switch not that hard

Phil Windley recently discussed the difficulty of moving to open source software in government offices. The biggest factor, he stated, was training users. While there may be issues I’m not aware of, my experience has shown that someone who uses Word can use Open Office without any additional training. The same goes for Windows users on a preconfigured Linux desktop (especially KDE).

My parents, who are not particularly experienced with computers, were able to use Mandrake without much difficulty. Their biggest complaint was having difficulty reading Word documents. They could check their email, browse the web and use a word processor and I would estimate that those three activities fulfill 90% of the typical user’s needs.

If you were to give a user a preconfigured Windows machine and a preconfigured Linux machine, I doubt there would be much difference in their ability to use it. The only difference would probably be the length of time they could stay on without crashing.


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  1. As a testimonial to that, Carla (my wife) has started using linux and has caught on amazingly fast. She now uses the command line to connect to the ISP, OpenOffice, and the lovely Galeon browser. She hasn’t complained a bit and if I must say that girls who use linux rock. :-p

    Comment by jason on October 15, 2002 @ 7:42 pm
  2. I totally agree about open office. I use it instead of word and have no problems whatsoever.

    Comment by whaleman on October 16, 2002 @ 2:03 pm
  3. I haven’t had to use openoffice for my primary office software, but I have seen some quirks to it that would scare off some people. For example, I have been using open office writer at work and it keeps ‘warning’ me that some of my data will be lost when I save it in Word XP format.

    I think that those quirks are the things that Phil Windley is talking about when he talks about training. It is just making people aware of some of the things they take for granted in a fully MS equiped environment.

    BTW: I noticed the LinuxNetworX article in the DeseretNews today. From what I understand a number of regulars around here work for LinuxNetorX, right?

    Comment by scott on October 16, 2002 @ 3:59 pm
  4. Me, Dan, Levi, & Jason all work for LinuxNetworX, so nice observation. As for the usability of Linux, I would agree that Linux isn’t too hard to use anymore with a gui like KDE (I prefer Gnome). My 2 biggest reasons to still use Windows occasionally are for games/multimedia, and for word processing.

    You’re saying Wait!, you can do word processing in Linux. I know, but I can’t stand (or sit) the fonts available in Linux. This is getting better, with anti-aliased fonts becoming standard and MS true-type fonts slowing becoming available (though not without dificulty). I’ve had problems also with OpenOffice, and it’s still bloated. I prefer AbiWord if I need to be in Linux. It has a much smaller footprint and will open most basic Word documents.

    Comment by Cameron on October 16, 2002 @ 4:48 pm
  5. Fonts are for pansies! :-p

    Comment by jason on October 16, 2002 @ 8:18 pm
  6. Fonts are getting much better in Linux. KDE 3 makes using antialiased TrueType fonts very easy. Gnome 2 promises to do the same when it’s finished. I suspect they’ll be fully integrated into the major distributions in the next couple of releases.

    I still don’t think they’re as pretty as the fonts in OS X, and rendering them is sometimes slow, but things are coming along.

    Comment by Levi on October 16, 2002 @ 9:45 pm
  7. I agree that Linux on the desktop still has room for improvement, but so does Windows. My initial point was unless you’re a power Word user, you won’t find Open Office (or Abiword) much different from Word.

    Scott, you get a similar message in Word if you save as something other than a word doc (rtf, txt, WordPerfect etc.) so I don’t think that’s going to be a big surprise to a Word user.

    Comment by dan on October 16, 2002 @ 11:01 pm
  8. I agree with everything everyone has said so far. I was just making a point that when we live in an MS world (just admit it, we do!) people have to be contious of the file formats _when_ they depart from the norm.

    I sure hope that the distros start bundling the good free fonts. That is one of the reasons I don’t use Linux as my primary machine. The fonts stink and are troublesome to install.

    I am very impressed with RH 8.0 though. Some may not like it, but for me it is great. There are still some kinks to work out before I recommend Linux to non-geeks.

    Comment by scott on October 16, 2002 @ 11:37 pm
  9. BTW, I just found Phil Windley’s blog recently and I like it. It’s great to see someone in government that knows what’s up.

    Comment by scott on October 16, 2002 @ 11:39 pm

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