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Linux is free. However, Linux is more about freedom. Freedom of choice. Freedom and choice are good things, but they can be a little scary after the lack of choices, handholding, and the "user is stupid" attitude that you are use to in Windows. It is sometimes a little overwhelming. Instead of one or two possible desktops, Window's and the one your computer maker may have added, with Linux you have dozens of choices. There are 3 to 12 included with most Linux distributions, and dozens more scattered around. (This is one reason that I recommend Mandrake, they include all the most popular ones)  If you are coming from Windows, the best one, the most integrated, the one Window user will be most comfortable with, at least at first, is KDE.  Once you are comfortable with Linux, do try all the others.  If you do so before then, you will just be very confused.  Some like Gnome will be fairly familiar but less Windows like. Some, like Sawmill start up with a blank background, no taskbar, no Start button, no icons, nothing.  (Hint: you click the desktop with the middle mouse button to get a menu)  Start with KDE.

Below is the KDE "panel" which is at the bottom of the screen...
(This is from Mandrake 8.1, yours might be slightly different)

Here is a discription of the function of each of the buttons on the panel...
The K button is the same as the Windows Start button, it brings up a menu of the applications that are installed.  The next thing is the "Desktop". This will minimize all the applications on the screen and let you see the desktop. It is funny, as when I was on the Windows 95 beta we ask for this feature repeatedly and the Microsoft folks refused to listen. Not here. The next thing is the shell, a command windows to type things into. You won't use this much at first, but it is so easy and powerful in Linux you will eventually. The next item is the KDE Control Panel. You will use this a lot to set desktop backgrounds, colors, icons, fonts, panels, desktops schemes (skins), document associations, filemanager and browser properties, etc. The next item, the cute lifesaver thing, is KDE's unified help tool. Get help here. The next item is your "home". Since Linux is a true multi-user operating system, every user space is seperated from every other user space, and the concept of "home" is for your users space. The next is the Konqueror browser. The file manager and the browser are intergrated, and one is the same as the other, the default look and setup is simply different. In Linux, this, like everything else, is configurable and easily changed. Because Linux is about freedom, other browsers, like Mozilla, Netscape, Opera, etc are included. The next item is Kmail, KDE's native mailer. If you like Eudora under Windows this will be very comfortable for you, it is very similar. Again, other mailers are included. The next item is Kwrite, KDE's advanced text editor. Then comes the desktop switcher. X windows, and therefore Linux, has always allowed multiple desktops. This lets you easily switch from one desktop to the other. Again, this is very configurable, you can choose the number you want, how you switch from one to the other, if they are the same size as the screen (virtual desktops) etc.

Other than that, many things here will be familiar.  You can right click on the desktop to bring up a menu to make new folders, change display or desktop properties, and other such things.  Documents are hooked to applications, however, many docs are associated with more than one application.  There will be a default that is used if you click on a document, plus, often, a list of other applications that can be used to open the document if you right click on the document icon.  If you don't like any of the choices there is also an "open with" option to let you choose the application that you want to open the document with.

That is it for now.  If you are coming from Windows and trying Linux, and bump your head on something new or confusing, write me so I can keep adding to these pages to make it easier for those who come after us.

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