Like Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS comes in several flavors, depending on which desktop environment you prefer. Just as Ubuntu started as a single distribution with GNOME as its desktop, the original PCLinuxOS comes with the latest KDE (now called Software Compilation by the developers at KDE.). As of this page creation, the current version of KDE is 4.5 SC.
Which PCLinuxOS you install also depends on how much memory your system is available, how old your machine is, what other hardware you have installed.
As with any Live CD distribution, I recommend installing the distribution on your hard drive. First, Linux distributions that run off the hard drive run generally faster than those that run off a live CD/DVD. Second, once installed, you can (and should) update the distribution often using the Synaptic package manager. Also, you can customize your PCLinuxOS installation by installing additional software.
Once installed, you can install LibreOffice by running LibreOffice Manager from your desktop. The script will automatically install LibreOffice if the current version has not already been installed. You can use the script to restore LibreOffice if your copy does not work properly.
Note: The Openbox variant of PCLinuxOS comes with LibreOffice installed on the LiveCD, but it is not the current version.
These distributions require at least 3GB of space. However, the more space you can allocate to PCLinuxOS, the better. For the best performance, I recommend installing PCLinuxOS on the entire hard drive.
Hard Drive Space
You will need to allocate a partition at least twice the size of the physical RAM in your machine for swap space. On my laptop, I have 8GB of swap space allocated, since I have 4GB of RAM installed. This partition is required for any Linux distribution as the swap space is used as part of Linux's memory management scheme. Linux uses swap space in two ways.
First, when the physical memory runs out, Linux will swap segments of memory between physical memory and the swap space on your hard drive. This assures that nothing goes wrong because you do not have enough memory in your machine. Second, in the case when the PC goes into suspend or hibernation mode, the contents of the memory are written to disk as a saved state. This makes it easy to restore the machine to its former state when it wakes up from hibernation.
The fact that the memory swapping takes place in a partition separate from other partitions on the disk keeps the memory swapping mechanism from interfering with the other data on your disk. This is one reason why Windows over the years had been plagued with memory problems (such as General Protection Faults).
This is the original (and still the best) version that packs a lot of functionality onto a single Live CD. The Live CD provides KDE 4.4.5, and contains the following packages: Amarok, Digikam, GIMP, Firefox, Thunderbird, k3b, Imagination (DVD slideshows), and Flash Player. LibreOffice is not included, on the Live CD, but can be installed with LibreOffice Manager.
You can install this version of PCLinuxOS if you prefer KDE, and your PC or Intel Mac has at least 1GB of system RAM. Texstar says that you can run this on 512MB of RAM. While this is possible, you may not like the performance of the KDE desktop as the current version of KDE requires at least 1GB for adequate performance. Personally, I recommend at least 2GB, and preferably more (I have 4GB on my laptop) for real performance, especially if you want to run multiple applications on KDE.
Texstar offers a compact edition of the original distribution, which contains only the KDE desktop, but not the additional applications available on the full version. I recommend this for netbooks with at least 1GB of memory, but not a lot of disk space. (The original Asus EEEpc comes to mind here.)
I also recommend this for those who want to do a PCLinuxOS remix with their own blend of applications.
Of course, as with Ubuntu, you can install the full version, and then install any other desktop environments from the Synaptic Package Manager as you wish. Actually, it is possible to create a PCLinuxOS Fully Loaded distribution. Just be sure you can run the KDE version first.
If you select an alternate mirror to download your copy of PCLinuxOS, you will find there are some 64-bit ISO images. Officially, these are test ISO images of which you can use. Note, most of the packages in the 32-bit repository have been ported to the 64-bit repository, but the repository is not complete, hence the 64-bit PCLinuxOS has not been officially released.
The Lightweight X11 Desktop was developed as an alternative for those who want a KDE-like system, but do not have the gigabytes of memory required for running KDE.
XFCE stands for XF86 Common desktop Environment, and was a project that attempted to emulate the Common Desktop Environment that was originally developed for the X Window System. (I first came across this with Solaris 8.)
XFCE has evolved into a viable alternative to the GNOME desktop, and is the official GNOME replacement in the Slackware distribution. (Linus Torvalds uses this instead of GNOME these days.) The XFCE Phoenix edition requires 384MB to run, and I recommend it for older machines with at least 512MB.
This is the simplest and cleanest edition of all the desktops you can have for PCLinuxOS. What you get is a background, and a panel at the top of the screen with all the controls you expect to find on a PCLinuxOS desktop.
If you love eye-candy and want a 3D desktop, but you have an older machine, you should try this distribution. This is the PCLinuxOS distribution with Enlightenment version 17 as the window manager instead of GNOME or KDE. I love this desktop as it provides some of the desktop effects found in the Compiz and Emerald extensions without the resource hog libraries needed to run these desktops.