Friday, 21 February 2014

Frequently asked questions from Windows users thinking of using Linux

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  21:00 9 comments


I was reading through the posts on Reddit yesterday and I came across a question which has been asked many times before in various guises.

The ultimate question asked is “Is Linux right for me?”.

In this article I am going to list the questions the Redditor brought up and my answers to those questions.

Office Compatibility Issues

“I have a resume I created in MS Office that I want to have on my new comp. Will it be copied exactly? Is there even an MS Office for Linux?
Furthermore I also need it for school, which is largely PC based. Will I have to send everything I create in MS word to a converter to get it to open in Linux? Is there even an MS Office for Linux?”
Microsoft Office isn't a part of Linux but there are a number of alternatives, the most high profile being LibreOffice.

Generally speaking LibreOffice can open Microsoft Word documents without too many issues but the conversion isn’t always 100% identical.

If you are developing a resume in LibreOffice and you know clients may be using Microsoft Word I would be tempted to export documents to PDF format before sending them. It is more likely that a PDF file will retains its formatting regardless of the application and operating system used to open it.

In theory you can also run Microsoft Office via the WINE application which is a compatibility layer generated to run Windows applications within Linux. I would not recommend this route however.

If you really need a specific feature within Microsoft Office that isn’t available in LibreOffice I would consider keeping Windows available as either a virtual machine or as dual boot system with Linux

Gaming On Linux

“I need a computer that I can do some moderate gaming on and apparently Linux takes up less of your computers CPU and memory than Vista, which leads me to assume my said gaming experience would be better.”
Gaming on Linux has been behind Windows for a long time. Fortunately with the release of Steam for Linux that gap is beginning to close and I can foresee a time whereby Linux gaming will be on at very least a par with Windows.

For running your current Windows games there is PlayOnLinux and for a large number of games this works perfectly well.

It might be worth however keeping a virtual machine available to run Windows or have Windows and Linux dual booting side by side.

Linux Applications

“I need this computer to be a multimedia machine as well. Right now I have VLC media player installed so I can basically play any file type. Does something like this exist for Linux?
Does it depend on which Linux OS I get? Is that already built in?
What kind of third part programs like VLC media pleyer exist?

What about Skype and iTunes and games like Minecraft.

There's always a download option for windows and mac, never for Linux."
VLC media player is available for Linux and comes installed by default on a number of distributions and is available via the package manager for others.
Skype is also available for Linux. The installation of Skype will vary from distribution to distribution. There are downloads available direct from the Skype website for popular distributions such as Ubuntu, openSUSE, Debian and Fedora.
iTunes is a different kettle of fish. It isn’t released for Linux at all. (and that is a decision in the future Apple will have to learn to live with).

For now though you can run iTunes by using WINE or you can use a virtual machine running Windows or keep a dual booting version of Windows available.

There are alternatives to iTunes available and if you don’t have an iPod/iPad then you should consider using these alternatives such as Rhythmbox or Banshee.

Minecraft works perfectly well on Linux and I have written a guide showing how to install Minecraft within Ubuntu.

Generally speaking there is an open source program for most types of application. Visit for more information.

32 bit vs 64 bit

"Is Linux 32 or 64 bit?"
Most distributions release a 32-bit and 64-bit version of their operating systems. If you have a 64-bit computer use the 64-bit version, if you don’t then use the 32-bit version.

If you have a 64-bit computer and you want to run a distribution that is only released as 32-bit then go ahead.

Are all computers compatible with Linux

“Are all computers compatible with Linux?”
Most of the larger distributions have a compatibility list.

Of course the best way to find out is to try out a live version of a distribution first, make sure it works and then if it does, install it.

How to uninstall Windows

“Finally, if I do go with Linux, how to I properly uninstall Vista (and everything else) and replace it with Linux so no Windows remains?”

Well this might not be your first port of call.

First of all, I would recommend trying out Linux in a virtual machine. Then if you are happy maybe dual boot Linux and Windows.

Finally, if you want to go Linux only copy off your important files such as pictures, documents, music etc and then when you are running the Linux installer choose to replace current operating system. You should make sure you have Windows recovery media in case you change your mind.

Before you begin

Before you jump in head first you might want to consider these articles:

Buy a book to help you

There are dozens of books showing  how to use and install Linux at

I have written my own book called “From Windows To Ubuntu”. The book covers everything you need for installing Ubuntu as well as showing you the default Unity interface and the key applications installed by default.

Thankyou for reading

About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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  1. Thanks for the FAQ for new Linux users. I just would like to add a thought on MS Office compatability from my everyday experience. At work I use Ubuntu Linux and I have to exchange multiple document a day. Most of them need to be exchanged in .doc(x) or .xls(x). The compatability of LibreOffice is very good and allows me to open-edit-send about 95% of documents without any issues.
    For the other 5% of documents (mostly those where the layout is almost final, like reviewing reports), I start MS Office 2010 in a Codeweavers Crossover emulation (I think it works same with Wine) and edit the documents/spreadsheets there. This works perfectly for me. Linux (Ubuntu) is just an excellent replacement for Windows.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I think the one thing that really doesn't seem to work that well from a Word to LibreOffice Writer point of view is bullets and numbering. The formatting never seems to sit still. I blame Microsoft Word for that as bullets and numbering seems to mess up on that anyway.

  2. To be honest I don't recommend PlayonLinux. More than half of the things they allow you to Install from that App are only from, a very Linux unfriendly place. Vanilla Wine does a perfectly fine job of Installing what you want. Just right-click the exe and select Install with Wine, easy as pie. If you really need an app like that (you don't) I would recommend CrossOver. While not free, at least it isn't filled with GOG Software.

    I don't recommend dual booting either, you can't break your Windows addiction if you continue to lock yourself in to Windows only Software, I learned this the hard way. Just do your research, find your alternative Software and do a full Install and forget about Microsoft's slave chains. I've been free from those chains since October 2012.

    1. Hi Mike,

      I find that PlayOnLinux works more often than not for Windows applications whereas WINE doesn't quite have the same success rate on its own.

      With regards to Dual Booting I see no issue in using Windows and Linux. If you have an application you can't live without in Windows then so be it. I don't think it is an either/or thing.

  3. I recommend storing any document you want to keep as a simple txt file with no formatting. Those are the only 15-years-old documents I can open without problems (either in linux or windows).

    1. I've had a fair amount of success with rtf (rich text format) files as well. Of course, ODF, being an open standard, is supposed to help address this issue. Since open formats aren't developed by a company looking for strategies to force upgrades, it really should be more stable and backward compatible than Microsoft formats.

  4. I Recommend Kingsoft office for new users, its like a clone of MS office and will be easy getting used to

  5. You can also install MS Office in a Windows program in VirtualBox and easily create a menu entry in your Linux distro to open it almost instantly.
    To elaborate, I run Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon with VirtualBox installed. XP is installed in VirtualBox but denied internet connection. If you save the machine state you can create a bash script and link this to any program in VirtualBox.

    I looked at your review of Linux MInt 13 Cinnamon - you appear to have an incomplete menu in your screenshots.

  6. Hello, mine is about dual both of window 10 PC with CentOS, SELinux or Ubuntu. I have tried several times but I am struggling with it.


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