This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on November 24, 2000
A couple weeks back in the I Don't Do Windows column, I wrote about my experiences in trying to get Linux to load on my old Pentium 233 and of giving up and installing Solaris instead.
Well, I'm typing this column in WordPerfect 8 for Linux Corel's Linux release 2, to be exact, on a Pentium Pro 200. It installed just fine, worked instantly with my DSL connection (using a very intuitive networking wizard that was just as easy to use as the one in Win98), and has turned out to be a wonderful backup to my Windows 98 machine (which is often tied up by my kids doing homework or playing games).
Best of all, most of the software I use on this Linux computer is free and available for download on the Internet.
Linux Online is the best starting point for finding out about this free (at least in some formats) operating system.
As mentioned, I'm using Corel Linux, which is the most consumer-friendly version of Linux I've seen. It features the Windows 98-like KDE desktop, most common tasks can be handled through a windows-based wizard that allows you to avoid learning Unix, and the deluxe version comes with all the software you'll need to get started: WordPerfect 8, Netscape 4.5, GIMP, and a ton of simple games.
While you can download Linux for free, installing it that way can be a bit more complicated than many of us would like. Still, Corel's basic Linux retail package (which doesn't include the WordPerfect suite) is only $25, and the installation wizard makes putting it on your Windows machine a snap. Other versions of Linux are similarly priced, although they may not be quite as simple to install.
WordPerfect 8 isn't the current version of WordPerfect, but it's only one version out of date and is a pretty powerful word processor better, in my view, than Microsoft Word. Since it is slightly out of date, it can't read the latest Word file formats on the other hand, it's available as a free download from the above URL.
While not available as a download, this is Corel's flagship office suite, and includes not only WordPerfect 9 (which can read and save to Microsoft Word's latest file formats) but Quattro Pro (spreadsheet) and Presentations (like Microsoft's PowerPoint). For $99, you also get Corel Linux and Netscape Communicator 4.5 in the same box. It's a pretty complete package. For an extra $50, the Deluxe version of WordPerfect Office 2000 also includes Paradox, their relational database.
Netscape may have been pushed aside as the No. 1 browser in the world by the Microsoft juggernaut, but if you don't use Windows, then in many cases Netscape is your only choice (especially now that Sun has again suspended development of its slick little HotJava browser). Netscape remains free, and includes a whole suite of utilities: e-mail program, newsgroup reader, scheduler/planner, HTML editor.
Short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, GIMP is a PhotoShop-like graphics editing program for Linux that is available for a free download. Part of the GNU open source-code movement, GIMP is constantly being upgraded, updated and improved and always for free. Slick little program, too.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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