Although most of this book focuses on using Linux servers to help Windows desktop systems, Linux is beginning to find a home as a desktop OS. As a multipurpose OS, Linux can handle many desktop functions, and you may want to consider Linux in this role for many of the same reasons you'd consider Linux as a server OSlow cost, high reliability, remote administration capabilities, and so on. You might also want to use thin clients to access Linux, in which case this chapter applies to the system the thin clients access. Before deploying Linux as a desktop OS, though, you'll have to know a bit about its capabilities in this role; that's where this appendix comes in.
I begin with a look at Linux desktop applications, including a list of some common application categories and their Windows and Linux instantiations. Next is the issue of application configuration. This task is unusual in Linux because many applications, including the desktop environments that run when users log in, have both global and user configurations, so you may need to modify either type. Sometimes, you may find yourself unable to do what you want using native Linux applications, in which case Linux's ability to run Windows applications is critical, so this issue is covered. Whether or not you can use Linux applications, your ability to access data can be important. This includes both filesystem access and file compatibility across applications. Next up is a common problem area for Linux desktop systems: font handling.