I use Ubuntu but this is really a distro-agnostic question.
What is the must have software that you install once you've done a fresh linux install?
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Here is what I install on every fresh ubuntu system. The names are ubuntu package names and they are ordered depending on what package repository they reside in.
At the end there is an extra section for software I use regularly and which had no ubuntu package at the time I compiled the list (01-01-2008). Another extra section has some programs and libraries I use often but which I don't want to install per default for various reasons.
Not available as ubuntu package
For me I'm still a get it as I realize I need it kinda guy, but here are a few things that I have to get:
I have this on pretty much any system I load, you never know when you've got a little time to kill. On Windows boxes I'll just download it when I feel like it, but with linux it's just another apt-get.
I haven't used Linux in a long time, but I remember always going for Amarok right away.
I usually use a tiling WM such as awesome, dwm and xmonad so I tend to prefer CLI apps.
Not a complete list but ...
vim, mc, htop, build-essential, flash, firefox, vlc, mplayer, mocp, screen, weechat, rtorrent, elinks, lynx