Switching to Ubuntu Part One: Basic Apps

April 26, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Continuing our series of articles on the benefits of open source software and how computing for free is a very real possibility that many users are engaging in right now around the world, it’s time to take on board the full implications of migrating from Windows to Linux, in this case the Ubuntu platform.

Much of what we’ll be discussing here applies to migrating to and from any operating system (Windows to Mac, Mac to Windows, etc.) but obviously with the benefit of free, open source software the implications are quite different.

Let’s suggest a scenario: a freelance writer decides to go full time writing for a small group of tech-based websites. He has limited start-up capital and so decides to invest the majority of what he has in a new quad-core PC into which he plans to install an open source operating system such as Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat, and in order to provide content on other platforms he intends to utilize a VM system.

So far the cost on software is zero.

Migrating from Windows to Ubuntu is more than just finding ways to virtualize software, however. This should only be employed as a last-gasp solution to out-and-out compatibility issues, such as running games.

The vast majority of Windows non-gaming tasks can be performed on a Linux PC with no financial outlay.

Switching to Ubuntu basic apps

Great Tools for Basic Use

Typical tools that anyone needing to perform basic computing tasks are included in Ubuntu, with Evolution mail capable of connecting to POP, IMAP and Exchange email, while Firefox is presented as the default browser.

Mozilla is also available for email, while instant messaging is available via Empathy and Transmission is the included BitTorrent client.

Standard tools that are arguably more advanced than those packaged with Windows 7 (you wouldn’t catch Microsoft offering a free BitTorrent client) and for those that require a way to enjoy music and video files, a selection of media players such as Rhythmbox and Banshee are included.

So, a selection of great tools for basic use is packaged with Ubuntu, with plenty of opportunities to find new apps via the Ubuntu Software Center.

Open Source Writer’s Tools

Our theoretical writer, meanwhile, requires a slightly different set of tools. After a web browser for research and article submission, and email for communications, he most urgently requires a word processor.

Previously content to run Microsoft Office on his Windows PC, our writer finds that Ubuntu includes OpenOffice, the long-running open source office solution (set to be replaced with its spiritual successor LibreOffice in Ubuntu 11.04).

Offering pretty much a feature-for-feature match with Microsoft Word, OpenOffice Word Processor becomes our writer’s main work tool, which he uses to create and edit his articles prior to submission.

As you can see, getting started with Ubuntu is easy. Whether you want to browse the web, send emails or write documents, listen to music and watch videos or find more software, the required applications are all included in the platform, ready for anyone to switch to, regardless of their computer knowledge and expertise…

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