What is the best distro for my business manager?

marbux marbux at gmail.com
Fri Nov 23 21:25:08 UTC 2012

On Fri, Nov 23, 2012 at 11:39 AM, John J. Boyer
<john.boyer at abilitiessoft.com> wrote:
> I'm getting sick of dealing with Windows. My business manager is
> agreeable to a switch, using OpenOffice. What is the best Linux distro
> for someone who does mostly wordprocessing, online shopping, email and
> accounting?

As others have said, if you just want to run a particular set of apps,
it doesn't matter all that much which distro. But if you're wanting to
experiment with a lot of different software, I'd recommend Linux Mint
with the Mate desktop. Mint has its own package repositories plus all
of the Ubuntu repositories as well. (Mint is a derivative of Unbuntu,
which itself is derived from Debian.)

Ubuntu itself is kind of nuts these days, with major changes on the
desktop to make Ubuntu run on both desktops and mobile devices. It's
GUI is a profound departure from the Linuces you may have seen before.
Of course one advantage of almost all (all?) distros is that you can
test drive them without installing them using a live CD or DVD.

On the software types you mentioned, the accounting packages are where
you'd want to really look before you leap. Compared to the Windows
platform, there are a lot fewer packages to choose from, particularly
for full-blown accounting apps.  Some short reviews here.
Wikipedia also has a Linux Accounting Software category.

On word processors, if you're looking for a full-blown app, I'd
recommend LibreOffice Writer. LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice.org.
OOo itself is fairly far behind LibreOffice in features and quality.
It's a former Sun Microsystems product. Sun was acquired by Oracle,
which almost immediately dropped support for OOo. Eventually, IBM
maneuvered Oracle into donating the code base to the Apache Foundation
so that it could be licensed under the Apache License, which doesn't
require the downstream developers to contribute back their own

LibreOffice, on the other hand, is still licensed under LGPL v. 3,
which does require downstream developers to contribute their
enhancements and derivatives back to to the community. Net effect:
LibreOffice can include patches from OOo but not vice versa. There
were no new releases of OOo for a couple of years, although a release
was made only a few weeks ago. But as I said earlier, OOo is way
behind LibreOffice in features and quality. Notably, LibreOffice has
read/write support for Microsoft's Office XML formats while OOo at
least was import-only. (I haven't checked the new OOo release on that
score, but having survived working on the OpenDocument Formats
technical committee, I know that IBM is totally hostile to OOXML write
support. So I suspect that situation remains the same.

LibreOffice/OpenOffice aren't hard to transition to if you are coming
from MS Word. If you're coming from WordPerfect, LO/OOo will make you
puke. LO/OOo, like MS Office, are very rigid in terms of usability. If
you're doing complex documents, you'll encounter barriers all over the
place and will definitely take a huge productivity hit compared to
WordPerfect Office. (I'd love to see LO/OOo disappear from the face of
the Earth so it wouldn't suck up all the developer support for office
productivity software on Linux. Then maybe we could see a new word
processor arise that's a synthesis of the best of all that has come
before it and built for the future rather than being trapped in the
early 1990s.

If your word processing needs don't include complex documents, there
are other Linux word processors you might try.

For spreadsheet software tied to the desktop, there's the spreadsheet
component of LO/OOo and Gnumeric, which is also pretty powerful.
<http://projects.gnome.org/gnumeric/>. LO/OOo and Gnumeric are
available on both Linux and Windows, so you could begin the transition
before switching to Linux.

MS Office will run on Linux under CrossOver office.
<http://www.codeweavers.com/>. That's likely your best shot if you are
dependent on MS Office add-on programs, want to smooth the learning
curve, or both.

Another path to ease the transition is to beef up your RAM and run
Linux in a virtual machine as a guest on a Windows system. (Windows is
too resource hungry to do it the other way around, in my experience.)
I run my main work box that way, using Oracle's Virtual Box software.
<https://www.virtualbox.org/>. (The Oracle version has better system
integration than the FOSS version.)

With shared directory structures and a shared clipboard, you can have
both running concurrently and switch back and forth as you please. And
it allows you to make the transition one program at a time instead of
all at once, to keep productivity up during the transition. Switching
everything at once will cause a huge productivity hit because of the
learning curve. Of course once you have made the transition, you may
want to back up all your data and eliminate Windows with a clean
install of Linux.

Hope this helps,


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