While the Pi may be best known as a programming and project computer, it is also a fully functioning device, even capable of replacing a desktop computer. As such, a wide range of applications and utilities are available, some of which can enhance the capabilities of your Pi.

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Although tools such as the open source office suite pre-installed in Raspbian Stretch, some other user programs are not included. If you want to make the most of your Pi as a desktop device, here are five great apps you should consider.

Most of these you will find using the Add/Remove Software tool, although other ways to install software on the Pi available. We have also included command line instructions.

1. Vivaldi Browser

You don’t have to convincingly switch to Vivaldi. to switch to Vivaldi It was developed by Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner, and like the old version of Opera, Vivaldi is trying to redefine the web browser.

apps that make Raspberry Pi useful

To install on Raspberry Pi, you need to use wget to download it to the right folder.

cd ~/Downloads/ wget "https://downloads.vivaldi.com/stable/vivaldi-stable_1.13.1008.34-1_armhf.deb" 

After that, extract the DEB file to install.

 sudo dpkg -i /path/to/deb/file 

Finally install with

 sudo apt-get install -f 

After installation you will find Vivaldi in Menu > Internet . Unfortunately, you cannot currently install Vivaldi using the Add/Remove Software tool. But it’s worth using the command line as it’s a feature rich tool that adds some great new features to your browser. These include advanced tab management, a screenshot tool, and a built-in note-taking tool.

If you want to learn more about the Vivaldi browser, we looked at how much it can change in Raspbian


Arguably the funniest application ever developed, GIMP is for creating or retouching images. Often cited as a replacement for Adobe Photoshop (it resembles an earlier version), GIMP is compatible with the Raspberry Pi.

apps that make Raspberry Pi useful

You will find GIMP in the Add/Remove Programs tool. For command line users:

 sudo apt install gimp 

Once installed, you will be able to use it for a range of image editing tasks. GIMP is perfect for retouching photos or creating graphics from scratch. While it may not be Photoshop, it’s almost as powerful. Even if you can’t find the right tool, there might be an extension that will add this feature.

Admittedly, the Raspberry Pi is not ideal hardware for efficient image processing, but the end results should be good. Even if they take a little longer to reach!

Why not check out our detailed photo editing guide with GIMP in GIMP Photo Editing. ?

3. IceDove

If you’ve taken our advice and plan to use the Pi as a desktop computer you will need an email client. While Claws Mail is already installed, IceDove offers the best customization. Based on the Mozilla Thunderbird email client IceDove manages your email, gives you access to Usenet newsgroups, RSS feeds, and even supports live chat. If you use Google Hangouts, IceDove is perfect. There is also support for Filelink, a large file upload service (which actually links to the cloud copy).

apps that make Raspberry Pi useful

Once installed from the Add/Remove Software tool, you can customize IceDove to your own requirements.

 sudo apt install icedove 

To launch IceDove, look in the «Other» folder on the desktop menu. You will find it labeled IceDove -> Thunderbird . No email client is complete without a calendar, so why not add the iceowl extension to start organizing your time? Meanwhile, Enigmail allows email encryption.

You can also animate the default interface. Several themes are available. Just open Tools > Add Addons and see what suits you.

4. Pidgin

You’ve probably heard of the cross-platform messaging app Pidgin. Conveniently, it can combine chat accounts such as Google Hangouts, Yahoo Messenger, and more into a single interface. What’s more, plugins are available that also include Skype and WhatsApp in the app.

While you probably aren’t using a chat app on your Raspberry Pi yet, Pidgin gets the job done nonetheless. This is ideal if you plan on using your Pi for desktop purposes (or just chatting while programming).

apps that make Raspberry Pi useful

Install Pidgin using the Add/Remove Programs tool. To install from the command line in the Terminal:

 sudo apt install pidgin 

You will find many useful plugins for Pidgin in its dedicated library. They are quite varied and in many cases useless. However, you may find something useful. For example, the OTR (Off the Record) plugin will encrypt your conversations. PaintBoard will allow you to share the board with your interlocutor. Facebook Chat allows you to replace the built-in (but not recommended) Facebook XMPP plugin.

A pidgin can also be themed. Thousands of themes are available from the Theming Pidgin library. Installing one of them will provide a new collection of icons, emoticons, fonts and backgrounds.

5. Caliber

Want to read e-books on your Raspberry Pi? If this is your first time using a programming device, this might be helpful. If you have books on coding in the traditional eBook format or have them in your Kindle library, you can use Caliber to read them. On the command line, install Caliber with:

 sudo apt install calibre 

In addition, you will find it under «Add/Remove Software». After installation, you will find Caliber in the list Applications > Office > Caliber .

apps that make Raspberry Pi useful

With Caliber running on your system, you can convert books to the correct format and import them from your Kindle. Important data such as author name, publisher, year, page length, genre, etc. is saved, making it easy to find the books you want to read.

Our complete guide to Caliber will tell you everything you need to know about this excellent app.

What else would you use?

Previously, we looked at the best applications for the Raspberry Pi. but these five tools will make your computer really useful.

Alternatives may be available for some of these tools; You also need to install a 7Zip compatible utility. If you’re looking for other apps and tools, take the time to check out the Add/Remove Software tool and you should find what you need.

What do you think? What Apps Make Your Raspberry Pi Really Useful? Write to us in the comments.

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