Five Cleverly Named Ubuntu Apps

By Ali Hammad Baig on 2:38 AM

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Free-software hackers like to brag about the robustness of their code. But a less-celebrated area where open-source programmers also shine is coming up with names for their applications. Developers don’t often receive the credit they deserve for the clever and fitting titles they apply to their software, so here’s a quick and lighthearted look at some of the more adroitly named applications familiar to Ubuntu users.

The double-meanings or inside jokes behind the names of the applications in this list may not be obvious to a lot of people, especially those without geeky inclinations. They’re also not always the best titles for describing an application’s function. But they’re a lot more fun than the names of most applications in the proprietary world, where creativity is generally limited to straight-forward descriptions of what an application does (e.g., Microsoft Office, Adobe Illustrator), or prefixing the lowercase letter ‘i’ to an otherwise boring word (e.g., everything made by Apple in the last decade).


Once upon a time, Pidgin was known as Gaim. Then AOL sued the project’s developers for the heinous crime of using the letters ‘a’, ‘i’ and ‘m’ without permission, forcing a name change.

The bullying of unpaid, open-source programmers by corporate lawyers was regrettable, but the new title, which alludes to both messenger pigeons and the ‘pidgin language’ of the Internet, is a lot more creative than the old one.

I sometimes miss the little yellow man that served as Gaim’s icon and was also deemed a copyright violation, and I’m less than satisfied with the Pidgin art that replaced it. But at least the coloring pays tribute to libpurple, the library that makes multi-protocol chat possible.


Geeks have a tradition dating back to the 1970s of finding recursive acronyms hilarious. Richard Stallman’s project GNU, which stands for ‘GNU’s not Unix’, is the most famous example.

The name given to Wine, the compatibility layer that makes it possible to run Windows software on Linux, similarly serves as a recursive reminder to users that ‘Wine is not an emulator’, but rather an implementation of Windows APIs within the Linux kernel. But since that’s complicated to explain, Wine is often incorrectly referred to simply as a ‘Windows emulator’, which makes its name doubly appropriate.


The torrent client Deluge may not be quite as cleverly titled as the other applications in this list, but it deserves some credit nonetheless for its play on the dual meaning of ‘torrent’. It’s certainly much more creative than most other torrent clients, which tend to have boring names like utorrent, rtorrent, itorrent and other iterations of [A-Za-z]torrent. And I love the raindrop icon minimized in my system tray.


Ubiquity, the graphical installer for Ubuntu that ships on desktop live CDs, serves as a reminder of Ubuntu’s goal of squashing bug #1 to become the most ubiquitous operating system around. It’s also a meaningful word that starts with the letters ‘ub’, which deserves extra points.


Lest I be accused of anglocentrism, here’s a shout-out to Gcompris, a suite of educational games that ships with Edubuntu. For those of you who don’t speak French, the pun is pretty straight-forward: Gcompris sounds like the expression ‘J’ai compris’, which translates to ‘I’ve understood’. Bonus points for a name starting with the letter ‘g’, paying homage to the GNU project and open-source philosophy.

That’s my short list of open-source applications with creative names. Surely I’ve missed many others, which I’d love to hear about in comments below.

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