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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 ;)

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Wrong question, and possibly wrong site--seems like it should be a Server Fault question. – CarlF Nov 6 '09 at 3:02
So, Linux administration should be made more Windows-like? – pavium Nov 6 '09 at 3:05
Which Linux Distribution? – JohnnyLambada Nov 6 '09 at 3:21
You mention CW, but you don't make it a CW?! – Kevin M Nov 6 '09 at 16:09
@CarlF, it was on serverfault, and most of the answers are useful for servers, not desktop systems :) @Pavium, I just need to know the tools that I can advice to newbie Linux users. @JohnnyLambada, any ;) @Kevin M, i'm an idiot. Of course it should have been wiki, I've missed the checkbox %)) – kolypto Nov 6 '09 at 22:45
up vote 8 down vote accepted


Webmin is a web-based interface for system administration for Unix. Using any modern web browser, you can setup user accounts, Apache, DNS, file sharing and much more.

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+1 for webmin, I was going to suggest that. It does a good job on many of the usual tasks. – Evan Nov 6 '09 at 3:32

I have never seen one single GUI tool that did everything I needed or could do from the CLI. In Linux, there's always some setting or config you'll need to tweak to get your specific setup to work correctly.

If you start using a tool such as webmin (which is a great tool at that), you might run into a problem later down the road that webmin can't solve. Then you'll have to delve into the command line to fix it. Two problems with that:

  1. That's the worst time to learn command line, and you will probably mess things up worse.
  2. There is always more than one way to do any given task in Linux. So, if your GUI does things a certain way (usually a more advanced complicated way), then you try to do them yourself in CLI via another way (usually not the GUI way), you're asking for trouble.

Look at YaST for example. If you set a configuration in YaST and then go to edit the configuration file itself manually, you'll usually see a warning at the beginning of the file that warns not to mess with it, and that it's controlled by YaST.

Lots of people look for shortcuts and GUI's to admin linux boxes, but, in my opinion, those GUIs are really meant for people who already know what they're doing and know what's happening underneath and are just looking to save some time.

There's no two ways about it. Learning the command line is essential in Linux for administration and configuration. If you try to take shortcuts now, you will regret it later.

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An excellent answer! :) – kolypto Nov 6 '09 at 22:47

Different distros come differing administration tools. I use openSUSE* which includes YaST.

Other distros may have other GUI tools. Fedora last I looked has next to none.

And there's also webmin as UK suggested.

* Note that I don't use openSUSE specifically because of YaST as I'm fairly comfortable with the command line for most of my admin needs. I use it mainly for its first class support for KDE (plus I prefer RPM based systems).

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