Although operating systems are nice (and necessary), people use desktop computers to run application programs. A strong case can be made for using Fedora as a server, but as a desktop system, Fedora is still some distance away from challenging the dominance of the Microsoft Windows operating systems:
There are many more commercial, battle-tested desktop applications for the Microsoft Windows operating systems than there are for Linux. Because the market is so huge for desktop Windows systems, many software companies develop their products solely for that market.
Linux applications, as a rule, have historically been more difficult to configure and use than many commercial Windows applications.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that Linux is significantly gaining ground. You can now use Linux on your desktop to do almost everything you would want to do on a desktop computer with Microsoft Windows. Using software such as Crossover Office (www.codeweavers.com), you can even run critical applications that were created for Microsoft Windows (such as Microsoft Office) right on your Linux desktop.
The time is coming when you will be able to replace the operating systems on the desktop computers in your home or office with Fedora. I believe that, in the long term, Linux could become a preferred operating system for running applications. Here are some reasons:
Many people believe that networked applications will drive the future of computing. Unlike the first Microsoft Windows systems, which had their roots in the single-user, one-task-at-a-time DOS system, Linux is based on UNIX systems. UNIX was designed from the ground up to deal with many users and many tasks in a networked environment. Fedora offers a strong foundation for networked applications.
A huge development community is working on open source applications to meet the needs of the Linux community. Recently, some strong commercial offerings have been added that are often specifically ported to Red Hat operating systems (see www.redhat.com/apps/isv_catalog).
In the spirit of Linux and the GNU (which stands for “GNU is Not UNIX”) project, most application programs are free or inexpensive. As a result, you can try out most applications for little or no money. Getting started running Linux applications can be done at a small cost. For example, OpenOffice (the open source version of StarOffice) comes with Fedora Core and the boxed set of StarOffice is only $79.95 (from wwws.sun.com/software/star/staroffice/), whereas Microsoft Office will cost you hundreds of dollars. Although you can buy components such as Microsoft Word separately, even they can cost several hundred dollars apiece.
The transition for desktop users from Windows to Linux is becoming easier, with great strides being made by projects such as the WINE project. WINE (described later in this chapter) lets you run many Windows programs directly in Linux. WINE also provides a path for application developers to more simply port their Windows code to run in Linux. So far, the greatest strides have come in getting Windows games and office productivity applications running in Linux.
The bottom line is that it will take some effort for most people to discard their Microsoft Windows operating systems completely. However, if you are committed to making Fedora Core your sole application platform, there are several ways to ease that transition. Emulation programs let you run many programs that were created for other operating systems. Conversion programs can help you convert graphics and word processing data files from other formats to those supported by Linux applications.
See Chapter 6 for information on importing and exporting word processing and graphics files.
If you are running Linux on a PC, chances are that you already paid for a Microsoft Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, NT, or 2000 operating system. You can either run Linux on a different PC than you use for Windows or have Windows and Linux on separate partitions of your hard disk on the same PC. The latter requires that you reboot each time you want to switch operating systems.
The following section describes applications that run in Fedora that you can use to replace the Windows applications you are used to.