What GUI tools do you advise to improve the usability of Linux for those accustomed to doing system administration the windows-way?

Users new to Linux often get confused when they need to configure something: editing a text configuration file may seem hard to them, and they want a GUI to tick checkboxes and just get what they want. A short list includes: hardware issues, drivers, Xorg (especially!), performance, network settings, sharing, user accounts, etc.

P.S. I've looked through questions already asked here, and found that there's no real centralized list of applications. Let's unite our knowledge! Community Wiki ;)

  • +1 for making this a CW :) – Izzy Oct 28 '09 at 23:51

11 Answers 11


The Gadmin Tools are a useful collection of GUI utilities for the "point and click" andministrator.

From their homepage:

GADMINTOOLS consists of several easy to use C / GTK+ server administration tools for the following list of servers:

ISC BIND DNS server                          ISC DHCPD server

Proftpd standalone server                    Samba filesharing

Apache webserver                             Squid proxy server

RSYNC backup server and client               OpenVPN Server / Client

Short term, you've got some good answers here, especially the recommendation for Webmin. But, I feel compelled to suggest that over the long term, if you're serious about your Linux boxes, learn the command line. That's the way most *nix tools are designed. If you don't take advantage of that, you'll be doing things the hard way, forever.

The easy way isn't the easy way.

  • 4
    You're absolutely right. Moreover, I agree with you, and do all the configs manually without installing anything graphical, but I have some people that became Linux recently, and there're more to come, so I must be ready to advice GUI configuration tools to them. GUI is more friendly to newbies, especially those who are not connected with IT at all! :) – kolypto Oct 29 '09 at 3:28
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    With Linux the command line is the way to go - well honestly i spend a lot of time on the command line in windows too. The more multitasking you do the more you will like the command line. Also my personal opinion is that you learn more doing it on the command line than you ever would in a GUI. Funny story, I was interviewing someone about a year ago who was proud of what he had learned in Linux - then was horrified to learn we don't install X on any of our servers! :) – Zypher Oct 31 '09 at 5:55
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    All of the GUI tools available are just frontends which modify the config-files in the backend and restart the affected services. If anything goes wrong or you want to know or control slightly more than is in the the GUI, you're going to have to go back to the command-line anyway. – JamesHannah Oct 31 '09 at 9:51
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    Plus the GUI tools don't scale. When you admin more than a handful of servers, you want to copy a file in place then restart services, preferably via a configuration management tool (cfengine, puppet, chef, etc.) And at that scale you don't want to waste the RAM on a GUI either. Serious admins only know the command line. – toppledwagon Oct 31 '09 at 21:48

You do know about Webmin, right?

  • Yep, but it's typical usage is server administration. It's featured do not cover even mostly all the tasks a desktop user may deal with :) – kolypto Oct 29 '09 at 3:37
  • @Tync: wasn't that exactly the question you asked? Tasks a desktop user is dealing with on a day-to-day basis is reading email and browsing web, and you don't need administration tools for that at all – galets Nov 3 '09 at 15:50

Most of Redhat's system-config-* tools have a gui front-end. For example, here's system-config-lvm and system-config-users. I don't know all of them as I'm not a big Redhat fan, but I know there are quite a few.


If you need a very easy firewall with an easy frontend, check out ufw and the frontend gufw. Both are available in the Ubuntu repositories.

Here are some screenshots: http://gufw.tuxfamily.org/screenshots.html

  • btnx - configures additional mouse buttons. Can bind clicks to key-combo, applications launching, etc.
  • Wicd - network manager: nice wired/wireless configuration
  • kXgenerator - powerful Xorg configuration generator. Can handle server layouts, video driver, mouse/keyboard settings. Has checkboxes for some tweaks/features of video cards.
  • gparted , KDE PArtition Manager - HDD partitions manager
  • nvidia-settings - configuration for NVidia graphics.
  • HPLIP - HP Linux Imaging and Printing: Hewlett-Packard printer config.
  • GSynaptics - Synaptics Touchpad configuration utility

The Gnome "System Monitor" (gnome-system-monitor package in Ubuntu) gives graphic display of CPU, memory and network load against time. krunner is the KDE alternative. Anything else I would choose to do via command line tools.

Edit: I tried using the GUI "Users Administration Tool" on an old Ubuntu server/workstation to get rid of an unwanted user account. It seemed to work but after a reboot I saw that the unwanted account was still there. A simple command "sudo userdel -r oldaccount" did the job correctly and also gave a warning message about a file that had incorrect permissions. I believe that similar shortcomings might be found in other GUI tools as well.


My favorite GUI linux administration tool is PuTTY. Combine it with Xming and Apache for easy access to all the admin tools, whether commandline, X-GUI, or web-based.

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    That's not really an answer... PuTTY is an SSH client. The GUI tools are what you invoke via SSH, like X-GUI. – Josh Nov 4 '09 at 13:47

Wikipedia has a list of available control panels Each one has their benefits.

The issue you have described seems like it is more for general administration of a desktop which is probably accomplished better using tips from pboin's answer.

  • They all are typically used in server administration, not desktop :) – kolypto Nov 1 '09 at 16:53
  • Isn't this serverfault.com? – Josh Nov 4 '09 at 13:47
  • Yep, bus aren't sysadmins messing with users that want to simplify their workstations' configuration process? ;) – kolypto Nov 6 '09 at 2:53

Have you tried SME Server? It's basically CentOS with administration panel.

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