Image: Jack Wallen

If you’re a system administrator, it’s reached a point where Linux has become a must-know. This is especially true when you’re working in a larger environment. Many organizations have migrated from Windows, where everything is managed with a point-and-click GUI. Fortunately, Linux has plenty of GUI tools that can help you avoid the command line (although every serious sysadmin should become familiar with the commands).

What are some good GUI tools that can simplify your Linux sysadmin tasks? Let’s take a look at 10 of them.

1: MySQL Workbench

MySQL Workbench is one of my favorite tools for working with MySQL databases. You can work locally or remotely with this well designed GUI tool. But MySQL Workbench isn’t just for managing previously created databases. It also helps you design, develop, and administer MySQL databases. A newer addition to the MySQL Workbench set of tools is the ability to easily migrate Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, Sybase ASE, PostgreSQL, and other RDBMS tables, objects, and data to MySQL. That alone makes MySQL Workbench worth using.

2: phpMyAdmin

phpMyAdmin is another MySQL administration tool… only web based. Although it doesn’t offer the bells and whistles of MySQL Workbench, it’s a much more user-friendly tool. With phpMyAdmin you can create and manage MySQL databases via a standard web browser. This means you can install phpMyAdmin on a headless Linux server and connect to it through any browser that has access to the machine.

3: Webmin

Webmin is a web-based one-stop-shop tool for administering Linux servers. With Webmin you can manage nearly every single aspect of a server—user accounts, Apache, DNS, file sharing, security, databases, and much more. And if what you need isn’t included with the default installation, a massive number of third-party modules are available to take up the slack.

4: YaST

YaST stands for Yet Another Setup Tool. It enables system configuration for enterprise-grade SUSE and openSUSE and serves as both the installation and configuration tool for the platform. With YaST you can configure hardware, network, and services and tune system security, all with an easy-to-use, attractive GUI. YaST is installed by default in all SUSE and openSUSE platforms.

5: Shorewall

Shorewall is a GUI for configuring iptables. Yes, there are other GUIs for tuning the security of your system, but many of them don’t go nearly as deep as Shorewall. Where an app like UFW is one of the best security tuners for the desktop, Shorewall is tops for the server. With this particular security GUI, you can configure gateways, VPNs, traffic controlling, blacklisting, and much more. If you’re serious about your firewall, and you want a GUI for the job, Shorewall is what you want.

6: Apache Directory

Apache Directory is about the only solid GUI tool for managing any LDAP server (though it is designed particularly for ApacheDS). It’s an Eclipse RCP application and can serve as your LDAP browser, schema editor, ApacheDS configuration editor, LDIF editor, ACI editor, and more. The app also contains the latest ApacheDS, which means you can use it to create a DS server in no time.


CUPS is the Linux printer service that also happens to have a web-based GUI tool for the management of printers, printer classes, and print queues. It is also possible to enable Kerberos authentication and remote administration. One really nice thing about this GUI is its built-in help system. You can learn nearly everything you need to manage your print server.

8: cPanel

cPanel is one of the finest web-based administration tools you’ll use. It lets you configure sites, customers’ sites and services, and quite a bit more. With this tool you can configure/manage mail, security, domains, apps, apps, files, databases, logs—the list goes on and on. The only drawback to using cPanel is that it’s not free. Check out the pricing matrix to see if there’s a plan to fit your needs.

9: Zenmap

Zenmap is the official front end for the Nmap network scanner. With this tool, both beginners and advanced users can quickly and easily scan their network to troubleshoot issues. After scanning, you can even save the results to comb through them later. Although you won’t use this tool to directly administer your system, it will become invaluable in the quest for discovering network-related issues.

10: Cockpit

Cockpit was created by Red Hat to make server administration easier. With this web-based GUI you can tackle tasks like storage administration, journal inspection, starting/stopping services, and multiple server monitoring. Cockpit will run on Fedora Server, Arch Linux, CentOS Atomic, Fedora Atomic, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Also read…

Your turn

Have you found a GUI tool that has saved the day on the Linux platform? If so, share your story with fellow TechRepublic members.


10 Linux GUI tools for sysadmins