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17 August, 2005
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Linux for Windows Users

In Pursuit of Good Desktop Linux:

Ease of Use and Ease of Migration Overview -- KDE, GNOME, and MS Windows Desktops

. . . new and inexperienced Linux users, or . . . Microsoft Windows users migrating to Linux . . . are blessed, or stuck, with the default desktop metaphor and environment of the Linux distribution they choose to install -- and they are pretty much blessed, or stuck, with how the Linux distribution provider has implemented that desktop environment.

Mike Angelo -- 17 August 2005 (C) -- Page 1

Article Index

Switch from the MS Windows operating system to the GNU-Linux operating system

To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

Also, please see our article Solutions for Identity, Credit Card, Bank Account, and Personal Information Theft - Part I: Overview.

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

Executive Summary

What makes a Linux distribution a good desktop Linux? The look, feel, and features of the actual desktop environment running on the Linux operating system are a very important part of what makes a desktop Linux a good one.

Compatibility with the MS Windows desktop is important, also, because many people are migrating from Windows and Windows applications to the Linux operating system (OS) and applications these days.

The Linux OS and desktop are better than the MS Windows OS and desktop -- an important reason for people to switch from MS-Windows to GNU-Linux.

A good desktop Linux makes migration easy. High compatibility between the Linux desktop and the Windows desktop helps to promote migration from Windows to Linux -- and from Microsoft applications to free and open source applications (FOSS).

With good MS Windows compatibility, if you put a Windows user in front of a Linux-based computer, that user would not know it is not a Windows-based computer.

In good desktop Linux the default desktop, right out-of-the-box, is highly compatible with the MS Windows desktop -- largely because the very people that need that Windows compatibility are people migrating from Windows to Linux. And they likely do not have the skills to modify the look and feel of the Linux desktop. They are stuck with the default desktop of the installed Linux distribution.

A good desktop Linux includes both the GNOME and KDE desktop suites. Both GNOME and KDE have a nice look and feel, they are easy to use, and both GNOME and KDE include some very nice applications. The GNOME and KDE applications should be accessible through both the KDE and GNOME menuing systems, regardless of whether GNOME or KDE is the desktop used.

KDE should be the default desktop of a good desktop Linux. KDE is easy-to-use, and it has a nice look and feel. KDE has more compatibility with the Windows desktop than does the GNOME desktop. On the other hand, the GNOME desktop seems to be more compatible with the Mac desktop -- but here the focus is on MS Windows compatibility, not Apple Macintosh compatibility.

The look, feel, and features of the Linux desktop metaphor and environment are important ingredients of a good desktop Linux. Experienced Linux users can, of course, implement and configure their desktops to look, feel, and function almost any way they wish.

(If desktop metaphor is confusing, please see the Desktop Metaphor Unraveled sidebar on page 4.)

However, that's not so for new and inexperienced Linux users, or for Microsoft Windows users migrating to Linux. They pretty much are blessed, or stuck, with the default desktop metaphor and environment of the Linux distribution they choose to install -- and they are pretty much blessed, or stuck, with how the Linux distribution provider has implemented that desktop environment.

What Is Good Desktop Linux?

Previously in our pursuit to find good desktop Linux, we asked:

so, you are not sure what makes a Linux distribution a good desktop Linux but you know it when you see it, right? Perhaps -- but perhaps not. So, what does it take to be a good desktop Linux distribution? (In Pursuit of Good Desktop Linux: Network Neighborhood and MS Windows Partitions, MozillaQuest Magazine, 4 August 2005, page 1.)

Additionally we defined the term desktop Linux to refer to:

Linux-based computer systems that sport graphical user interfaces (GUIs) laid out to look and feel like desktops. Two popular GNU-Linux GUI desktop systems are GNOME and KDE. What most people see when they use Microsoft Windows is a GUI desktop. (Ibid, page 1)

The Linux Desktop Is Very Important

  • Look, feel, and features of the Linux Desktop

The look, feel, and features of the actual desktop metaphor, or desktop environment if you like, running on top of the Linux operating system are a very important part of what makes a desktop Linux a good one. Face it. The desktop is the human, or user, interface.

  • The desktop is the face of Linux that people see

With people, it is the human face that you know and with which you interact -- not the blood and guts of what is under that human face -- even though all the memory, personality, and processing are going under the face. Computer-wise, it is the user interface, the desktop, that most people see and know -- not the nuts and bolts of what is under the user interface.

Thus, much like a human face, it is just as important for Linux to put its best face forward as it is for a person to put his or her best face forward.

Using a computer in many ways is similar to using a car. Most car drivers and riders do not give a tinker's darn about what is under the hood or about stuff like overhead cams, displacements, rear-end ratios, and so forth.

All they care about is putting the key in the ignition and twisting it to start the engine, putting that lever thing into one of the numbered or lettered positions such as P, R, or D, and depressing the pedal to the metal to get where they want to go. In other words they are interested in performance and ease-of-use -- not the technical, structural, and architectural stuff.

  • Ease of use and performance are what counts

Likewise, most computer users today do not give a tinker's darn about what is in the computer box -- stuff like the operating system, the CPU, megabytes and gigabytes of this, megahertz and gigahertz of that, and so forth. All they care about is turning the computer on, rolling the mouse around and clicking it, writing letters and other documents, doing their e-mail, surfing the Web, playing music, playing games, engaging in instant messaging, and so forth. Just as with their cars, they are interested in performance, speed, and ease of use -- not the technical, structural, and architectural stuff.

For several months now, we have been looking over the latest releases of five important GNU-Linux distributions, Fedora, Mandriva, Novell, SUSE, and Xandros. We compared them using our Pogo Linux Altura64 test system and using multi-boot technology. Some things we have been looking at are out-of-the-box ease-of-use and performance.

Previously in our Pursuit

Previously in our pursuit to find good desktop Linux, we found that:

Only one Linux Distro matched up out-of-the-box on both the criteria of (a) access to shared files on other computers on our LAN and (b) access to MS Windows files on the box on which it was installed. That distro is Xandros Business 3. Mandriva Limited Edition 2005 came very, very close. (Ibid, page 3.)

However, for other reasons we found Mandriva to be in the lead for the spot of best desktop Linux, stating:

for now, when it comes to looking for a good desktop Linux, Mandriva is in first place. (Ibid, page 4.)

Today, we consider the look, feel, and features of the default desktop metaphor or environment running on each of these important GNU-Linux distributions. How each Linux distribution implements its default desktop environment is an important part of our consideration. More about implementation further on in this series.

So, let's see which distributions make the cut, out-of-the-box, for:

(a) desktop ease-of-use and

(b) compatibility with the MS Window desktop.

Compatibility with MS Windows desktop

Compatibility with MS Windows is not to be taken as an endorsement of the Microsoft Windows desktop. Rather, compatibility with the MS Windows desktop is a consideration because many people are migrating from Microsoft Windows and Microsoft applications to the Linux operating system, and to free and open source software (FOSS) too, these days.Actually, we believe that the Linux operating system (OS) and the Linux desktop are better than the MS Windows OS and desktop. That is an important reason that we strongly recommend that people switch from MS Windows to GNU-Linux.


  • See Promoting migration from MS Windows to Linux on Page 2 ----->
  • See Linux for Microsoft Windows Users on Page 2 ----->
  • Article Index

    Office on the Linux Desktop

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