Once you get into the operating system, it's fairly Windows like. There's a red hat button in place of the Start button that functions like the Start button. There's "my home" folder on the desktop instead of "my documents." All in all, I'd say that if you go with the latest release of a Linux distribution, you should be pretty happy. You'll have Mozilla for your browser, you can use Mozilla or Evolution (both included in Redhat) for e-mail, and of course OpenOffice.org for an office suite. It also has GIMP for graphics editing.
The main issue is about switching is: Do you have specialized software needs? Investigate whether the software you need is available on Linux, and if you need to purchase Linux versions, check out the price.
If you can get all your software needs with the Linux installation or from various Linux software download sites, then the answer is absolutely, yes, you can have the best of both worlds by using Linux and not using Windows, and saving a lot of money.
If you want a little one-on-one advice before you commit, find your local Linux user group (LUG). They often have installathons where they help you install and get set up. They'll also probably help you if you just show up at a meeting. You might also want to check out books on switching from Windows to Linux, like Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye! by Marcel Gagne.
Editor's note: Check out Ready....Set....Linux! -- Chapter 2 of Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!
This was first published in February 2004