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Warning: Linux Desktops Ahead

How to pick a Linux desktop.

Ximian has introduced Ximian Desktop 2 (XD2), offering a GNOME-based desktop for Linux that includes a variant of OpenOffice, Ximian's Evolution e-mail client, simplified printer setup and interoperability with Windows. Here comes the heterogeneous network--again.

What vendor options should you look for when moving from Windows to Linux desktops? Start with these:

• Red Hat Linux: If you can get past this distribution's lack of support for MPEG, MP3 and Macromedia Flash formats, it is more stable than most.

• Ximian Desktop: Built off GNOME, it's a solid application that matches the productivity potential of Windows Office desktops.

• StarOffice: A replacement for Microsoft Office, it comes at a decent price and beats OpenOffice in quality.

• Ximian Evolution e-mail client: It fulfills the promises of Microsoft Outlook, and for $69 you can get a connector that will let you check your Exchange mail/calendar.

• Kdevelop or Anjuta for your developers: Both feel like Visual Studio-- and both generate about as many unnecessary files too!

What problems can you anticipate?

• Visio-dependent users may not like the alternatives: Kivio is not yet mature enough to compete with Visio even for the most basic functions.

• Custom applications: That Visual Basic app you whipped out three years ago for billing should be tested under Wine before you commit those users to Linux desktops. Many such applications just won't work.

Rest assured, Linux is ready for the desktop. But is your shop ready for a new OS? If your organization has a ton of home-brewed VB or VC++ apps, the answer is probably no. You're in a far better position to consider Linux desktops if you don't do a lot of in-house desktop development.

Even if you purchase all the apps listed above and you pay full price, the cost of your desktop software will be less than $300. Compare that with what you're paying today, then try to think of a good reason not to start saving money. Can't think of one? Me neither.

Disclaimer: This article, like all of my articles, was written with StarOffice running on Red Hat.

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