Linked by David Adams on Mon 24th Aug 2009 09:21 UTC
Linux A reader asks: Why is Linux still not as user friendly as the two other main OSes with all the people developing for Linux? Is it because it is mainly developed by geeks? My initial feeling when reading this question was that it was kind of a throwaway, kind of a slam in disguise as a genuine question. But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I felt. There truly are a large amount of resources being dedicated to the development of Linux and its operating system halo (DEs, drivers, apps, etc). Some of these resources are from large companies (IBM, Red Hat, Novell). Why isn't Linux more user-friendly? Is this an inherent limitation with open source software?
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Our Church took the Plunge
by Peter Besenbruch on Mon 24th Aug 2009 19:01 UTC
Peter Besenbruch
Member since:
2006-03-13

Our church took the plunge and switched to Linux. I had already switched from Internet Explorer, and had familiarized the staff with OpenOffice. Let's just say I keep getting reminded how one needs to refine the definition of "user friendly."

Linux replaced XP Home. There was one Windows user, the administrator, and there was no login password. Multiple people used the machine and had done something to the OS, so it would no longer accept updates without blue screening. Our secretary had trouble with the concept of user name under Linux. She also had trouble for a few days logging in, as the password wouldn't work for her (it worked fine when I did it). She also had trouble understanding that the user password and the e-mail password were different things.

From a point and click perspective, I made the desktop similar to Windows, except the icons to launch programs were bigger in Linux. I even made sure there was a "My Documents" icon on the desktop. The concept of multiple desktops left the secretary nonplussed, but after some fiddling around, thought that four desktops was too many, but two might be useful (she got two).

Over the years I have learned that program launching from the KDE or Gnome equivalent of the "Start menu" is better than on Windows, as Start menu items tend to be sorted by company on Windows and by category on Linux. That advantage vanishes in the "real world" of converting Windows users; they almost never use the Start menus to launch programs. It's either on "quick launch" or it doesn't exist. Setting up quick launcher like options on Linux saves a ton of trouble.

Getting staff used to programs available on Linux prior to the actual move to Linux saves considerable trouble. The switch to Firefox is easy. In our case, changing from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice was another story. Two people were involved.

Our secretary got basic training on text formatting ("no, you don't just keep holding down the space bar to push text around"). A second person got her own user account. She was a competent Word user, and objected to its absence, because she needed her files saved in DOC format. Here separate user accounts let me set OpenOffice to default to the Microsoft versions of the files for her. She had no more objections.

My conclusion: If you put Windows XP-Pro and Linux side by side, I think Linux would be slightly easier to use from basic user perspective. Neither enjoys a big advantage. The problems that I encountered would have happened had I changed to XP-Pro from XP-Home. I suspect that they also would have happened on a Mac. Increased safety and security impacts user friendliness.

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