Let's Start With the Basics
When you purchased your computer, most likely, it came preloaded with either a version of Windows, or Mac OS-X (if you purchased a Macintosh). Yes, you can purchase a computer with some Linux distribution installed, and if you did that, congratulations, you have taken the first step towards migration to technological freedom.
Integration or Complete Migration
The first decision you should make is to whether you want to completely migrate to all Linux or Linux and/or *BSD-UNIX machines; or whether to include other operating systems in your computing environment.
You need to consider these factors:
- How many machines do you have in your home or small business?
- Are there people who will be using your machines that are not familiar with Linux, UNIX, or free and open source software in general?
- Do you have any systems that for some reason cannot be converted to Linux, or at least be able to convert to boot more than one operating system?
- Do you have any hardware devices (other than network devices) that cannot work with Linux? (Examples: Many Canon and Lexmark printers, digital photo keychains)
- Do you have software packages that depend on Windows and/or Mac OS-X, i.e. cannot run under an emulator, to function?
What is Free Software?
Free software is software that is licensed such that the consumer rather than the publisher and/or developer dictates the terms of the licensing agreement. With typical commercial software, the publisher dictates what you can do and what you cannot do with the software. In addition, updates, modifications, and even the right for you to use the software are at the mercy of the publishers and developers of the software. More often than not, you must pay licensing fees for the right to use commercial software.
With free software, it is you the consumer that has control over what you can do with the software, including modification, redistribution, and even collaborating with the developer(s) of the software. More often than not, free software is free as in cost.
But free software is more than just a product. Free software provides a sense of community for end users and developers alike. If you have the skills to write software, documentation, do graphics work, support the product, or even test the product, you can contribute to the free software community.
This is not true with commercial software. In fact, with commercial software, most everything is at the mercy of the software developer, and the technical support comes with a price that you the consumer must pay.
User applications are those software products that you use in everyday computing. This is the easiest place to start your migration path. These products can be easily replaced with free equivalents.
Microsoft Office and/or Microsoft Works
There are several free software products that can directly replace Microsoft Office and/or Microsoft Works:
- OpenOffice.org (the most obvious choice)
- Abiword (replaces MS Word)
- Gnumeric (replaces MS Excel)
- KOffice (for the KDE desktop)
IBM has redeveloped the SmartSuite to be based on OpenOffice.org, replacing the commercial products Lotus 1-2-3 and AmiPro developes over the past two decades. Most recently, IBM has released a custom version of OpenOffice.org called Symphony.
For those of you who remember, the pre-IBM Lotus had a product called Symphony which did much of the same thing that today's Symphony does, except that this was a DOS product that functioned on text only displays.
Today's Symphony can use the file formats from Lotus products that were implemented before IBM's takeover of Lotus Development Corporation.
Corel still owns the office productivity suite, but it is a Windows only product. Like MS office, you can use AbiWord, OpenOffice.org, Gnumeric, and KOffice to substitute for Word Perfect. At one time there was a Linux version of Word Perfect, with the latest being version 10 of the office suite.
Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Safari
As for the web browser suites, you have your choice of Mozilla Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, Konqueror, Epiphany, Galeon, Dillo, Flock and quite a few others. Flock is the newest web browser that allows you to surf the web while keeping track of your friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.
As of this writing, the Netscape browser ceases to exist as a commercial browser. However, the product lives on as Mozilla Firefox and its derivatives Seamonkey, Galeon, Epiphany and others.
Apple's Safari is a derivative of the Konqueror web browser.
But as for what replaces Internet Explorer, just about any web browser available for Linux will do.
- Microsoft, Windows, Excel, Internet Explorer, Works, Word and Office are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation
- Lotus, Symphony and SmartSuite are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation
- Word Perfect is a registered trademark of Corel Corporation