My intention in creating this book is to provide a simple move from your old OS to Linux. I'll cover things such as installation shortly, but the majority of the book has to do with working (and playing) in your new Linux environment. I want to show you how to do the things you have grown used to doing: surfing the Net, writing emails, listening to music, printing, burning CDs, and so on. Furthermore, I am going to tell you how to take those Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and music files you have collected over time and start using them with Linux. In short, my plan is to have you move as effortlessly as possible from your old OS to Linux.
Working your way through the chapters, you'll notice that I am constantly inviting you to try things. That's because I believe the best way to learn anything is by doing. Yes, you're going to learn to work with a new operating system, but it doesn't mean you can't have fun. As everyone knows, all work and no play will make anyone pretty dull. Later on in this book (in an effort to avoid dullness), I'll take you into the world of Linux fun and games.
Quick Tips and Shelling Out
Throughout the book, I will occasionally provide you with boxed asides, "Quick tips" that should serve as little reminders or simpler ways to do things.
You'll also notice boxes that start out with the phrase "Shell out." Although I intend to concentrate on working with graphical tools and in a graphical way, much of the power of Linux comes from working with the command line, or the shell. The "Shell out" boxes will guide you in working with the shell.
Learning to wield the command line is akin to getting a black belt in a martial art or earning a first aid certificate. It doesn't mean that you are going to run out and take on all comers or that you are going to be facing daily crisis situations. What working with the shell does is give you the means and the confidence to step outside the confines of the graphical environment. The shell is power, and it is always there for you, so you should not fear it.
Meet Your Desktop
Modern Linux distributions come with powerful, easy-to-use graphical environments. There are many such environments, and in time, you will learn about them. Part of that freedom I spoke about is the freedom to do things your way, and that extends to the type of graphical environment you may want to work in. The most popular desktop environments today are the K Desktop Environment (KDE) and GNOME, but WindowMaker, IceWM, and others have quite a following, as well. My personal choice is KDE, but I often switch to other desktops when the mood takes me.
Although much of what you do with GNOME or KDE is pretty interchangeable, it makes sense in a book like this to pick one and run with it. Consequently, we will concentrate on the KDE desktop, primarily version 3.1 (although much of what I cover is very similar to what you would see in release 3.0).
KDE comes with most major distributions, including SuSE, Red Hat, SCO, Mandrake, and others. I recommend KDE because it is more mature, beautiful, and better developed than the alternatives (yes, some of this is partly my opinion). It sports a clean, consistent, and integrated set of tools, widgets, and menus. Because of all these things, KDE is also much easier and friendlier to work with. In fact, many Linux companies install KDE as the default.
When you become comfortable with KDE and Linux, I invite you to experiment with other desktop environments. Exercise your freedom to be yourself.