The terrible status of Linux Softwares for Designers

Starting this post is more painful than I was expecting. I don’t want this to be the usual rant against Linux, or another random list of things that we already know, from a user that doesn’t know anything. I mean, I don’t consider myself an expert, but I spent multiple years working on multiple platforms, and today I have pretty much a clear idea of how things work and what’s the best for me.

With this premise in mind, lot of regrets, and a bitter taste in my mouth, I finally realized that Linux is not ready, and probably never will.

Please don’t hate me and read my story

So, I started using Linux in the late 2007, I never used before MacOS and I spent pretty much my entire life on Windows. With the upgrade to Windows Vista, my old laptop was cursing me everyday and even the easiest task was painful to perform. I didn’t have money to buy a new one, and was at that time that I found for the first time Ubuntu. This new, free and completely different Operating System was lightening fast, super customizable and fully compatible with my old crappy Laptop.

During these years I switched multiple Linux OS, multiple DE, and tested I don’t know how many softwares and derivations. I also coded and forked a bunch by myself, trying to achieve what I wanted/needed, and trying to contribute as much as possible to the community.

After all these years of experience, I can honestly say that even if Linux is amazing, it’s not ready for the masses and it never will, probably.

All the common issues that you probably already know, like lack of decent softwares, stability and fragmentation of the derivations, are contributing in preventing Linux to be considered a decent alternative.

Linux is heaven for a developer, but hell for the average user.

If we want Linux to be more prominent in the market (and I want that every day!!!), we should rethink its UI, and especially the entire plethora of free softwares out there, with terrible, terrible UI.




I really appreciate what Ubuntu, Elementary OS and others are doing, trying to create a more strict UI and guidelines for applications and Open Source softwares, but it’s kinda impossible to manage all the developers into an Open community. The open nature of Linux it’s one of the reasons why it’s failing. Since 2010, every year we heard the sentence “This is the year of Linux”, and guess what? I’m still freaking waiting that year.

Gimp sucks, Inkscape is solid but looks gross and it’s visually un-appealing, all the Video editors are a joke and the majority of other softwares come with a ridiculous and childish interface, that it’s just frustrating to use.

Why can’t we have nice things?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Linux and I would like to use it everyday, at work and home, but in reality I use it only to perform encoding tasks, update Git repos, configure and test development environments and format external hard drives.

I can’t use Linux to do Video Editing and Design!

I know I could, and I tried, multiple times. I used Blender for years as a video editor, I used a mixture of Gimp, Inkscape, Krita, MyPaint, Alchemy, and so on to achieve what I can do in Photoshop in a third of the time, and I tried so hard to produce some original music with Arduor and Audacity.

I produced something decent, not amazing, only decent, but it was so painful and long, that thinking of having that workflow everyday it’s just a suicide.

As a professional designer and developer, I need an OS and Softwares that let me do my work, without worrying of crashes, recompiling, or installing those damn libraries via terminal. Who’s the average user willing to do that pretty much everyday?

Honestly, I’m stuck with a Macintosh because it’s solid as hell. I open Sketch or Affinity Designer, and I get shit done in 5 minutes. I tried to do the same in Gimp and, after spending half a day trying to change the icon theme because, oh my God those icons are from 1998, I ended up going back on my mac because it was impossible to import Vector forms inside it, managing folders and subfolders with multiple layers and masks, or even changing a Font without sacrificing a pigmy goat to Satan, in order to avoid a crash.

An amazing piece of software, with a terrible User Interface, it’s just a terrible Software.

We should start considering Open Source and Free two different and separated things. I know that they’re actually two separated things, but most people don’t know and pretend Open Source to be also free. I’m willing to pay and buy a product if it’s good and can improve my life/work. So why can’t we have paid product that works on Linux?

Why Gimp can’t be a $50 software?

I bet that with these money Gimp can turn into a mind blowing innovative software that everyone wants to use. Why we can’t have a minimum $5 donation in order to download or install a Linux Distro? Why Open Source developers have to struggle of working part time and releasing a new version once every 4 years, because they don’t have funds?

Let’s freaking change this!

With respect,
a Linux lover.


  • Ricardo V

    Hello there Alex,

    I feel the same towards designing in Linux. I use it for everything but design. I’ve really tried GIMP but it’s not for me, i don’t like the interface or the icons and the UI seems something from 1998. People might argue “well, you can contribute by creating a nice set of icons or a better UI and share it with the rest of us”. The thing is that i don’t have the skills do to something like that, i can’t afford spending several months learning how the GIMP source code works. I would preffer as you say, to pay $50 and get a more polished software. Same applies for Inkscape and the others.

    However, i see two problems:

    1. I feel most of Linux community have this feeling that everything should be free (as a free beer).

    2. And second, the economy is getting worse each day, so the great developers will go to the money is: Apple ecosystem. I’ve read couple articles that say people that have apple devices are more likely to purchase than those who use another ecosystem. So, most of UI designers aim for the “sure shot” which is doing great software where it has more chances to getting customers and cash flow.

    Seems like our only choice so far is to use Linux and Mac or (Windows if you like dealing with that).

    • I feel you!
      I hate being stuck with OS X, but for work, I can’t afford to switch to Linux and its open software. It sounds absurd, but it costs me less to buy a MacBook and purchase Sketch or Affinity Designer, than using Linux and free Software for client work. Even if I can save a lot of money at the beginning with Linux, I will lose those money in time and quality of my work.
      Linux, and Open Software, shouldn’t be free to be competitive.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

  • Roland Kriewaldt

    Alex, I have to agree with your comments. As a web designer, author and songwriter, looking at a computer screen takes up a considerable chunk of my life. For that reason alone, I refuse to work within an unfriendly or graphically underwhelming user interface.

    I recently explored Linux for the first time, assuming that enough time had passed for its software offerings to have matured, visually and technically. But I had pretty much the same reaction as you did—although I seem to have a higher level of tolerance for GIMP. 🙂 I also cringed upon seeing ICONs reminiscent of a distant computer era. 🙂

    Thanks for the great article—it also inspired me to give Affinity software a trial run. I’m impressed.

    • Awesome!
      I’m really glad to not be the only one. I really like Linux, from a technical point of view it’s amazing. As a developer I can literally do everything I want, but I know that a Terminal window, is not what the average consumer wants and needs.
      And like you said, as a Designer and content creator, I feel really limited on Linux. I can pretty much achieve the same results on every OS, but it’s the process, and how the Workflow can improve my daily life, that made me choose Apple.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

  • mashudi

    I agree with you, just info no problem with linux the problem is with the application (GIMP, Inkscape, Krita, etc) but not on application performance, its application performance depends on us. IMHO the issue is in support for popular applications (like adobe family, corel, etc), we need to learn a lot to overcome it, we can not expect the developer for a license from the extension of popular applications that are not open source.

    IMHO os x remains the best for multimedia and graphic work, it takes hard work to learn if using Linux and open source graphics applications.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion.
      One of my main goal is to build a solid application for web design for Linux. High quality, premium built, application that can engage Linux users to a level similar to an Apple product. I know it sounds a bit naive, but that would be great.

  • César

    Hi Alex, I really like what you say in this post. A few months ago I was thinking on installing Gnome on my computer and say goodbye to windows, nothing against windows believe it or not, I just wanted to use a good and open source OS, but I realized that I was going to lose all of my design software. For a moment Gimp, Inkscape and Krita seemed a good choice, so before making a major change I installed those software, and boy I was wrong. Except for Krita I don’t think there is a good digital painting software. Maybe someday the Linux community we’ll try a different approach.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I really hope that too, in a not so far future Linux could be a solid alternative for graphic designer.
      As a developer, a unix based system is the best you can ask, but as a developer, the lack of decent software it’s frustrating.

  • Lucas Taylor

    I love Linux but I agree. I hope that the currently growing market share of Linux on desktop, this will change. ( growing market share info: )

    • The guys at ElementaryOS are doing something pretty cool that probably will help changing the scenario. An open Market Place for developers to upload their own apps, so users can download them with a “Pya-what-you-want” system.
      Will see how it evolves.

  • Konstantin Nikkari

    “An amazing piece of software, with a terrible User Interface, it’s just a terrible Software.”

    Amen to that.

  • Luciano Salomoni

    I used to use Linux (Ubuntu) at home and I really loved it. I made my Design graduation class works (2005 – 2010) under Ubuntu (Inkscape, GIMP, Scribus, Cinelerra, Audacity, Synfig and Blender) It was a hell of productivity, a huge pain. I spent 4 years of my life learning this applications and the OS itself. A beautiful day I realized I was investing time in a dead platform (graphic design on Linux), since this day I never went back (and I sadly think I will never go back) to Linux 🙁
    I think the things wont be better than this for Linux (not to the OS itself) but the applications for it. Linux fanboys love to screaming to the wind that they have freedom to do what they want with the system. But unlimited freedom isn’t good because we get lost and don’t know what to do with it.

  • Seth-666

    after 1 / 2 months of watching you’re 1st playlist with wordpress , i can make a wordpress theme from scratch. One more thing , yes a read and others articols, just to grow my knowledge of wordpress develooping 🙂 . But you have my MEGA thanks !

  • Great stuff, thanks for sharing.
    Take a look at my personal project:
    I’m trying to build a native UX design app for Linux, still in early development, I hope it’ll be useful.

  • avi wadhwa

    Hey Alex!
    While I agree with you, I have a bit of a different perspective!
    Kdenlive installed (with the AppImage) for me in 1 click (the download button) it just worked!
    I feel gimp is really solid, and I love using it. I’ve never used photoshop, and am used to gimp now 😛

    So, I dunno, maybe it’s because you are used to Photoshop, which makes you feel GIMP sucks (like how I feel the SAME but for photoshop!)

  • avi wadhwa

    Oh my god I just saw the post date this is so old