BitTorrent is a popular way to distribute content on the web — but which clients for Linux suit your needs the best?
While the BitTorrent protocol is often associated with piracy, it’s also used legitimately for everything from automated patch systems (the like of which Blizzard’s World Of Warcraft uses) to the distribution of community TV, with the likes of Miro. And, of course, freely available software like Linux distribution ISOs — which you should use when the next version of your favourite distro is released, as it reduces load on the servers and in turn saves the developers some money on their bandwidth bill.
And while Ubuntu comes by default with Transmission — an easy to use, lightweight torrent client — it’s by no means the only one. In fact, as is the way with Linux, there’s quite a range of BitTorrent tools to choose from.
Here I’ll cover some of the major ones, all of which — with the exception of TopBT — are available through Ubuntu’s Software Center (just make sure you have the Universe and Multiverse repositories enabled under System > Administration > Update Manager > Settings).
Lets start with the tool Ubuntu comes with. Is it a good choice? Not all the default programs bundled with Ubuntu seem to appeal to all users, but, as it happens, the answer is yes; this one is good if you want a straightforward client for occasional torrenting. While some BitTorrent clients can overload you with features, Transmission keeps the configurable options to a minimum, focusing mainly on the ability to run schedules and enable features such as DHT (Distributed Hash Table, a privacy feature).
Importantly, it also supports the ability to use a blocklist, and, as it’s bundled with Ubuntu, it integrates well with the Gnome interface. Interestingly, and perhaps lending to its support, Transmission is used in a range of NAS/Media tank devices as well.
Deluge is the other popular Gnome-based BitTorrent client, and my personal favourite. It’s a little more configurable than Transmission, providing the ability to set different ports for incoming and outgoing, Type Of Service bit for BitTorrent packets (so you can prioritise it high, or low, with your router) and finer granularity in bandwidth throttling. It also comes with a plug-in system, one of which is the ability to use blocklists.
There’s also a nice feature detailing where in the world other torrent clients are located.
KTorrent is the default torrent client for Kubuntu. It is, of course, QT-based and while it can be used with Gnome (and Ubuntu) the KDE libraries need to be installed first. KTorrent is similar to Deluge in terms of layout and depth of configurability, but also has a few unique features. For example, you can limit KTorrent to a particular network interface, and can be optionally configured to take advantage of uTorrent’s extended protocol.
An extensible plug-in framework also allows you to add features such as blocklists, bandwidth scheduling, folder scanning and even a built-in media player, while a built-in search functionality allows you to search the web for torrents from within KTorrent itself. It’s no surprise that KTorrent is the default client for Kubuntu.
qBittorrent, like KTorrent, is QT-based but takes some inspiration from the popular (if not the most popular) uTorrent client under Windows. If you like to have full control over your client, it has as many options as KTorrent, including the ability to email you or run a program when a torrent completes.
And, also like KTorrent, it includes a built-in search engine that allows you to search for torrents from a range of sites. Note: the version in Ubuntu’s repositories is quite out of date at time of writing. To install the latest run: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:hydr0g3n/ppa followed by sudp apt-get update && sudo apt-get install qbitorrent.
BitStorm Lite is the antithesis of the other clients presented here. It forgoes lots of options and tweakability for a straightforward, fast download client for your favourite torrents. Running it, in fact, presents you with a file dialog to select a torrent — however, it’s still GTK+ based so you can manage it along with other applications on your desktop.
Once a torrent starts you can still set up and download speed limits, but that’s about it. If you don’t torrent often, it’s a simple out-of-the-way client that will get the job done.
Vuze, formerly Azureus, is a cross-platform Java-based BitTorrent client that made the jump to a digital distribution platform. While it can perform as a standard BitTorrent client, it also integrates a front end to browse, search, and download a wide range of free content, from TED Talks to documentaries and TV (but not necessarily entire shows, depending on the licence).
It’s a little bulky and over the top if you just need a basic client to download Linux ISOs, but, like Miro (which also uses BitTorrent, but can’t be used as a client), it’s great if you want to explore the large range of freely available commercial and user-generated content available on the net. It’s also the only client here with an optional enhanced commercial package available for a fee.
There are a few other core clients, like BitTornado (which is similar to BitStorm Lite) and rTorrent (a purely command-line based client), but these are your best bets at exploring and making the most of BitTorrent under Linux. Happy swarming!