Stop the desktop insanity

By Nicholas Petreley, InfoWorld |  Operating Systems

I am truly encouraged by the number of letters calling for me to continue to debunk the recent rash of "Linux is not for the desktop" punditry in the mainstream media. It appears more people are considering the move to Linux on the desktop than I had imagined. So here's more ammunition, as requested.

One of the most oft-cited arguments against Linux on the desktop is there aren't enough productivity applications for Linux. What people usually mean is that Microsoft Corp. Office doesn't run on Linux. Technically speaking, Microsoft Office runs on Linux fine if you use Win4Lin (www.netraverse.com), but I recommend it only as an interim solution while migrating to an all-open-source desktop. (VMware also works for running Office, www.vmware.com.)

Many pundits contend that office applications for Linux aren't as feature-rich or sophisticated as Microsoft Office for Windows. They're right, but so what? Most likely, your users spend most of their time using an e-mail program, a browser, and a word processor. Others may use spreadsheets and presentation programs. Powerful open-source versions of these applications are available.

The lean word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs in KOffice 1.1 include far more features than most users will ever need. If you can't live without bloat, try StarOffice 5.2 (www.sun.com/staroffice) -- the Defense Information Systems Agency at the Department of Defense recently standardized on it -- or try OpenOffice 6.0 (www.openoffice.org).

Linux also has stable, powerful browsers coming out the wazoo now. There's Konqueror 2.1.1, Opera 5.0, Netscape 4.77, and Mozilla 0.91, among others. There are several e-mail clients, but few are better than the one you get with Mozilla 0.91.

Nevertheless, be concerned more about defining what you need than how Linux applications compare with Microsoft Office. Remember the smash hit PFS:Write for DOS? Its features barely exceeded cut, paste, and print. I taught PFS:Write to a class of Ph.D.s who barely grasped the concept of word wrap, but it didn't matter. When they needed fancy formatting, they gave the work to someone who knew how to create those kinds of documents. KOffice is just as easily learned as Microsoft Office.

You want to save real money? Fire the guy who convinced your company to take your employees away from their work to endure torturous training to learn Microsoft Office features they will never use.

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