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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

. . . out-of-the-box compatibility of a good Linux desktop to the MS Windows desktop is essential to make migration from MS Windows to GNU-Linux easy -- and something with which the migrating user will stick. It does not serve much . . . purpose to get a Microsoft Windows user to try Linux and then have that user switch back to MS Windows.

Mike Angelo -- 17 August 2005 (C) -- Page 2

Article Index

Linux for Microsoft Windows Users :

Articles #2, #3, and #4 of our Linux for Microsoft Windows Users series were written and published in 2001. At that time KDE was in the 1.x versions. KDE is now in the 3.x series. The Linux Kernel has moved from the 2.4 series to the 2.6 series. And there have been tremendous changes in the Linux distributions since then.

Those articles were based on Caldera OpenLinux, which has since pretty much bit the dust, and Red Hat Linux, which since crippled and disfigured its implementation of KDE. If we were to write those articles today, Mandriva and SUSE would be the exemplary Linux distributions used in the articles. That said, the basics of the KDE desktop and its high compatibility with the MS Windows desktop still are very much as they were then -- except that KDE is even better now -- and so are the Mandriva and SUSE implementations of KDE better now.

  • Promoting migration from MS Windows to Linux

Thus it is important that a good desktop Linux make that migration an easy one. It also is important because high compatibility between the Linux desktop environment and the MS Windows desktop environment can and will help to promote migration from Microsoft Windows to GNU-Linux -- and from Microsoft applications to free and open source applications.

If you are selling cars, it likely is easier to sell someone with an automatic transmission another car with an automatic transmission than what it is to sell them a car with stick shift -- because the automatic transmission on the new car is more compatible with the automatic transmission on the old car than is a stick shift (manual transmission). Likewise, it is easier to sell someone a new computer if the new computer looks and feels like the old computer compatibility-wise.

There are least two reasons for this:

(1) people tend to like to stay with things with which they are familiar and comfortable, and

(2) learning to use something different means investing time and money to do the learning.

People want things they can use right away -- it's a normal human behavior. When there is high compatibility between the old and the new, you can use the new immediately -- without having to learn anything new.

Moreover, people do not like to spend time and money learning how to do things if they do not have to do so. And businesses are even less likely to adopt something different, such as a different computer operating system, if it means training expenses and loss of productivity during the training process.

  • Linux for Microsoft Windows Users

Ideally in the compatibility with the MS Windows category, if you put a Microsoft Windows user in front of a Linux-based computer, that user would believe that he or she was using a Windows-based computer -- with perhaps nothing more than a slight theme change. We explored that early on (2001) in articles #2, #3, and #4 of our Linux for Microsoft Windows Users series.

In those early Linux for Microsoft Windows Users series articles we tweaked the KDE desktop to look and feel very much like the Microsoft Windows desktop. Then in tutorial fashion we showed you how much using the Linux operating system with the KDE desktop is like using the MS Windows operating system with the Microsoft desktop.

If one has the requisite experiences and skills with a particular Linux distribution, then one can make most any desktop running on that particular Linux distro look and feel like the Microsoft Windows desktop. However, in our pursuit of good desktop Linux, we are concerned with the compatibility of the default desktop, right out-of-the-box, with the MS Windows desktop -- largely because the very people that need that Microsoft Windows compatibility, computer newbies and people migrating from MS Windows to Linux, likely do not have the skills necessary to modify the look and feel of the Linux desktop.

Linux Desktops Are Better Than The MS Windows Desktop

That said, there is more than merely good out-of-the-box compatibility with the MS Windows desktop required to have a good desktop Linux. For example several Linux-based desktop environments are better than the Microsoft Windows desktop environment. However, the features and functions available with many Linux desktop environments that are better than those of the Microsoft Windows desktop environment are not necessarily compatible with the MS Windows desktop environment.

And that puts an interesting hook into our standard for a good Linux desktop implementation. Initially, out-of-the-box, the desktop in a good desktop Linux must be very compatible with the Microsoft Windows desktop. That means that in a good desktop Linux, some of the features and functions that make Linux better than Microsoft Windows will not be immediately noticeable or available. However, all the features and functions that make a good Linux desktop better than the MS Windows desktop must be available easily to the user also.

Here is why. The out-of-the-box compatibility of a good Linux desktop to the MS Windows desktop is essential to make migration from MS Windows to GNU-Linux easy -- and something with which the migrating user will stick. It does not serve much, if any, purpose to get a Microsoft Windows user to try Linux and then have that user switch back to MS Windows.


  • See Successful migration to Linux important on Page 3 ----->
  • See Desktop Differences Across Linux Distributions on Page 3 ----->
  • <---- Back to Page 1

    Article Index

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