I was recently asked this question:
Can linux be used for a normal computer, operating email programs, word processing, etc? I am quite frustrated with all the "improvements" that Windows keeps getting; each improvement making it slower and more prone to erratic behavior. I use a computer only for the above tasks, and would really like to get away from the problems.
As I've been telling friends, colleagues, family, and everyone who'll listen for about the past 5 years... YES.
- Mail: Instead of Outlook, you can use Thunderbird.
- Calendar: use Sunbird or go online w/ Google Calendar
- Web: Instead of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome, or Konqueror. None will "accidentally" install spyware for you.
- Office: Instead of the bloated and dinosauric (20 years old!) MS Office's Word, Excel & Powerpoint, use Open Office's Writer, Calc & Impress. (Open Office is now 10 years old - old enough to be feature rich, young enough to be standards-compliant.)
- Chat: instead of MSN, use pidgin (supports all IM protocols, including MSN, Yahoo, gtalk, IRC, Twitter, Facebook) and/or Skype (for audio/video chat)
- Audio/Video playback & streaming: instead of Windows Media Player, VLC player.
- Solitaire: PySol includes 200 solitaire games; Firefox
"Cards" plugin contains dozens more.
More advanced users:
I personally use linux flavours designed for older machines so they're lightweight, faster, and less bloated. Then, if I need a more "bloated" app (like something from the KDE school instead of the XFCE or GDE school), I simply install that into the operating system as an add-on. Of course if you *want* eye candy (like 3D desktops and transitions when you open/close applications) you can get that too. It's pure eye candy, but it's available if you need Vista or Win7-like "bling".
If you want to try Linux before jumping in fully, I advise two options:
- Xubuntu, designed for old machines and to stay more-or-less the same over time. Download and install it into Windows without having to reformat your hard drive. Good for your grandmother's desktop machine.
- Fedora, designed for newer machines and to stay up to date with recent improvements in the Linux world. Can be installed onto a USB key so you can boot your system from that without having to touch your existing Windows install. Good for your parents or your machine, or for an office.
- There are of course lots of other Linux distros out there...