Linux is not for everyone, just the way not everyone likes roses; some like lilies.
Since an operating system is not a flower it’s less about preferences and more about what gets your job done in the best possible manner. An operating system is a very powerful tool which assists us in getting things done.
There are three popular operating systems – Windows, Mac OSX and GNU/Linux-based. Each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages (which we will talk about in some other article). GNU/Linux based operating systems (also known as distros) have many advantages over both Mac and Windows which make it an obvious choice. However, as I said, there are advantages and disadvantages of each operating system and what works for me may not work for you so it’s very important to know whether Linux is suitable for you or not.
It all boils down to usage. Whether you will be comfortable with GNULinux or not depends on what type of things you do with a PC. In this article I am going to talk about those factors which will decide if you can use Linux or not.
What do you do with your computer?
Look at your usage. List the applications that you use on your current system. Once listed, see how many of these apps and their replacements are available under GNU/Linux based systems. If all the apps that you need (or their replacements) are available under Linux, you are ready to make the switch (if you have any questions about whether there are replacements for the apps you use, you can post your query in the comments below).
Gaming: If you use Windows or Mac for gaming then the good news is that leading gaming player Valve, the company behind Half-Life and Left 4 Dead, has announced their own Linux based operating system called Steam OS and are also shipping a game console based on this OS. So high-end gaming is coming to Linux.
Image Editing: It depends on how advanced image editing you do. If you do the average image editing where you want to refine or edits the photos you shoot or if you do other editing work then there are many tool under Linux which can take care of your image editing task. Some of these tools are – GIMP, Krita, DigiKam, Darktable, etc.
However if you are looking for really refined editing and use tools like LightRoom or Nik Software then Linux doesn’t have decent replacements yet.
Video Editing: There are many basic video editing applications available under Linux which are on par with Windows Movie Maker. These applications are good enough to help you with basic video editing where you can create home videos.
However there are no professional grade film editing software available for Linux, yet. So if you are using FCP, Sony Vegas pro or Adobe Premiere then there is nothing on Linux to offer same level of functionality. There is one extremely powerful software, called Blender, which is reputed for 3D animation and can be used for film editing as well. But in most cases, I don’t think Linux has much to offer when it comes to high-end film editing.
Multimedia playback: Watching video and listening to music is charm under Linux. In fact the world’s most popular video playing app is an open source app and is available for Linux – it’s called VLC and it can play virtually any video formats in the world.
Same applies to music. There are many apps such as Amarok, Clementine, Rhythmbox, Banshee, etc which offer advanced as well as basic music playing capabilities. There app can be, in some cases, much better than Windows Media Player and iTunes. So Linux is very well equipped with multi-media playback.
Steaming service: I can watch Hulu, Amazon Prime videos and almost every other steaming service on Linux – including YouTube and Vimeo. Netflix is the only service which doesn’t play very well under Linux due to the use of Microsoft Silverlight which is not available under Linux (though some user have managed to get Netflix to work under Linux). The good news is that Netflix is moving to HTML5, which is an open standard so soon its content will be available under Linux as well.
Communication: Both Skype and Google hangout are available for Linux users so if you use Linux, you won’t be deprived of these.
Cloud: All major cloud providers, including Dropbox and Copy, are available for Linux users. Unfortunately, Google has not made it’s own Google Drive available for Linux for some mysterious reasons.
Office suites: Google Docs will take care of most of your needs. There is LibreOffice which is one of the most popular open source office suite available for all three platforms as is already very popular and powerful. So you will never need Microsoft Office or Pages once you start using LibreOffice.
These are just few use cases that I could think of and I have tried to be as honest as possible to show how well Linux can take care of your usage. Linux has come a long way and now it’s ready for the prime time. The only reason it has not picked up as Windows or Mac is because there is no big company investing money and resources in marketing Linux.
Things change when a company like Google enters the market. Google has made Linux powered Android the leading mobile operating system. Google is now also investing heavily in Linux powered Chromebooks. The device is the #1 best selling device on Amazon.com. Just look at the popularity of Google’s Chromebook, which runs only a browser on top of Linux. There are thousands of users using Chromebooks. Chromebook runs Google’s Chrome browser on a Linux based operating system. So if those users are happy with Linux running just a browser, you should be fine with it too. And if you pick a generic GNU/Linux-based operating system for your PC you will be able to run not only that browser, but also many other popular applications.
So which one is the best GNU/Linux-based operating system for you? In my next article I will suggest top 5 GNU/Linux-based operating systems that you should consider.