LJ Archive

Readers' Choice Awards 2011

Shawn Powers

Issue #212, December 2011

See how your favorites fared in this year's vote.

The votes are in, the tallies are counted, the hanging chads have been evaluated, and we have our winners. This year holds a few surprises, a couple dominant players and as much open source as you can handle. We don't encourage gambling here at Linux Journal, but if you had an office pool going for pizza money, it's officially too late to make your wager.

Best Linux Distribution


Runner-up: Debian

apt, apt and more apt this year in the distribution category. Although it's no surprise that Ubuntu remains king of the distros, it's nice to see Debian, the “father” of Ubuntu gaining some ground. Whether it's because Linux Mint is making Debian more user-friendly or because folks are drawn to the appeal of Debian's stability, it got just about half the votes of all the Ubuntu variants combined. Way to go Debian! Oh, and of course, congratulations to the winner and still-champion, Ubuntu.

Best Distribution for Netbooks/Limited Hardware

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

Runner-up: Android and Debian (tie)

Although Ubuntu is streamlining its versions and making the desktop screen function similarly to the Netbook screen, Ubuntu Netbook Remix still garnered the most votes this year. Will the push to Unity make next year's Readers' Choice look a little different? Time will tell. Our runner-up last year was Android, and this year, Android is still our runner-up, but it shares the silver medal with Debian. Why is Debian getting so much attention this year? For the same reason soda-pop companies are releasing “throw-back” versions of their drinks with real sugar, sometimes the tried-and-true operating systems just taste a little sweeter.

Best Mobile OS


Runner-up: MeeGo

With the death of Maemo, the abandonment of MeeGo and the discontinuation of webOS, the obvious winner this year is Android with 80% of the vote. MeeGo takes enough of the remaining vote to get our runner-up spot, but it's a bitter prize, as MeeGo's future looks pretty bleak. Will Android get another open-source competitor? Will the lack of open competition stifle Android innovation? Only time will tell. For current Linux-based handsets, however, Google's Android truly can say, “All your base are belong to us.”

Best Desktop Environment


Runner-up: KDE

Last year it was a tie. This year, our back-and-forth battle falls to GNOME as the best desktop environment. Due to the timing of the GNOME 3 release, it's hard to tell if the victory is because of version 3 or in spite of it. Nonetheless, GNOME ekes a victory with a 3%-margin over KDE. The next-closest desktop environment is XFCE with less than one-third the votes of either of the big two. With such big contenders for first and second, however, that third-place spot is significant, and XFCE is gaining ground. We think it's one to keep an eye on next year.

Best Web Browser


Runner-up: Chrome/Chromium

After its huge popularity spike last year, we thought the race for best browser would be neck and neck this year. The Firefox team stepped up its game, however, and this year made several major revisions. Although Chrome/Chromium is a major contender and even gained a few percentage points, Firefox still dominates with more than twice as many votes. As a Firefox user myself, it doesn't surprise me to see my favorite fiery fox on top, but it's hard to argue with Chrome/Chromium's lightning-fast response time. As more and more extensions are being ported to Google's browser, Firefox has some real competition. Hopefully, that competition will inspire greatness from both teams. As users, we can only benefit!

Best E-mail Client


Runner-up: Gmail Web Client

Like its foxy-browser sibling, Thunderbird takes top spot again this year in the e-mail category. Now that Canonical has adopted Thunderbird as its default e-mail client in Ubuntu, we see the popularity rising for our blue-birdie friend. Still hanging on tightly to second place is Gmail. Is Gmail an app? We're not sure, but it certainly does get votes as the best e-mail client. Because Thunderbird can access Gmail servers easily, it's possible this category blurs the line a bit, as users simply can use both. When it comes to picking a favorite though, Thunderbird is the clear victor with more than twice as many votes as our runner-up.

Best IM Client


Runner-up: Skype

The results are similar, but the trend obviously is shifting in our Best IM Client category. Pidgin takes the number-one spot with a full half of your votes, while Skype barely squeaks out a second place win with 15%. Although its video chat is hard to beat, we think Skype lost some points due to its purchase by Microsoft. What does that new ownership mean for the future of Skype? No one knows for sure, but it has Linux users scrambling to find alternative video chat clients “just in case”.

Best IRC Client


Runner-up: X-Chat

For years I've been touting the awesome IRC features Pidgin boasts. It's nice to see Pidgin take first place again as favorite IRC app. As my geek-fu has matured, so has my chatting preference, however, and I skipped right over our second-place IRC client X-Chat. I'm now using IRSSI for my textual communication needs. Although my preferences seldom represent those of the masses, I'll be shaking my IRSSI pom-poms next year for the awesome underdog. Credit where credit is due, however; it's hard to beat the flexibility of Pidgin and the huge feature set of X-Chat. It's clear why they are the Readers' Choice victors.

Best Microblogging Client


Runner-up: Choqok

Our top-two microblogging clients from last year retain their status as class favorites. Gwibber and Choqok, GNOME- and KDE-native, respectively, garnered the most votes again this year. The ever-popular Air application Tweetdeck is right on their heels, however, and it's throwing in its cross-platform flexibility to make the contest interesting. Native clients (with odd names) still hold favor among readers, but those fancy Adobe Air and HTML5 alternatives slowly are gaining ground. Who will win next year? We'll be sure to tweet the answer when the time comes.

Best Office Suite


Runner-up: OpenOffice.org

The king has been dethroned! Well, sorta. Yes, technically the newcomer LibreOffice stomped on the former-champion OpenOffice.org. Because LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice.org, however, it seems like we should have an asterisk in there somewhere. Shortly after Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice.org was forked. The good news for users is that LibreOffice has a large dev crew, and updates and feature enhancements are coming out at a really nice rate. The king is dead; long live the king!

Best Single Office Program


Runner-up: AbiWord

We're not entirely clear if OOWriter is referring to the OpenOffice.org version or the LibreOffice version of the word-processing program. Basically, we're considering the winner, “the program that saves to .ODT by default”, and we think that covers it. The runner-up again this year is not a member of the LibreOffice/OpenOffice.org suite, but rather the standalone AbiWord word processor. In fact, AbiWord is what this article is being typed on as we speak. Will the LibreOffice takeover change the favorite app category in the future? Based on voting this year, we guess not. It's nice to see our underdog-favorite AbiWord continue to get votes though.

Best Digital Photo Management Tool


Runner-up: Picasa

The past few years have been an epic battle between these two programs. This year, we think the contestants might be a little tired, because although they still are clearly the top-two choices, their popularity pretty much has leveled off. digiKam ekes out a victory by less than two percentage points, which means it's hard to go wrong when you pick one of these two. Whichever you choose, it's bound to be better than my solution: shoebox full of photos.

Best Graphics Design Tool


Runner-up: Inkscape

GIMP kicks butt and takes names, as it scores two-thirds of the total votes this year. Inkscape remains in second place, but it's a very distant second. There certainly are other options available, but time and time again, we turn to GIMP for editing those photos. Although the learning curve for GIMP can be a bit steep, the same often is said for Linux itself. And like Linux, the reward is great.

Best Audio Tool


Runner-up: Ardour

When I saw the Best Audio Tool category, my first instinct was to vote for speakers. I'm clearly in the minority, however, as 85% of you instantly thought of Audacity. Ardour is down another couple percentage points this year, but we still gave it runner-up status. We don't want Audacity to get too prideful after all.

Best Audio Player


Runner-up: VLC

It's still clear readers love Amarok. In a surprisingly close second place this year is VLC. Although not normally thought of as an audio player, it does the job well enough to get just 7% fewer votes than Amarok. And last year's runner-up Rhythmbox? Sadly, it's far in the distance behind these two front-runners.

Best Media Player


Runner-up: MPlayer

Seeing VLC take runner-up in the audio player category makes this victory a no-brainer. VLC plays just about any sort of video you throw at it. I think if you shove a paper flip book into your floppy drive, VLC will animate it on-screen for you. VLC takes such a huge margin this year, we almost didn't include MPlayer as a runner-up. VLC is the favorite, without question. (Note: we don't actually recommend shoving a paper flip book into your floppy drive.)

Best Bookmark Sync Tool

Firefox Sync

Runner-up: Chrome Bookmarks

Our bookmark sync category completely rewrote history and gave us two brand-new winners. Firefox Sync, now built in to the browser, takes the victory handily with twice the votes of the runner-up, Chrome Bookmarks. This split makes absolute sense, because Firefox beat Chrome in the browser war by the same margin. In fact, if these numbers were different, it would cause our highly scientific voting process to look suspect. As it is, for Firefox users, we recommend Firefox Sync, and for Chrome users, we recommend Chrome Bookmarks. Feel free to call me Captain Obvious.

Best On-line Collaboration Tool

Google Docs

Runner-up: Wikis

We didn't title this “Most Popular Collaboration Tool”, because as painful as it is, the majority of on-line collaboration tends to be e-mail messages with subjects like “RE:Fwd:Fwd:Re: This one Re: Final FWD: Final2” and ugly multi-fonted .doc files. Although popular, that's definitely not ideal. Google Docs takes the spoils of war again this year with its ever-improving feature set for on-line collaboration. It's even possible to watch as someone else edits a document. For everything else, wikis are still popular. Easy to edit and easy to maintain, wikis are a godsend for living documents.

Best Cloud-Based File Storage


Runner-up: Ubuntu One

When it comes to cloud storage, it's hard to beat Dropbox. Although security is an often-touted concern with the cloud-storage behemoth, ease of use trumps those concerns. Ubuntu One is a distant second to the cross-platform, simple-to-use Dropbox. I'd put my Dropbox referral code here to get some free space, but I suspect our editor would frown on such a thing, plus you'd all likely flog me.

Best Kid-Friendly Application

Tux Paint

Runner-up: GCompris

Bill Kendrick's Tux Paint continues as the crowd favorite for 2011. Whether you're a kid of 5 or 50, it's hard not to smile when creating paintings with Bill's user-friendly application. GCompris is no slouch in the kid-friendly category either and quite nicely takes second place with its educational focus and lively graphics.

Best Game

World of Goo

Runner-up: Battle for Wesnoth

For the first time in the history of histories, Frozen Bubble is not the most popular game! In fact, Frozen Bubble didn't even take second this year, as it lost to Battle for Wesnoth by half of a percentage point. (Normally we'd consider that a tie, but Battle for Wesnoth deserves recognition for bumping off the Bubble.) World of Goo is a game similar in addictiveness to Frozen Bubble, but with better graphics and more modern gameplay. If you're a casual gamer, check out World of Goo, it's really Goo-ood.

Best Monitoring Solution


Runner-up: OpenNMS

I misspelled “monitoring” as I was typing this section, and AbiWord's recommendation for correction was “minotaur”. Although I wouldn't argue a minotaur would be a wonderful monitoring solution for many circumstances, when it comes to computer hardware, Nagios is a little better, and far more popular. OpenNMS is a newcomer to our victory circle, and although it's far behind Nagios, it still scored quite well. “Minotaur”, as it were, got very few votes.

Best Database


Runner-up: PostgreSQL

It may not be the most-exciting topic around, but databases make the world go round. MySQL with its dolphin mascot takes first place again this year, with more than twice as many votes as its closest competition, PostgreSQL.

Best Backup Solution


Runner-up: tar

We geeks like our command line, and to back up stuff, nothing can beat rsync and tar. rsync is three times more popular than tar based on reader votes, but nothing else comes close when it comes to backup. For two years running, we don't need no stinkin' GUI!

Best Virtualization Solution


Runner-up: VMware

Although the Oracle purchase certainly affected the OpenOffice.org popularity, VirtualBox's new ownership doesn't seem to bother anyone. VirtualBox is more than four times as popular as the distant runner-up, VMware. We even lumped the VMware options together, and they received only a cumulative 15% of the vote. VirtualBox beat virtually every other option hands down.

Best Revision Control System


Runner-up: Subversion

The Linus-Torvalds-created Git remains in the number-one spot this year, as it widens the gap a bit more from the runner-up, Subversion. Either will do the job, but Subversion is becoming more and more the underdog. Perhaps having Linus on your side is an advantage in the Open Source world!

Best Open-Source Configuration Management Tool


Runner-up: OpenQRM

In another repeat performance from last year, Puppet takes top spot for configuration management. If you administer greater than zero servers, you will benefit from using a tool like Puppet. If you're managing fewer than zero servers, well, we're not sure what that means. You probably need Puppet to manage your counting skills. Whatever your reason, configuration management is a hot topic, and Puppet is the hottest.

Best Programming Language


Runner-up: C++

A three-time winner in our best programming category, Python continues to dominate. Close on its heels this year, however, is C++. In fact, a scant 6% separated the two. It's quite obvious, however, that our readers don't suffer from ophidiophobia in the least—hiss.

Best Scripting Language


Runner-up: Bash

It hardly seems fair that Python gets both best programming and best scripting language, but I suppose excellence knows no bounds. A newcomer to our runner-up circle is Bash, the only language I can program with at all. Hats off to Python though, as it takes both categories again this year.

Best IDE


Runner-up: vim

Admit it, you weren't surprised at all to see Eclipse in top seat. Seeing vim in the copilot seat, however, was a nostalgic treat for me. Eclipse is incredibly extensible and remarkably quick in most environments. Nothing can beat the simplicity of vim, however, and it took only 9% fewer votes than Eclipse. There is no denying it, we're geeks.

Best Platform for Developing Rich Internet Applications


Runner-up: Adobe AIR

HTML5 is the new kid on the block this year, and it managed to take 80% of the vote! Adobe Air gets an honorable mention, but only on principle. It was an entire order of magnitude less popular than HTML5.

Best Package Management Application


Runner-up: Synaptic

It's no surprise that with Ubuntu and Debian in top spots for distributions, apt would win handily for package management. Synaptic is a far-off second place, with dozens of others taking up the rear. But, our favorite response for this topic was configure; make; make install.

Best Content Management System


Runner-up: Drupal

Our Webmistress, Katherine Druckman, is a die-hard Drupal fan—and for good reason, the entire Linux Journal site uses it and has for many years. Perhaps just to prove she didn't rig the voting, WordPress takes top spot again this year by a fairly narrow margin to Drupal. The great thing about open source is that it's hard to lose whichever route you take.

Best Linux-Friendly Web-Hosting Company


Runner-up: 1&1 and GoDaddy.com (tie)

We're taking these results as a good sign, in that perhaps so many Web-hosting companies are Linux-friendly, it was hard to pick one over the other. So in reality, GoDaddy and 1&1 took more votes than any other single Web-hosting company. Because their single-digit “victories” seemed a bit strange to celebrate, we gave them runner-up status to all the other options you sent in. Feel free to cry foul; it just seemed the logical thing to do.

Best Linux Laptop Vendor


Runner-up: ASUS

Dell still grabs the top spot here, similar to last year. In a second-place upset, however, ASUS grabs the silver medal, and Lenovo (last year's runner-up) didn't even make the chart. This category is becoming less and less important every year, only because Linux is working on more and more laptops out of the box. We think that's a great problem to have.

Best Linux Desktop Workstation Vendor


Dell is on everyone's love-letter list this year and took the desktop workstation category by storm. In fact, the competition was so lopsided, we can't even declare a runner-up. Dell gets all the penguin love.

Best Linux Server Vendor


Runner-up: Dell

Not to be outdone, IBM pulls through with a very narrow victory over the ever-popular Dell in our server category. When it comes to server racks, our readers trust Big Blue over anyone else (but just barely).

Best Linux Book

Linux in a Nutshell by Ellen Siever et al.

Runner-up: Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond

Linux in a Nutshell from O'Reilly remains your favorite book again this year. In fact, it took twice as many votes as the number-two favorite, Just for Fun. We mentioned Just for Fun in last year's Readers' Choice awards, and apparently many of you took the hint and bought it.

Best Linux Journal Column

Hack and / by Kyle Rankin

Runner-up: Work the Shell by Dave Taylor

Kyle takes the rest of us to task again this year, stealing the number-one spot for his Hack and / column. It's hard to hate Kyle, because he truly is a helpful, humble, easy-going guy. The second spot goes to an equally awesome individual, Dave Taylor. I know I'm biased, but picking a favorite Linux Journal column is like picking a favorite flavor of ice cream—it's hard to go wrong!

Best Brand of Video Chipset


Runner-up: ATI/AMD

The big two in video chipsets are still NVIDIA and AMD. Intel is creeping up as a force in the embedded-video-chipset realm, but NVIDIA and AMD still are way ahead in popularity. NVIDIA takes more than twice as many votes as AMD, but both are wildly more liked than Intel, the distant third. No one likes the proprietary drivers, but we're all thankful to have working software and accelerated video.

Best Linux Smartphone Manufacturer


Runner-up: Samsung

This year, we tweaked the poll a little bit, and instead of looking for a specific model of smartphone, we asked for your favorite manufacturer. The race was tight between HTC's hackability and Samsung's wafer-thinness. HTC edged out the competition, making it your favorite Linux smartphone manufacturer—at least for now.

Best Linux Tablet Manufacturer


Runner-up: ASUS

In a newly created category, Samsung takes a clear and dominant victory over the other companies with its Galaxy line of tablets. This field is still very young, so it's hard to say what next year will bring, but for this year, nothing can touch Samsung. Our second-place company scored some big points with the ASUS Transformer. Its unique design allows a tablet computer to become an Android-powered laptop simply by clicking the tablet into the keyboard accessory. This will be an exciting category in the future, as competition is really starting to heat up.

Best Other Linux-Based Gadget

Amazon Kindle

Runner-up: TomTom Navigation System

The Kindle easily takes its place as your favorite Linux gadget this year. We may have to change our categories a bit next year, as the tablet/gadget/smartphone categories are starting to blend together. However you slice it, the Kindle wins this year. And if you need directions to the store in order to buy a Kindle? We recommend the TomTom Navigation System, also running Linux and also one of your favorites.

Best New Open-Source Project (released in 2010 or 2011)


Although certainly standing on the shoulders of its progenitor, LibreOffice continues to progress at an impressive rate. Because the fork is technically a new project, your write-in votes were counted, and LibreOffice wins the coveted spot as best new open-source project.

Product of the Year


And the moment you've all been waiting for...the winner is...GNOME 3! Although very controversial and barely edging out Android, GNOME 3 takes our product of the year title for 2011. GNOME 3 represents a drastic change in the way we compute on the desktop, and like its relative Unity, it has some people shaking their heads in frustration. You've proven, however, that change isn't always a bad thing, and GNOME 3 wins!

Be sure to follow our Web site this year, as we explore some of these winners, and perhaps watch the runners-up to see if they edge out the current incumbents. As for me, I'll be playing World of Goo. I hear it's rather good.

And finally, a big thanks to everyone for participating in the voting. If you have ideas for new categories you'd like us to include for Readers' Choice 2012, send e-mail to info@linuxjournal.com.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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