If you've only ever used Windows, getting to grips with a Linux OS can be an intimidating thought. So we've put together an easy-to-use guide to help you get the most out of this OS.
If you've only ever used Windows before, then getting to grips with another operating system, such as Linux, can be an intimidating task. However, very little about Linux is actually difficult to use. It's simply a different OS, with its own approach to doing things.
Once you learn your way around a Linux desktop, you're likely to find that it's no more challenging to work with than Windows or Mac OS.
In this guide I'll focus on Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution today. But Ubuntu is just one of many different flavours of Linux. Literally hundreds of distributions are out there, appealing to a broad range of users - from teachers and programmers to musicians and hackers.
Ubuntu is the most popular distribution because it's easier to install and configure than most others; it even comes in a few different versions, including Edubuntu and Kubuntu. If you happen to be running a different distribution, such as Fedora or OpenSUSE, you'll likely find that much of this guide still pertains to you.
For further reading check out our 'A novices guide to Ubuntu Linux' feature.
See also: Ubuntu 8.04 'Hardy Heron' review
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Welcome to Ubuntu
It's little wonder why Ubuntu is one of the leading Linux distributions for desktop PCs; it makes installing Linux simple. But once you have Ubuntu installed on your PC, what next?
The short answer is: whatever you like. Ubuntu may be free, but it's hardly a toy OS. If you can do something with Windows or Mac OS X, you can do the same thing with Ubuntu.
Figuring out how to do what you want isn't always obvious, however, and Ubuntu has its own concepts and quirks that set it apart from other OS'. Experience is usually the best teacher, but if you need a gentle push in the right direction, this guide offers a novice's tour of the Linux desktop - so fire up your Ubuntu system and follow along!
Exploring the interface
One of the first things you'll notice about your new Ubuntu system is that you need to log in each time you boot, giving the user name and password you specified during installation. If you prefer - and you're not worried about other people accessing your PC when you're not around - you can configure the system to log you in automatically from the 'Security' tab of the 'Login Window' panel of the ‘Administration' menu.
Even if you do that, however, don't forget your password; unlike in Windows, you'll need to enter the password again whenever you install software or perform sensitive administration tasks. (That may seem annoying, but it's an important part of Linux's famously high security.)
NEXT PAGE: Getting to grips with Gnome