Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

ubuntu desktop icon with apps   Making Linux A Genuine Windows ReplacementWith Windows 8 casting a long shadow over the PC industry and Valve committing to create Linux-based gaming PCs, there’s never been a better time to start using Linux. For many users, the Linux desktop is now there — so many applications have moved to the cloud, hardware support has improved, and the desktop has been polished. You can even watch Netflix and play a variety of games on Steam — two big holes that have been filled recently.

We’ll be starting with Ubuntu 12.10 for this tutorial. Ubuntu 12.10 is a more complete desktop than Windows out-of-the-box, coming with the LibreOffice office suite, Firefox and Thunderbird for web browsing and email, Transmission for BitTorrent, and applications for everything from watching videos and playing music to instant messaging and tweeting.

Installing Ubuntu

While installing Ubuntu, you’ll be asked whether you want to install some third-party software. This package includes Flash and codecs for listening and watching a variety of common music and video formats. Unless you have an ideological objection to installing closed-source software and patent-encumbered codecs, be sure to install this.

install third party software while installing ubuntu   Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

Once you’ve installed Ubuntu and rebooted into your new system, ensure you install the latest updates using the Software Updater application that appears.

ubuntu software updater   Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

Videos & DVDs

First we’ll look at ways to play videos — either from your hard drive, DVDs, or the cloud.

  • VLC: You may also want to install VLC, although the default Movie Player application (Totem) should work fine for most users. If you want VLC, open the Ubuntu Software Center after rebooting into your installed Ubuntu system, search for VLC, and install it.
  • DVD Support: Ubuntu — and other Linux distributions – can’t play DVDs out-of-the-box. All commercially produced DVDs are protected with CSS encryption, which only licensed DVD players can decode normally. However, the CSS encryption is incredibly weak, and it’s trivial to break the encryption whenever you insert the DVD into your computer — breaking the encryption will allow you to watch the DVDs you legally own and have paid for. However, breaking the encryption — yes, even to watch DVDs you’ve paid for — is a crime in many countries. The Ubuntu wiki has instructions for installing DVD support, but you should check your local laws before installing it.
  • Netflix: While most web apps will work normally in Linux, Netflix won’t — it’s using Microsoft’s Silverlight for its video player. In spite of Microsoft’s promises about Silverlight being cross-platform, they’ve refused to cooperate with the Moonlight project on this. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you’ll want to install the Netflix Desktop app so you can play Netflix. Netflix Desktop contains a patched version of Wine that has Microsoft’s Silverlight plug-in working properly — however, it’s a very slick and easy-to-use solution.

To install Netflix Desktop, open a terminal and run the following commands:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ehoover/compholio
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install netflix-desktop

You can then open the Netflix Desktop app from your Dash and follow the instructions. Press the F11 key to toggle between full-screen and windowed modes.

netflix desktop app on linux   Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

You may also want to install the excellent XBMC media center, which you can grab from the Ubuntu Software Center.

Web Browsers

Ubuntu’s default Firefox browser is okay, but I’ve preferred Chrome for a long time. If you also prefer Chrome, visit Chrome’s download page and download the DEB file for Ubuntu. Double-click it and install it — you can then open Chrome and log into Chrome sync with your Google account details. The Linux version of Chrome supports web apps, extensions, and all the other good stuff the Windows version supports.

If you’re an Opera fan, you’ll be happy to know that Opera also provides an official Linux version.

google chrome on linux   Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

Instant Messaging and Voice Chat

Ubuntu supports a variety of instant messaging and voice chat applications, from Google Talk to Skype.

  • Pidgin: Ubuntu’s default Empathy instant messaging client is okay, too — but I’ve always preferred Pidgin. Like most open-source apps you might want, Pidgin is available from the Ubuntu Software Center. It’s cross-platform, so you can easily move your Pidgin settings between Linux and Windows.
  • Google Voice and Video Chat Plugin: The voice and video chat plugin allows you to participate in Hangouts, have voice calls, and call phones from within Gmail.
  • Skype: You may also want to install the official Skype for Linux. However, Skype for Linux has always been a bit behind the times — even before Microsoft purchased them.
  • Mumble: The Mumble voice chat program, often used  by gamers, also has an official Linux version. You’ll find it in Ubuntu’s Software Center.

skype for linux   Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

PC Games

Steam for Linux was recently released, and it’s now in open beta — you can head to the Steam website and download the installer package for Ubuntu. Steam for Linux currently offers about 62 supported games. If you’ve purchased Humble Indie Bundles, you should have quite a few games that already support Linux — although the Linux versions may not have been added to Steam yet. Even if you’ve never used Steam before, Team Fortress 2 is free to play and works on Linux.

Expect to see many more games come as Valve releases their own Linux-based console, porting all their own games over and giving third-party developers a good reason to support Linux.

team fortress 2 and steam for linux   Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

Cloud Storage

These days, almost everyone has some sort of cloud storage service they use — if only to transfer files between a few computers or other devices. Many cloud storage services offer official Linux clients:

  • Dropbox: Dropbox is the most mature cloud storage service in many ways, so of course it offers a Linux client. You’ll want to install the Linux client if you use Dropbox.
  • Ubuntu One: Don’t count Ubuntu One out — it works great on Ubuntu, where it’s preinstalled. However, Ubuntu One also offers Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS clients, so you can use it almost anywhere.
  • Google Drive: This is a sore spot — Google promised the Linux version of Drive was “a priority” but it hasn’t materialized in the nine months since. If you’re a Google Drive user, your best option is probably the third-party Insync client for Google Drive.

SpiderOak and Wuala also offer official Linux clients.

ubuntu one   Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

Office Documents

Ubuntu and most other Linux distributions come with the LibreOffice office suite, which is based on OpenOffice, already installed. It’s a great package of software that will be fine for most people. You can even use it on Windows to save money on Microsoft Office. However, its compatibility with Microsoft Office documents is not perfect. If you don’t like LibreOffice, you have some other options:

  • Office Web Apps: Microsoft provides free Office Web Apps. They run in your browser, so they can be used on Linux. If a Microsoft Office document isn’t loading properly in LibreOffice, you may want to give the Office Web Apps a try.
  • Google Docs: My personal solution of choice. If you don’t care too much about compatibility with Microsoft Office documents, Google Docs works well on Linux, too.
  • Microsoft Office on Linux: If you want the real Microsoft Office, you can use Wine to install it. Wine allows you to run Windows programs on Linux — however, it’s also not perfect. If you have a more recent version of Microsoft Office, it won’t work in Wine. All versions of Office will run perfectly in a virtual machine like VirtualBox, so that may be your best, most stable option. (See below for more information about VirtualBox).

Tools of the Trade

As a tech blogger, I need a few tools that you might be interested in, too:

  • GIMP: It’s no longer installed by default, but GIMP is the most powerful image manipulation program for Linux (short of running Photoshop in Wine). As a fan of Paint.NET on Windows, I gave the Paint.NET-inspired Pinta a try — but Pinta just isn’t powerful enough for me yet. You’ll find GIMP and Pinta in Ubuntu’s Software Center.
  • Shutter: Shutter is a powerful screenshot-taking tool that you can install from the Ubuntu Software Center. Most users will probably fine with the screenshot tool included in Ubuntu, though — press Print Screen or search for Screenshot in the dash to activate it.
  • VirtualBox: Virtual machines allow you to run other operating systems in a window on your desktop. If you don’t want to play any Windows games, this is a great solution for running the occasional Windows program on Linux. VirtualBox is in the Ubuntu Software Center

virtualbox on ubuntu   Making Linux A Genuine Windows Replacement

That’s about it for my Linux desktop — between web apps like Rdio for playing music (there’s a Spotify app for Linux if you’re a Spotify user, however), and the default apps for everything else (Gedit can take the place of Notepad++ as a solid text editor), Linux is a better alternative to Windows than it’s ever been. The one dark spot is still games, but there’s Wine for installing Windows games if you want to get your hands dirty. We’ll be seeing many more games with Valve’s Linux-based Steam Box on the horizon, too.

For more great Linux applications you might be interested in installing, check out our list of the best Linux software. For gamers, check out our page of the best Linux games. If you’re interested in learning more about Ubuntu, download our free beginner’s guide to Ubuntu.

Are there any other must-install applications you use on your Linux desktop? Leave a comment and share them!

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If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

107 Comments -

0 votes

Wouter Ruelens

For installing MS Office I would recommend installing via Playonlinux. It worked fine for me, but that was MS Office 2007, I don’t now wether they kept it up to date.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Office 2007 should definitely work. I’m not sure about Office 2010, but Office 2013 probably has a lot of kinks. Wine AppDB is the best place to look: http://appdb.winehq.org/appview.php?appId=31

16 votes

Ben Klaas

One of the more contentious things about Ubuntu is the Unity desktop interface. It’s not for everyone, and doesn’t run well on slow systems, e.g. netbook/nettops. I would point out that unlike Windows, where there is basically one choice, there are many many choices of desktop and window managers, and it is not difficult to take an existing Ubuntu system and install e.g. LXDE or Gnome 3 or Cinammon or KDE. There are also distributions like Lubuntu that provide LXDE as a default, but if you already installed Ubuntu/Unity it’s not necessary to wipe/reinstall to change desktop environments. Linux is not a one-size-fits-all desktop experience, so experiment and find what works best for you. That’s what it’s all about anyway, right? A tool to help you do things.

For my own desktop use, a mix of web browsing, email, IM, programming/scripting, media center, and music, Linux not only delivers 100% of that, but delivers it miles more successfully than Windows. Office and Games are the two things that are brought up with the most frequency by those that are stuck in Windows land. I don’t care about either of those pieces, but that gap is narrowing quickly with Libre Office and Steam.

If you’re considering making the Windows->Linux leap, there has never been a better time.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I actually prefer XFCE and Cinnamon myself, but it may be because I’m a crotchety old Linux user who doesn’t like change.

Gaming is definitely the thing that keeps me on Windows. Netflix was another big pain-point for people, but it’s been resolved recently! Lots of progress is being made.

0 votes

Adam Smith

Too bad Ubuntu has now started violating the privacy of users like Google and Facebook do. I’m switching to Debian permanently when Debian 7 comes out in a couple of months.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I really don’t like that either. Luckily, it can be disabled or uninstalled with a single command.

Still, I think it was a mistake. Of course, I sympathize with them trying to pull in money.. it’s a tough situation.

0 votes

non-none-noon-nun

Sorry to bother, what are you referring to? That’s horrible to find out! I was truly considering switching to Linux permanently just because of the privacy it always granted due to its open code but hey… it turns out it isn’t a good idea? I don’t want a OS tracking my every move like 8.

0 votes

VUCO

It’s just Ubuntu 12.10. Canonical receives data that you type in the dash (the search bar that comes up when you press the ubuntu button, google does it as well for their targeted ads; I’m not sure how familiar with ubuntu you are), but you can disable it or you can use Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.
Anyway, I prefer Linux Mint.

0 votes

non-none-noon-nun

Thanks for chipping in,
Is disabling that feature very hard? Can you disable both the dash web search and tracking itself?
I gave up linux since they came up with their new interface (two years ago maybe?), mostly because of lack of the time to search for a better distro which meant retrieving and testing each, so I’m pretty out of date. There are loads of distros out there, how would you figure out what’s the right one for you but trying out each of them? Suggestions?
Mint is good, I recall, especially because I could very easily block/unblock specific domains directly from the main menu. The bottom-up gui didn’t excite me though.. I bet there’s a way to change it. My favourite distro was SuperOS but any had their magic.

0 votes

Chase Hainey

I don’t think any flavor of Linux will totally replace Windows in the workplace. There are always some obscure proprietary software that only runs in DOS or similar.

Sadly, the same thing with MacOSX. Both Linux and MacOSX have the ability to invade new companies and startups, but ones that have been around for ten years or longer will not be able to. It is always more expensive to rewrite private applications for a new system, and seldom are older enterprise apps in a language that are easily translatable. COBOL being one, sadly. I still see countless job postings wanting people to know COBOL. Get with the 2000s!

5 votes

Ben Klaas

No disagreement, but I don’t think this article has anything to do with the workplace. That’s a separate topic.

Linux for personal desktop use is what the article is focused on, which thankfully lacks the need for the “business will never accept Linux” discussion.

What the author points out, that I completely agree with, is that Linux is a mature modern OS that works fantastically well as a replacement to Windows for desktop use. Office politics and business cases aside, that goes for work or home.

0 votes

Chase Hainey

You’re right. I have moved away from Windows personally. But, not towards Linux. I do use Linux, but not primarily. I love programming in a Linux environment. I am not quite sure why.

I have a problem of going a bit off topic and running with it. I apologize.

0 votes

michel

re: “I don’t think this article has anything to do with the workplace. That’s a separate topic.”

I don’t think the article says that, though. Certainly the headline doesn’t.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Well, we’re sort of average-user focused here. This article isn’t directed at business people looking to replace all the desktops in their office with Linux. It’s directed at the average person at home.

(Although Chrome OS is making some inroads in business…)

0 votes

themainliner

If you’ve seen any of the useability studies of Windows 8 you might think again. If Microsoft persist in forcing business and home users away from 7 and forward with 8′s metro UI then you maight begin to see business hastily changing tack at least on desktops.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Chrome OS is picking up an increasing amount of support, and Linux-based Steam consoles are coming out. Plus, there’s Android — which is its own sort of Linux. Linux is definitely going places.

6 votes

dragonmouth

“I don’t think any flavor of Linux will totally replace Windows in the workplace.”
Sorry to contradict you but Red Hat Linux is widely used in the workplace environment across the world. SUSE Enterprise Linux is used in Germany and other parts of Europe. In Germany, Legislatures of cities like Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt mandated that Windows be replaced by Linux in use by government employees. At least two provincial governments in Spain not only use Linux but have developed their own versions. These versions have been released for anybody to use. The government of Turkey subsidized the development of Pardus Linux, although recently that subsidy was ended.

“There are always some obscure proprietary software that only runs in DOS or similar.”
There also is obscure software that runs only on Linux.

“It is always more expensive to rewrite private applications for a new system”
When a company does not have to pay licensing fees to Microsoft it is much cheaper to rewrite applications. Besides, in spite of what you may think, there are many software companies writing corporate applications that run on Linux.
BTW – I was involved in a changeover from Windows to Linux in a corporate environment. We replaced Windows with Linux for a user because Windows did not have the applications that the user needed. But there was a software system running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux which fitted the user’s needs to a tee.

“I still see countless job postings wanting people to know COBOL. Get with the 2000s!”
How familiar are you with computers and computer languages? Have you ever written even a “Hello World” program? Computer languages have specific areas of application and should not be used outside of them. COBOL stands for COmmon Business Oriented Language. It was created to manipulate huge numbers of records used and stored by businesses. None of the modern computer languages whose names you are familiar with can process business data with anything approaching the efficiency of COBOL. Another “archaic” language still in use today is FORTRAN. It stands for FORmula TRANslation and it is used for processing of scientific data. Again, AFAIK, there is no modern computer language that can manipulate scientific data as well as FORTRAN.

Of course, neither COBOL or FORTRAN can be used to create web pages because they were not designed to do so.. But then, neither were HTML, Java, Visual Basic, Ruby, etc. designed to process business or scientific data.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Great comment. It definitely depends on the workplace. For example, Google has a lot of programmers that use Linux on the desktop/laptop. I don’t think we can generalize here.

0 votes

André Kamara

I’m not a huge fan of Ubuntu (even though Ubuntu One may be useful), but I must say that this article shows good softwares. For music listening/managing I’d recommend Clementine which is cross-plateform and much better than the default softwares like Banshee.
For emails I recommend Thunderbird which is also cross-plateform.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I’ve heard great things about Clementine and Thunderbird is solid, but like many people I do my music and email in a browser these days. Certainly makes it easier to switch operating systems!

0 votes

Anonymous

For security reasons it’s advised to read emails with a client because when you read on a browser, the connection is kept active so it may be hacked. Fortunately most email providers use the Https protocole.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

This isn’t really true. As long as you’re using HTTPS to access your email account (Gmail does this by default) you shouldn’t have to worry about eavesdropping.

10 votes

Richard Steven Hack

Anyone having problems with Ubuntu and its “experiments” in desktops should try openSUSE which is one of the most complete Linux distros out there and which still runs conventional KDE which is a desktop that is closer to the Windows experience than GNOME (also obsessed with desktop “experiments”.) KDE itself had a rocky desktop upgrade experience when the 4.x version came out, but it’s pretty decent now.

Also I’ve found openSUSE tends to have better QA than some of the other Linux distros – fewer serious bugs. Although part of that is probably because I usually wait a few months after each release before upgrading, so the immediate bugs are fixed – a good idea for any operating system.

Because openSUSE is the “playground” for the commercial SUSE distro, and because it’s supported by commercial entities, rather than distros maintained by small groups of volunteers, it tends to be more complete and polished than some other distros. It’s also not quite as “dumbed down” as Ubuntu and some others, but it’s also not a pure “techie” distro like some others. Fedora for example is generally considered for experienced Linux users while Ubuntu is generally considered for newbies. openSUSE fits nicely in the middle.

5 votes

themainliner

Personally I’ve always loved openSUSE but Ubuntu has undoubtedly bubbled to the top as the most widely used distro and the most well know (outside of the Linux community) hence articles like this. For that reason I now point new Linux adopters not to Ubuntu (with the Untiy abortion) but to Linux Mint MATE.

Mint is built on Ubuntu so (almost) anything you can do with Ubuntu you can do with Mint. That includes accessing the huge software repositories and PPAs that make the Ubuntu experience smooth and user friendly. Plus installing the MATE variant gives you the (old) Gnome 2.x Desktop Environment we all love on Ubuntu pre-Unity.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Good points. I wanted to avoid the distro wars here and focus on the most popular distribution.

I actually haven’t tried KDE since version 4 rolled out (it was terrible!). I’ll have to give it a second chance one o these days, I used KDE 3.x on SuSE back in the day and it was great.

0 votes

UUUnicorn

I have an Asus Eee PC 1201N-PU17-SL netbook, which has Nvidia Ion graphics card. Even when I installed the restricted Nvidia Ion graphics card driver recommended in the distro, the computer would slow down to a slug-like crawl in performance.

Are there any post-installation things to do to get it working well? I wound up having to reinstall Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit. Windows FLIES on my HP Pavilion A6230n desktop, but is very slow on this netbook.

0 votes

themainliner

Ubuntu is useless to any netbook user…you need a real lightweight distro. Try Manjaro, SalixOS or lighter still AntiX.

5 votes

UUUnicorn

I’m considering either Xubuntu 12.04.1 LTS (“Precise Pangolin”) or Linux Mint 13 Xfce (“Maya”) LTS.

The performance issue here isn’t nearly so much the distro–it’s the Nvidia Ion graphics card driver.

0 votes

themainliner

It’s a purely subject thing but I prefer Linux Mint and Maya was a great release. I used Xubuntu on netbook and desktop and found it…bland.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I’m not sure about the graphics driver for that card itself. You’ll have to Google up a solution from other Linux users that have figured out the hardware issues

0 votes

Ben Klaas

I have an Asus 1210PN netbook, which is similar and also has the Nvidia Ion architecture. It was miserably slow with Ubuntu+Unity, but it turned out to be the Unity component that was grinding it to a halt. I wiped it and installed the LXDE edition of Linux Mint, making sure to install and enable the Nvidia proprietary driver, and now the machine works quite well. The Nvidia Ion is a slow CPU+fast GPU architecture, so you shouldn’t expect e.g. good gaming performance, but it can browse the web, run a terminal, and occasionally play 1080p video via XBMC or VLC without a stutter.

For the record, it’s not really necessary to fully reinstall Linux to get a new desktop manager. You can run Ubuntu and dump Unity for a less resource-instensive default desktop manager (LXDE, XFCE, etc.). Give it a google.

0 votes

UUUnicorn

Please, Ben–how did you enable it? I’ve been trying to find out online if there are any post-installation configuration/things to do after installing, but I can’t find any information on this.

I did find this sometime ago on http://www.linuxquestions.org:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install nvidia-current
sudo apt-get install nvidia-settings

but this is only if an end-user is trying to install the latest Nvidia Ion graphics card driver rather than the driver version recommended by the Linux distro release. I don’t know what to do afterwards (if there is anything else to be done afterwards).

Thank you very much, Ben.

0 votes

Ben Klaas

nvidia-settings should install a gui settings program for configuring the nvidia driver on your machine. I access it through the settings menu in the LXDE “start” menu (but it’s probably launchable from the command-line with something like `nvidia-settings`).

Ubuntu also has an “additional drivers” application for enabling proprietary drivers somewhere, and it’s possible the nvidia driver is off by default there and needs enabling.
http://www.psychocats.net/ubuntu/drivers

Hope that helps.

0 votes

Sas

This is such a coincidence for me – a day before this article came out I installed Ubuntu. I recommend you install ubuntu along side your current operating system using virtualbox

0 votes

themainliner

That’s not along side…it’s ‘inside’.

I recommend installing Linux (along side) after any Microsoft product and allowing the Linux bootloader to manage booting (and using) both for you.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Yeah, your computer probably has a lot of hard disk space — so dual-booting is the smart move.

0 votes

Gianna Marie Lanete

yeah, ubuntu kinda cool too. I tried but its a little bit boring sometimes.

0 votes

Abhi

Two things keep me away from Linux:

Fiddling with command prompt for installing new programs.

No ribbon-based office suite for Linux.

5 votes

Brandon Collins

Hi, Abhi.
It seems you’ve been misinformed somewhere down the road, and I’d like to point out some things to help you get your Linux knowledge back on track.

1. The only time you’d have to use the command prompt to install applications in any modern Linux distribution is if you had some special application that isn’t in the repositories and wasn’t packaged for the Gui installer.

2. Microsoft office 2010 runs great in Ubuntu (and many other distributions) under Wine 1.5.

5 votes

themainliner

Ah the CLI…which no Linux user normally needs to use. In Mint, for example, there is the Software Manager which makes installing application easier than in Windows (no really).

Personally (and I’m a Windows e-migrant) I’ve developed a preference for:
sudo apt-get install *application-name*
on Debian based systems…

Ribbon…? Really. OK.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

You can generally avoid the command line entirely these days. I still use it because it’s more efficient. Want to install Firefox on Ubuntu? sudo apt-get install firefox. Done. Of course, you could also click through a graphical interface, but that’s slower — and it takes longer to explain in an article rather than telling someone to copy-and-paste a command. The command line in Linux is a strength. People shouldn’t have to use it, but it’s great that it’s way more powerful than the command line in Windows.

As far as the ribbon, well.. There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose. I’ve never really liked the ribbon. (But maybe I’m just stuck in my ways.)

0 votes

Harshit Jain

Anyway to get a windows like taskbar and big close buttons?

0 votes

themainliner

Not in Unity. Or Gnome 3…

You can install other Desktop Environments on Ubuntu, I can recommend MATE, KDE and xfce or better still install a distro that features these DEs out-of-the-box: Linux Mint MATE, openSUSE or Sabayon, Linux Manjaro.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Yup, there’s lots of desktop environment choice. You can get almost anything you want!

0 votes

umair

As long as there is no office like MSOFFICE in any Linux. Linux cannot become a true working place. But I have to do workaround by installing windows on virtual box and keep it in ‘seamless’ mode

0 votes

Brandon Collins

Microsoft office 2010 runs great in Ubuntu (and many other distributions) under Wine 1.5.

0 votes
0 votes

themainliner

As the responses show you’re trying to install Office on a Windows (NTFS) filesystem. Install office to your native Linux filesystem. People have already advised you of this. Office runs fine with Wine development versions.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Depends on the person. Personally, I just use Google Docs these days. I used to use LibreOffice. Google Docs is making big inroads, and lots of people are realizing — while using iPads — that Office isn’t as crucial as it seems.

Certainly some businesses still need it, but not everyone.

0 votes

Junil Maharjan

I have been a user of Ubuntu for quite some time now but haven’t used it lately. It is one of the best windows replacement i’ve ever used.

0 votes

Nevzat Akkaya

Once you start trying Linux, you can’t stop yourself from distro hopping :) it’s the freedom and choice. Linux is great for portability, you can even install it on your USB drive and use it portably. That’s the power!

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I used to distro-hop all the time, but Ubuntu put an end to that. Well, I also have less time to tinker than when I was a kid, so there’s that, too…

0 votes

Alexander

I have Linux installed on a virtual pc, and do enjoy messing around with it from time to time. But i have grown to used to Windows for me to make a switch.

5 votes

themainliner

This is a valid argument. However, I’ll offer two in response.

1) If you replace your PC you’ll have the expense and inconvenience of buying a new Windows licence to make your expensive hardware anything other than a paperweight. It does not come free with your PC, the price is built in and hidden from the consumer.

2) Linux is free. Not only is it zero cost to download and use, it’s free of legal restrictions that for other software prevent you copying and distributing to anyone you know. Plus if you are so inclined you access the source code (a prerequiste for software licenced under the GPL, General Public Licence) and modify the code and distribute your modifcation (also GPL licenced).

This is why the Open Source Community is a *community* all our work and development is free and open. Due to the terms of the GPL all derivative works must be released under the GPL or a compatible licence. People work collaboratively and cooperatively to improve how we can use our computers – for free.

Using Linux is about choice and maybe cost cutting, as it’s free of charge, but it’s also, for many, a political decision to apply a scientific, rather than commercial, method to software development for everyones benefit.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

With Windows evolving in bizarre directions (Windows 8 and especially Windows RT), it’s good that we have a competitive alternative.

0 votes

Indronil Mondal

its free rather than that i find no other strong points why one should switch to ubuntu -_-

moreover lack of support for pc suits for phones
still now no switchable graphics support
and many other problems those dont have solutions just because the community hasn’t faced it

if some one wants to play around with the pc its fine but still not fit for real day to day use

5 votes

themainliner

Sorry, could you clarify a couple of things for me? What do you mean by “lack of support for pc suits for phones” and also “still now no switchable graphics support” is also opaque.

I disagree with you final assessment. I use Linux as only OS all day everyday. Linux Mint 14 desktop, SalixOS netbook, android phone. I can do everything I can do on a Windows PC, not after playing around for hours but out-of-the-box, without having to install network drivers, office suites and my browser of choice (Firefox). The only thing I cannot/struggle to do is play games with cutting edge graphics. That said I have no issues play World of Warcraft using Wine.

What’s more my partner who is not at all interested in operating systems, the politics of open source and simply wishes to word process, compile spreadsheets and create presentations, surf the web, access email and play WoW had fewer problem than I anticipated when I migrated her to Linux. In fact the only thing she’s ever asked for help with is installing a printer. Linux is not difficult, CLI only. If you doubt me install a recent distro.

0 votes

Indronil Mondal

i am a regular linux user and first entered the linux world with fedora
then heard ubuntu is much user friendly so i used it and from 10.10 i have been using it had no problem then but now in recent versions i have several problems i would like to share
-First i used to upgrade when new versions came out but after 11.04 when i upgraded my computer didn’t boot up properly after restarting it was a mess i had to download the fresh iso and installed again wiping out everything (i ddnt had back ups then ) well the new version appeared slower ..then i realised my graphics card was not supported and the new version needed 3d capibilities .well fine i removed the graphics ..things went fine for few days suddenly one day i was unable to log in my computer it showed invalid password(though no password was changed) got help from the community and solved the problem ..
and now when i installed the latest version (from iso) things goes fine until i update my system from the default update manager and find firefox not working,empathy crashing and error is often shown,the media player crashes while playing media sometimes freezes ,and vlc often lags while playing videos..sometimes an eror pops up showing internal error,,
ok that was some problems that could be ignored but
what about these ?>i bought a new phone nokia c7 messed with it :p and i had to reinstall the firmware
(nokia pc suit and phoenix neither navifirm was supported in linux),
i have a amd sweachable graphics in my work laptop unfrotunately it dont works ,touchpad dont works,and it is getting hot when i boot from linux.
And there are many problems but somehow windows overcomes them all
Am not telling windows is flawless but somehow it works for me without a problem

0 votes

themainliner

Hmmm…I feel your pain I used Ubuntu very happily right up to 11:04. Mint is an Ubuntu based OS so many of Ubuntu’s regressions have effected Mint too.

I also ran Ubuntu as my server for 48 hours…I hadn’t suspected that the OS had degenerated so much. The RAID array handling was simply appalling, it was rebuilding the array after every reboot (taking over 6 hours each time). I have to revert to Fedora which is now streets ahead as a server OS.

AMD graphics are not perfect in Linux (neither are nVidia) however this is an issue with those companies and their proprietary driver. I understand that as an end user you just want to get on and in your situation I may have reverted to Windows too.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

NVIDIA Optimus is still a huge pain point, although it’s possible it can be made to work, it involves a lot of manual tweaking and hacking around.

0 votes

Indronil Mondal

and yes many are telling there are huge number of destros to try out
but except the major destros others like puppy and dsl just failed to boot when i tried them there was a kernel panic
and few other destros didnt boot only..
and my network card which works fine with ubuntu ddnt work in opensuse :/

0 votes

Indronil Mondal

i like linux its great for playing around with but in a place like ours where internet connection in not that fast where download speeds are an average of 25 kbps
its a headache to download 700+ mb iso then install the fav apps after that install the updates
and find things arent working
reinstall the os and do the above things again..

0 votes

Rubis Song

I really like Linux. I only wish we could use it without the hassle of running command prompt for installing new programs.

10 votes

themainliner

Again? Really? This has not been neccessary for years! In WIndows: fine applications website; download application; find downloaded application; double click executable; fine shortcut in start menu…

In Linux Mint: open Software Manager from menu; search for application name or type, alternatively browse the entire category and evaluate various application that fulfil the same function; click Install; find application shortcut in menu.

It’s easier that Windows. No CLI required.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Yup, not necessary. The difference with Windows is that you have the option.

If I could type “application install firefox” into the Windows Command Prompt to install Firefox, I’d do that too. It would be such a convenient option — just what the command line is on Linux.

0 votes

Nicko Porras

Im using both the GUI and CLI in installing applications in Ubuntu. mostly the CLI faster and you can automate installing other applications you want to. leave it like that and do other things you want to do.

0 votes

Keith Swartz

In the morning, I say, I’m a gonna’ start downloading that Linux called Ubuntu, so help me. Great article.

0 votes

themainliner

If you find (like many before you) that the Unity interface is unintuitive, confusing and provides more hurdles than productivity boosts please don’t be discouraged. openSUSE 12.2 is very good as is the KDE4 interfaceit sports, alternatively you can give the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint 14 ‘Nadia’ MATE a whirl. It’s interface is the one Ubuntu used pre-Unity.

0 votes

Richard Wesley Eby

What about software like Adobe Suite? Any alternative software for linux?

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

GIMP is probably the most mature alternative, but if you’re a big Photoshop user, I hear nothing can substitute. Photoshop works in Wine, though — or so I hear.

0 votes

Kshitij Verma

You can also use programs like wine and crossover(not free) to run .exe files. I’m currently running office 2007 professional, Adobe photoshop and dreamweaver cs6 and GTA Vice city(Used to crash often, before I installed my Nvidia driver) on wine and VB6 on Crossover 9.
Works like a charm. Saved costs as well :D
Wonder why it is not listed in the article..

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Wine was mentioned! I didn’t want to dwell on it too much. No sense installing Linux and only using windows programs via Wine.

0 votes

Kshitij Verma

Whoops!! Sorry, I think I missed it because i just skimmed through the article and read only what was necessary.
Great list by the way. Keep up the good work!

0 votes

Gary Speer

I’ve always wanted to give Linux a serious try as a Windows replacement, and that’s especially true now that Windows has jumped the shark with Windows 8. (My personal opinion only, of course, but it seems HORRID. I’m still on Windows 7.)

I even have a small Lenovo netbook I would be willing to try Linux on. My two big hangups when I’ve looked at Linux in the past: 1) Incredibly hard for me to figure out how to get Linux to connect to my wireless HP Photosmart C4795 printer, and, 2) I have never been able to get a Windows 7 home network to find and access a Linux computer.

Given the horrible idea of someday being required to use Windows 8 or switch to Linux (no way I can afford to go to any Mac), I’d really prefer Linux. But, alas, I need to do serious writing and an occasional printout — plus I need to be able to communicate with three other Windows 7 machines on my home network.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Some things can still be tedious like that. Your printer may have weird drivers that won’t work properly, and Windows home networking has always been a huge headache — well, up until Windows 7 and the homegroup.

0 votes

Nicko Porras

you can use the Open Source HP Toolbox, on Ubuntu Software Center you can just install it.

0 votes

Brian

having found linux about 2 years ago ,I’ve settled with Ubuntu 12.04 in office and Linuxmint at home .None of the boxes are over 2gb Ram and are Pentium4 (all cost under $100 used) excepting the Acer aspire one D257 (running 2gb ram) I’m writing this on. Most Hp printer drivers are opensourced (Don’t use driver disks)but the printer must be wired to the computer (wifi on) to “introduce” it (Follow instructions in Ubuntu website “documentation”). Disconnect cable and test again. This Acer, using Mint Cinnamon 13 LTS ran our real estate office for a week we were on the road .Added from the repository were Scribus and PDF editor-Parsers+HTML5 addons in Firefox & repository. These distros do amazing things with very little power. Your little netbook will surprise you…Happy trails.

0 votes

Anonymous

thanks, but i think also new linux comers needs a well writen tips for ubuntu installing process too, as most of them after facing some problems on it (even they loose their data), they don’t try again installing it

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

The installation process is very intuitive these days, but that’s a good suggestion!

5 votes

Rob Pilgrim

Look; I’d love to use Linux instead of Windows. I really like the Unity interface, it works they way I think.
I have four PCs which I use regularly, none of them have Linux because every one of those PCs needs to do something that Linux can’t do, or can’t do well. To start with, with Linux, none of them can talk to my scanner/printer or to my WD Live book back up system.

Jukebox – There is acceptable media software – but nothing as good as MediaMonkey – like Unity it works in the way that I think – and it won’t run under WINE etc.

Media Monster – Used for scanning negatives of Museum documents and working on my museum database – database will not work on Linux, no acceptable alternative.

Daily Grind – I did have Ubuntu 12.04 installed as a dual boot, used 12.04 for emails (although nothing as good as the Mailwasher/Everdesk combination exists, I could use Thunderbird and leave them on the server for Everdesk to deal with when I booted into Windows) and surfing – although I found that sites often looked clunky when fonts didn’t work properly. Anyway, I liked it enough to install 12.10 when it came out – or at least to try to install it. All I can say is that it was a dismal failure, wouldn’t install and wiped my windows partition – thank God for backups (oh and where is the Linux backup program that mirrors the original, rather than compressing it into a format where you can’t find that one single file that you’ve accidentally deleted)

- Laptop – well, Linux can’t get my usb modem to work so no good for emails/surfing; and can’t get the monitor resolution right so no good for photo editing – which I do on the train using this laptop.

So, IMHO, Linux is still a toy – a beautifully designed toy with gorgeous style on occasion, but for serious work? Sorry, it doesn’t cut it – and believe me I have tried to make it work for me.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Depends on the person. I can’t quite switch to Linux yet, either.

For many people, Linux is more than a toy. If you’re a programmer using certain tools, Linux may be much easier than hacking them together in Windows, which may seem like a toy.

Certainly it’s not there for you yet, and that’s okay. It’s not quite there yet for me either, sadly. Mostly because of games, though! Maybe the problem with Linux is that it isn’t enough of a toy.

0 votes

Aqueel Rafique

I moved a lot of my desktops and laptops from the long loved Windows XP to Ubuntu, simply because of how fast Ubuntu is and the hardware and software support for it. Installing Ubuntu is fast and easy. Best of all it’s all free. All of my Computers runs Ubuntu or at least dual booted. In a nut shell, I love Ubuntu :)

0 votes

Atuyota Uchefe

I have ubuntu precise pangolin installed unfortunately couldn’t update the apps can anyone advice me on an offline method greatly appreciate

0 votes

Nicko Porras

you can get the deb package from the site or its Launchpad..

0 votes

Kylee Kanavas

How hard is it to use wine?

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Depends. Something like PlayOnLinux makes it really easy. For some software, you may have to do more manual stuff, but the Wine AppDB often helps walk you through that stuff. http://appdb.winehq.org/

0 votes

Christopher Ballenger

I am actually moving away from Linux. Especially on my personal computer (No Pun Intended).

0 votes

dragonmouth

“I am actually moving away from Linux. Especially on my personal computer”

Why? Could you please elaborate.

0 votes

Amassine Omar

i like yhis Ubuntu and use it for along time

0 votes

rshewmaker

I enjoy Ubuntu, but Samba is a nightmare when trying to stream to Windows 7 or 8. And, having to learn Terminal code (to dismantle the power screensaver, etc) is a headache.

0 votes

Elan Chezhiyan

i installed linux recently and i is awsome. i was using windows 8 and this impressed me inspite of that. it is fast and reading and writing speed of my pen drive is much faster in ubuntu 12.10

0 votes

Ron Lister

I’ve yet to try linux is it worth the switch, I should probably try it out on a spare computer to see what it has to offer, and if I want to learn it all.

0 votes

Mats

I have been checking out the various distros including my own favorite, Mint, for a looong time now, but the deal breaker for me was always the virtually non existing support for my Canon MX850 MFD. I never got it to play well with and Linux version in the past. Hopefully the newest version have included Canon drivers. Same goes for MagicJack…could I possibly run MagicJack and the printer on a virtual machine?

0 votes

Nicko Porras

if it is a Usb, yes you can

0 votes

Samyak Puri

Many application alternatives for the windows programs work better than the one for windows. Also linux gives a person more control over his system. Linux has come a long way from the cli to gui, with a large no. of option for the user to select from. Linux is all about choice and best of all almost all applications for linux are free.

0 votes

Christopher Ballenger

It is slow on my computer and a lot of useful features are through a terminal. That really bugs me because I could go through my whole life not ever knowing what a terminal is and still use Windows to the best of my advantage.

0 votes

dragonmouth

“It is slow on my computer”
What computer do you use Linux on and which distro are you trying to use? If you are using a 386 to run the latest Ultimate Edition Linux, yes it will be slow. I run Mepis, PCLinuxOS, siduction and antix on PCs ranging from a PI to an I7 with no slowdowns.

“a lot of useful features are through a terminal”
Please stop with the misinformation! As has been pointed out several times before in this thread one can go through one’s entire life using Linux without the need for terminal. Anything you can do in Windows using GUI you can do in Linux using GUI.
BTW – what are these “useful features” that are so important to you?

“I could go through my whole life not ever knowing what a terminal is and still use Windows to the best of my advantage”
I doubt that very much. You may be able to use Windows but NOT to the best of your advantage.

0 votes

Christopher

I don’t really understand what you said in the first part of your comment to start off with. Second of all, I like Windows and I have used a command prompt, bit with Linux, programs say they have to start with a terminal. Then I have to look up on the Internet, how to run this program on Linux. Some of the software on Windows isn’t on Linux. I know I can use WINE and all that. Can you explain to me again in English how I can get Linux to not run slow?

0 votes

Christopher

I used Lubuntu, but it didn’t have the apps on Chromium and was very, disfuctional and boring in my opinion. Now I use Ubuntu. It is functional, but I really don’t like the whole starting apps through a terminal thing and again, it is slow.

0 votes

dragonmouth

“Now I use Ubuntu. It is functional, but I really don’t like the whole starting apps through a terminal thing and again, it is slow.”

What apps do you have to start through terminal? Please, I would like to know a name of at least one. Ubuntu is supposed to be the most user-friendly distro around. All apps are started from a menu, just like in Windows.

Which version of Ubuntu are you using? Is it 12.04 or 12.10? Those versions use Unity desktop which has been reported to be slow down some computers.

Ubuntu and its derivatives are not the only Linux distros around. There are many others which may be better suited to your PC and are just as easy to use. I am NOT trying to get you to switch to Linux. If you feel more comfortable with Windows, then stick with Windows. I am just trying to correct some of the misinformation you have.

0 votes

Christopher

I use Ubuntu 12 10 (sorry, for the period not being there, my phone’s browser does not really like this site
). The apps I have to start through a terminal are Carbon and Teamviewer. I don’t know why, but when I had an earlier version of Ubuntu, Teamviewer did not need to start through a terminal. Also on an older version of Ubuntu my computer was still slow. I want to switch to Ubuntu because the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is EVIL. Can you please tell me how to get the fastest experience on Ubuntu?

0 votes

dragonmouth

Christopher,
What are the specs of your PC? It may not be powerful enough to run Ubuntu, although I doubt it.

I do not use Ubuntu or any other distro based on it so I cannot help you with specifics but, just like in Windows, you should be able to start all apps from the Applications menu. Maybe the posters that do use Ubuntu can help you. Having said that, I can offer some general advice. Just like in Windows, make sure that you are automatically starting only the programs and processes that you absolutely need.

0 votes

Furqana Fathuzzaman

Linux is almost ready to be my replacement for windows..

Unlike most people, I actually really like Ubuntu’s Unity. Well, I’m switching to Linux on 12.04 era, so I don’t have “hard to change” feeling from previous gnome 2 looks, and I feel Unity is more newbie friendly.
The HUD is really useful, and global panel gives me more space (I don’t need a bar dedicated only to title like in browser).

Unfortunately, my notebook was broken, and unfortunately, looking at 12.10, I feel ubuntu becoming more bloated with useless things, like webapp (I prefer browser if I have to connect to internet anyway) and social media integration (I’m not using that much, and I prefer a separate/3rd party software for that).
True, I can stay with LTS, but until ubuntu can make up those bloatedness with speed, I think it’s a time to try other distro..

And so I’m trying Mint 14 cinnamon now. So far so good. Even though it’s not as good as in windows, at least I can use my dual gpu nvidia with bumblebee. And I haven’t found any problem yet, although I miss HUD sometimes..

The only thing I’m still trying to fix is -like many other linux distro- the power management. Linux isn’t too battery friendly, at least compared to Windows..

0 votes

dragonmouth

“until ubuntu can make up those bloatedness with speed, I think it’s a time to try other distro.”
The general tendency is for Operating System and Application software is to grow bigger and bigger. This due to more and more “features” being incorporated into the software. There was time that all Linux distros fit comfortably on a CD. Today most of the popular ones are over 2 GB in size.

Considering that Canonical and Ubuntu are trying hard to become the Linux equivalents of Microsoft and Windows, I doubt if there is any chance that Ubuntu will become smaller or faster.

Depending on how proficient you are in Linux, you may want to consider building your own distro. With SUSE Studio you start by choosing the basic system, then adding only the application you want/need. When you’re finished, you download the .ISO you just created. It’s all done through a GUI.

If you are more adventurous/proficient, you can start by installing antiX Core or TinyCore and then installing applications. This requires more expertise since most of the work is done using CLI.

You can also re-master the distro you currently have using the Remastersys program. What you is uninstall the applications you don’t need/want and then use Remastersys to create an .ISO file of the resulting distro.

0 votes

null

i really want to use ubuntu, but there is a big problem: no drivers for switchable graphics for linux :( i have a hp dv6 notebook and i don’t like the ubuntu with no graphic card :/ the space on the screen is small (with large buttons) and i dont know how to fix this :’( if someone know what i need to do plz HELP ME :’(

0 votes

hotdoge3

Mint 14 (one GB) windows 7 (3.8 GB) download I go with Mint

Libre Office or Open Office is good and free.

0 votes

Angelo

I almost ditched Windows a long time ago. My first experiments were with Suse Linux 6.0 (I think). Now I am on Ubuntu for desktops/laptops and one server I have at home (no GUI on this system). Only a few applications don’t run under Linux, such as Quickbooks (I own a business and unfortunately my CPA is “married” to Quickbooks) which does not run under Wine. This is why I still have a desktop running XP. As soon as I am ready to ditch Quickbooks in favor of GNUCash, Windows will be history. No need to reinstall periodically the system, even a crappy netbook runs Ubuntu with Unity (maybe something lighter would be nice), no OS crashes (however, applications do crash occasionally), updates applied in one shot, rare reboots etc. Being free is not my main concern, but it certainly helps. And boy, no more 5 minutes to boot an XP system.