Essential Programs to Install on the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is one of the most popular micro-computers that we can buy. This small, but powerful, device allows us, for just over 40 euros, to have a fully functional equipment that we can literally use for whatever we want. For example, we can use the RPi to mount a retro-console, a home server, a router, and even a fully functional Linux PC. All we need for this is the appropriate software for the use we want to give it.

There are a wide variety of operating systems for the Raspberry Pi, but the main one, and recommended for most users, is Raspberry Pi OS , formerly known as Raspbian. This distro is a Debian operating system, optimized and improved to run on this micro-computer. This distro brings with it a series of programs with which we can start working. But, as always, we will also be able to install many others.

Essential Programs to Install on the Raspberry Pi

Leaving aside the programs that are installed by default in Raspberry Pi OS (or, which is the same, starting from the Lite version of this operating system), next we will see what are the essential programs that will allow us to get the most out of it to this device.

Raspberry Pi OS

Edit images on the RPi

It is true that the power of this micro-computer is limited for certain editing tasks, especially video. However, it is more than enough to edit photos and to draw.

GIMP, the OpenSopuce photo editor

Interfaz principal GIMP GIMP is the Photoshop of Linux systems. This is one of the most complete photo editing programs that we can find. A totally free and open source software that, of course, could not be missing from the micro-computer. It is true that it is a fairly heavy program and that, given the power of the Raspberry Pi, we may have some problems to use it freely. But working works, and it will satisfy all the editing and retouching needs we may have.

This program usually comes installed on Raspberry Pi OS, but, in case you don’t have it, we can install it with the following command:

sudo apt install gimp

MyPaint, painting software

MyPaint interfaz

If what we are looking for is specialized software for artistic painting, then a much more focused alternative to this purpose than GIMP is MyPaint. This free and open source program is much closer to Corel Painter or Krita than Photoshop. In it we can find a large number of brushes, settings and layer customization options to be able to unleash our imagination.

We can install this program for free by running on the console:

sudo apt install mypaint

Digikam, to edit RAM photos

DigiKam programa para fotógrafos

If what we are looking for is a software that allows us to organize all our photographs, and also to retouch and improve all kinds of photos in RAW format, then one of the options that we can choose is Digikam. This software will allow us to manage large photo libraries, and process all kinds of images to improve their finish and optimize them. Of course, although it can work on ARM architectures, if we want to use it on the Raspberry Pi it is necessary that our model has at least 4 GB of RAM. Otherwise, we will have problems.

We can install this software by executing the following command in terminal:

sudo apt install digikam

Turn Raspberry Pi into a media player

A very common use of this micro-computer is to allow us to play music and movies directly on it, making it a complete entertainment center if, for example, we connect it to TV.

VLC, the default media player

VLC 3 VLC Media Player is, without a doubt, one of the best video players that we can find, literally, for any operating system. Among its main strengths it is worth mentioning that it is free and open source software, and that it is capable of reproducing any format without the need to install and configure codecs. If we are going to use the Raspberry Pi to watch videos, it is certainly a must-have program that should not be missing from our distro.

To install this player, we must execute the following command on a console:

sudo apt install vlc

QMMP, a specialized music player


Although VLC can also play music, the truth is that, in this sense, it is somewhat limited in terms of usability. Therefore, it is better to have another more specialized music player, such as QMMP. This software is compatible with the main audio formats (MP3, FLAC, Ogg FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, WAV, etc.) and it has an equalizer to adjust the type of playback and very curious visual effects to see while listening to music.

We can install this program with the command:

sudo apt install qmmp

Kodi, a complete multimedia center

LibreELEC con KODI

The truth is that Kodi needs no introduction. This is the best known program to convert any computer or device into a complete multimedia center from which we will be able to centralize all multimedia files (videos, music, photos, etc.) in one place. In addition, it allows us to play streaming content from the Internet and is compatible with plugins that allow us to make the software more useful.

We can install Kodi from the official repositories by running:

sudo apt install kodi

Play on the Raspberry Pi

Of course, this micro-computer can also be used for gaming. And we even have a wide range of possibilities to do it.

DosBox, for retro MS-DOS games

DOSBox Monkey Island

If ours is the games of the 80s and early 90s, thanks to DosBox we will be able to relive all those moments. This software allows us to emulate a complete MS-DOS system on which we will be able to run any type of program or game from that time.

We can install this software with the command:

sudo apt install dosbox

RetroArch, a complete emulator center

RetroArch - Lista juegos GBC

And if what we like are retro console games, we can also use RetroArch to turn our Raspberry Pi into a retro-console. This software will allow us to emulate, without complications, all kinds of console games, from the classic ones, such as the NES, SNES or the Game Boy, to some more advanced ones, such as the GameCube, and even the PlayStation 1.

The best way to install this software on the Raspberry Pi is through snapd with the following commands:

sudo apt install snapd sudo reboot sudo snap install retroarch

Steam Link, PC games anywhere


It is true that we will not be able to run triple A games on this micro-computer, both due to the limitations of the hardware, and because we cannot install Windows. However, what we are going to be able to do is install Steam Link so that we can connect it to TV and use it as a streaming device to play games on our computer remotely and without problems.

We can install this app by running:

sudo apt install steamlink

Programs to download files

Deluge, very light and simple torrent client

Deluge Ubuntu Deluge is a torrent download client that will allow us to easily download all kinds of files from the Internet through P2P networks. Thanks to this program we will be able to convert the micro-computer into a complete file server from which we will be able to download all kinds of data from the Internet, and even use it to be able to access our files remotely and safely.

We can install this program by executing:

sudo apt install deluged deluge-console python-mako deluge-web

Transmission, another excellent torrent client

Transmission 3.0 Transmission is an alternative to Deluge. Broadly speaking, both programs serve the same purpose: to download files from the torrent network. And, in terms of functions and performance, they are very similar. Thus, each user can choose the one they like best, the one that best suits their needs.

We can easily install Transmission by installing:

sudo apt install transmission

Other essential programs and tools

LibreOffice, to open and create all kinds of documents

LibreOffice 7.0

Of course, other software that could not be missing in our distro is an office suite. LibreOffice is one of the best alternatives that we can find to Office for Linux systems. This suite brings us everything you need to be able to work: a word processor, a spreadsheet and a software for making slide shows. All of this, of course, while maintaining full compatibility with Microsoft software.

We can install LibreOffice on Raspberry Pi with:

sudo apt install libreoffice

Protect connections with OpenVPN


If we are going to have the Raspberry Pi connected to the Internet, or we plan to connect to it remotely, and we want to do it safely, one software we can use is OpenVPN. This totally free and OpenSource program allows us to establish a virtual private connection between the micro-computer and a VPN server connected to the network so that the connection travels from point to point in a secure and encrypted way.

We can easily install this software with the command:

sudo apt install openvpn

Synaptic Package Manager: better manage Linux packages

Synaptic Package Manager

Users who have been on Linux for a long time consider Synaptic one of the essential programs for any distro. This software will allow us to see all the packages that we have installed in the distro, know the dependencies of any of them, remove packages or add new ones to our distribution. All this without commands, from a very clear and easy to use interface. Without a doubt, it is one of the essential tools to simplify working with Linux packages and programs, something that has always been relatively complicated.

We can easily install this software by executing the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt install synaptic