any of these programs available for Mac, Windows and Linux, but you can get close. Pidgin is a popular instant messaging program for Linux that also has a great client for Windows. It can be used on Macs, but only using Fink or Macports, which isn’t really “native” at all, and tends not to fit in with the rest of the Mac desktop. My choice would probably be to install Pidgin on Linux and Windows, and then use a program like Adium on the Mac. Pidgin and Adium both use libpurple (the core messaging libraries which allow connectivity to all the different chat networks), so aside from interface and other platform-specific goodies, Pidgin and Adium users should feel right at home using both programs.
BitTorrent Downloader – Transmission And Deluge And…
Downloading files via peer-to-peer networks (P2P), is a large chunk of all Internet traffic each and every day. A recent report by Sandvine estimated that in the United States, as much as 50 percent of all upload traffic, and around 13 of all download traffic, comes from file sharing, ranking behind only live entertainment and web browsing. And of that P2P traffic, BitTorrent is king, as least in the United States, and it is also popular all around the globe.
There are many great BitTorrent clients, and there are actually quite a few that run on Windows, Mac and Linux. However, in many cases one or more of the platforms can be a pain to get running. KTorrent, a KDE Linux BitTorrent, can run on Windows and Mac, but in both cases you’ll need to install massive amounts of development libraries to either compile it or just to be able to install it. Many others include a native installer for Windows (such as Deluge, BitTornado and others), but only supply source code for other operating systems. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but finding a truly multi-platform solution (with native packages or installers available for everyone), can be a chore. Of all the programs I’ve tried, qBittorrent probably came the closest to being a multi-platform BitTorrent client I felt comfortable with. And that’s what this is really all about: finding a program you can use on any computer, that feels “right” to you.
My solution? Find a couple of programs you’re comfortable using, then don’t worry that you can’t find a single solution. My two favorite clients are Transmission (available for Linux and Mac), and Deluge (available for Windows and usually packaged for most Linux distributions fairly quickly). Choosing those gives you one client for Mac, one for Windows, and a choice on Linux. Another good option, and perhaps soon to be the best option, is µTorrent. Currently, there are native clients for Windows and Mac, and developers have promised a Linux version (and it can currently be used as a web interface). One other option would be to use a program like Miro, a web-TV program with BitTorrent capabilities, Vuze, a Java client for BitTorrent downloads, or even the Opera web browser, which includes built-in BitTorrent support (and is a good third option behind Firefox and Google Chrome as a multi-platform web browser, by the way). Regardless of your choice, you should be able to find a solution (or solutions), you can live with.