July 21, 2007

Why I’m going back to Windows

I’ve been using linux for more than half a year as the main operating system on my computer. I’ve tried to do almost everything in linux. That includes word processing, working with spreadsheets, compiling presentations, watching movies, listening to music, you name it. I should admit that this experience hasn’t been an easy one. You are when aware of the fact that starting using a new operating system such as linux has a very steep learning curve. You need to learn a lot of new things and habits, and let’s face it, use command line.

Despite all the efforts and difficulties it’s been a pleasant experience. The user interface has been particularity excellent and eye catching.

However the matter of fact is that using office applications comprises more than 70% of our work with computers. I regret to say that in this very serious and important area office alternatives in linux are lagging behind. The most famous one is open office and I have to say that was the worst one. You may ask what’s wrong with them. The first problem, and maybe the most important one, is compatibility issues. It happened times and times that I compiled a file in a word processor and linux and checked it in Microsoft word and they looked different. It was also commonplace to open files created with Microsoft word in linux and see different formatting.

Many people argue that it’s not correct to consider Microsoft office as the standard and try to make other applications like it. Unfortunately they forget this very obvious fact that more than 90% of users are using Microsoft office. Before going any further I should say that’s for basic data day activities that formatting and compact ability is not that important, Microsoft office alternatives in linux are good enough. But, and this is a big one, when the situation is more serious you encounter more incompatibilities and that can be disastrous.

The other thing that some linux fans forget is that we are not supposed to spend our time with computers. We spend our time with computers to get our jobs done. And for that purpose Microsoft office has proved to be practical enough.

We all know that Microsoft windows is neither a good operating systems nor it offers the best user interface and experience. For that reason if I am to choose another operating system that would be OS X. The point I’m trying to make is that linux has come a long way to become a more user friendly up rating system. In its current condition it is a huge step forward from what it used to be five years ago. But it’s not a mature operating system for desktops yet.

I know that many linux users do not share this view with me. I’ve been trying to share and what of the learned and what I have experienced in linux with you. But Now I’m going back to windows. It doesn’t mean that I will never come back to linux again. I am well aware that I will miss it a lot. So don’t be surprised if you see me writing here again about linux. Until then goodbye!


Alex said...

It sucks that you are leaving linux completely.

Have you ever tried running office/word with wine or ran office in a virtual machine inside linux?

"Knows how" said...

Yes! I have tried them. For my hardware, they are painfully slow.

marb said...

It is sad you have to leave linux because of office apps.
But we shouldn't forget that problem exist because of MS. They didn't want to give DOC specification to public view, and why they don't implement ODT format in MS Office? It is open, it's document standard in Europe... but it would be a nail to the Microsoft coffin.

"Knows how" said...

I am totally with you on this point.

James said...

This is not a problem with Linux at all; the problem is what you require. No matter what OS you use, you will have to use Microsoft Office if you want your documents to work identically in Microsoft Office.

"Knows how" said...

Good point! Apart from Office issue, Linux is an amazing operating system.

Nima said...

Yes that's right. But even if you take one word document from one pc to another, it may change in the air and has different looking in that pc!!! And that's the fact that almost no one uses MS word in (computer - ee departments) because you must use LATEX and pdfs!!!

Anonymous said...

What version of MS office though? I've had plenty of problems with documents created in one version of MS office and then viewing them in another.

I wouldn't say that my word processing needs are major, and I don't like Open Office but Abiword works for me.

Before Abiword reached a good level I used to run MS office under wine (and then crossover). It ran faster under wine that in windows weirdly (on the same hardware, a Pentium-M 600Mhz with 512M RAM).

I work with spreadsheets a lot and I find Gnumeric much better than Excel. It's a much better piece of software and switching back to Excel occasionally is a painful experience.

I think the Linux office software is less integrated but far superior to the windows experience but then I just use a word processor and a spreadsheet and I've never used MS publisher.

There is no way I could go back to Windows (even XP, Vista is worse), so my prayers are with you. It's simply such a hard user interface to use and saps so much time just in getting the interface to do roughly what you want. If you add the virus, firewalling, malware, need to download stuff from dodgy sites or shell out cash for anything, for me it's a no brainer.

I don't see why the command line is needed on Linux these days to use the OS. I think it's only when you get under the hood (as you've done in previous posts and in a way you can't in Windows) that you need the command line these days. So I guess that is about whether you are happy with where Ubuntu (or whatever) is at the moment or whether you're looking for that next big thing and can't wait 6 months.

ed said...

dual boot!

Anonymous said...

Have you tried google docs and spreadsheets?

I understand your frustration, but you could use MS Office with Crossover.

I hope your are back, becuase I loved your articles.

Also you could try to get yourself a Mac.

Chris said...

use a virtual machine, i use virtual box office 2003 runs great

Willie said...

I have.... for several years now, been performing the "Linux Test". That is, every year, I take a week and run Linux exclusively on my home or office workstation. I do this partly to see how Desktop Linux has evolved and partly to see if things have come far enough along that I could really leave MS behind for good. That said, I'm not an MS hater, I just dislike the increasingly bloated and expensive turn the Windows OS has taken in recent iterations.

Thus far, every year, there has been some serious flaw... some crucial thing that prevents Linux from being capable of replacing Windows. But for the first time, this year, that was different. For the first time, I finally feel that Linux has come far enough along that (depending on needs and distro) the average joe can use Linux as the sole OS. However, I have once more moved back to the Windows world.

Why? It's a very simple mathimatical issue. 1 is simpler than 2 or 3. That is, Linux is perfect for the vast majority of my daily computing tasks. In that capacity, installing 1 OS is sufficient. However, there are still a small handful of apps/services that are Windows-dependent that I require. sadly many of these do not function under WINE. As such, I have to revert to Virtual Machines. While I'm not stranger to VMs, having spearheaded my company's move towards VMs for disaster recover and backup, this is still a long and tedious step. Administering 2 systems/OSs is less simple than 1.

Finally, there's the wonderful world of gaming. While not a dedicated gamer per se, the PC has always been my gaming platform of choice. Likewise, my young daughter enjoys playing various youth games (Reader Rabbit, etc) on my GameTap account, and running games under Linux is an even more daunting task.

While I must confess I'm quite impressed with the progress that Cedega has made in allowing windows games to run under Linux, there's simply too many thigns that work poorly if at all to make it a viable alternative. This means that to game, I need a dual-boot windows installation. This means downtime between reboots and wastes space. Also, 3 is less simple than 2 or 1.

Having spoken on this matter with others, it's been suggested that I use multiple machines for each task. This is absurd. I simply cannot afford to have multiple high-end machines, and find the prospect tossing anything less than my most powerful machine at any software game or application alike.

So in the end, I can run 3 Operating Systems to perform a set of tasks, or 1 to perform the same tasks. My Keep It Simple Stupid philosophy precludes me from going with the former.

In closing, I sympathize with your plight, and likewise will no doubt return to Linux again soon. Thanks for the interesting and informative articles.

"Knows how" said...

Dear Willie,

I can hardly add anything to what you wisely said.

Thank you for your very accurate and logical comment.

George said...

i'm a linux-only user and have been for several years but i'm not going to lie, openoffice is horrendous... it's slow and it's ugly. office xp in vmware actually runs faster on my computer than openoffice running "natively" under linux. pathetic.

fortunately i don't use any of the "power" features of word or excel so other options will work for me (abiword and gnumeric). but i can totally understand why someone who uses office 70% of the time wouldn't find openoffice satisfactory.

until someone comes up with a decent office alternative (openoffice isn't decent and throwing our hopes behind it is dumb) linux will never find widespread acceptance on the desktop.

ikkefc3 said...

Have you set the OpenOffice.org memory options higher than standard?
That speeds up Openoffice.org.
Openoffice.org uses standard 19mb of ram, Office 2003 uses 70mb of ram.

Anonymous said...

Crossover Office?

khushnood said...

It is sad you have to leave linux because of office apps.
But we shouldn't

raycosm said...

(Is a student, doesn't need standard office apps)

Just started using Kubuntu 7.04 a week ago and it's like a second language. Learning curve for me was "Ok, so Konqueror is a web browser, well I ain't usin it, where's Adept, I'm installing Firefox" Aside from that, hardware incompatabilities required about two minutes of Googling and ten minutes of copy and paste. Maybe it is easier to learn, or maybe I'm just a geek.

Can't say anything about office apps as I don't need them (yet), but for me the only reason I would need to go into Windows is to play those (sub-par) Korean MMOs that rarely work outside of Windows.

Anonymous said...

oh why oh why..
most of my friends were hanging out in skype using wcam with audio. how long will it takes to wait for video support in skype? lots of my friends are from yahoo and msn, too bad no messenger clients supports msnp13. i cant play most of asian mmorpg under wine/cedega. huhuhu
but oh yeah linux is only an alternative but not a complete desktop.

Anonymous said...

I share and accept your explanations and nobody can understand you better than I because I am new to Linux (three months experience!!!)
However I believe in this wonderful operating system and because I am having the same problem, I found a solution for the time being: two partitions in my hard disk and if I need Windows I can always use it.
In the first beginning I was booting and rebooting every hour. Now I need Windows once a day. I am sure that very soon my Windows partition will be entirely deleted because a lot of people now are paying attention to Linux like never before and this thanks to Linux developers who give us the opportunity to choose and get rid of market impositions. I have predicted that very soon what I always dreamed to appear when you buy a computer and power on for the first time will be a reality: What operating system do you wish to install?
Good luck
Battlestar Galactica

Gibbiceps said...

This is a Windows world, and you would run into the same compatibility issues on Mac OS X even with Microsoft Office:Mac 2004. Besides the name, Office for Mac is a different product than Office for Windows, and the two are not fully compatible to each other.

The discussions about whose fault this is and that Microsoft file formats are not open or standardized are basically academic and at best serve a purpose only on the long run, when corporations and governments decide to go away from those closed formats.

If you want to do business, you have to speak the same language as your business partners. And if you are working on a team, you have to use the same set of tools. Most of the time, these tools come from Microsoft. It is as simple as that.

So, I fully understand your choice of going back to Microsoft. I switched to Mac OS X three years ago, and I am now in a similar boat. I won't/can't give up on OS X completely, because my investment was too high. But I will most certainly add a real Windows PC to my arsenal. Dual booting and virtualization just don't cut it for me.

This world isn't black or white. Usually, it's rather something in between: Gray. ;-)

"Knows how" said...

Dear Gibbiceps,

Thank you for the comment. After posting this article, I had to buy a new computer and for the same reasons, I opted for a Vista machine. To be honest, I am almost happy I made this choice. Well, to be honest, my new hardware is a monster and it is no surprise that Vista runs fast and nice on it. But who cares? The money I have paid for it is not more expensive than a mid-range Mac and I still can use most of my software.

tom wright said...

might be worth trying andLinux, you can seamlessly integrate both operating systems (sably windows is the base opperating system so you won't get the speed of linux)

for me the only program in microsoft office that can compete with open office is powerpoint (i am really looking for some good linux presentation software as even powerpoint 2007 is a bit limited)

Benny said...

I have used Linux Mint for 8 months solid now. While I can browse the net, download emails, and listen to multi media, I have found there is lots of great software that I am missing out on. I've proved to myself that Linux is very easy to use and survive on, but the lack of software choices does hurt a bit. I'mnot into dual boot setups, though I have done them. I will be returning to XP as I think its a great OS.

Anonymous said...

I see this is an old topic but still contemporary. I will say that it is a wise idea to be elastic and be able to benefit from advantages of any OS. Why limit yourself.