The Linux Desktop: We've Arrived.
Linux Desktop articles are all over the place. I can hardly open up a browser without tripping over one. Most of them are negative whine-fests, complaining that Linux is too hard for new users, or has become too dumbed-down for technical users, or the fonts are ugly, or the next generation desktop environments are too different, or... well I could go on, but I think you get the point. So today, I feel like whining about the whiners. Give em' some of their own medicine, and bring something a bit different to the table: A positive viewpoint on the state of the Linux Desktop. Don't look so shocked, just keep reading.
We have what we need folks! The Linux Desktop has arrived. The solid foundation of GNU's tools and the Linux kernel; topped with many desktop environment choices and all the wonderful Linux desktop applications has got us there. Due to the hard work of the entire Linux developer community there is now a viable, open, free, full desktop computing alternative for those who seek it out. There are user friendly distributions out there for non-techies, and highly technical ones for those who prefer to build a custom desktop experience. Available in your favorite distribution's repositories are three modern and beautiful desktop environments to choose from. Ubuntu's Unity is becoming more polished and user friendly. KDE is mature and highly configurable. And Gnome 3 takes the minimal, "get out of my way so I can get stuff done" desktop philosophy to new heights. For those that prefer more classic desktop experiences there is the fast, stable, fully featured xfce4; and the super-fast lxde desktop. For the nerdiest of the nerds there are multitudes of fully configurable window managers out there; from tiling powerhouses like Xmonad, to flexible floating window managers like Openbox. Linux users have never had more choice and quality available for their desktops.
Desktop applications on Linux have also matured greatly in past few years. No matter what your task is, Linux truly has an application for it. In many cases I find that I can get what I need to do done faster on Linux than the other two popular desktop platforms. For text editing, scripting, light programming, and writing I use Geany; my favorite text editor. For music management I use Quodlibet. For editing and sending documents to those other two platforms, Libreoffice does the trick. The latest versions of Thunderbird and Firefox handle email and browsing duties flawlessly. And for the curious, I use two different laptops, my work lappy runs Arch Linux and Gnome 3, and my personal lappy runs Arch and Xmonad.
Is the desktop experience on Linux perfect? I reply to this question with a question, Perfect for whom? Apple's OSX is perfect for folks who can conform to that restricted environment. Windows 7 can be perfect for some folks, that is until their computer falls prey to malware or a virus. The flexibility, configurability, and numerous distributions and desktop environments on Linux give you the greatest chance to find or create the perfect desktop for you. Some call it fragmentation, but I call it choice. As a multi-community driven open-platform, Linux is a different beast than the closed platforms offered by Apple and Microsoft. Different in the best ways possible: user focused, community contributions encouraged and essential, and the only price of admission is a bit your time. So why all the whining about the state of the Linux desktop? I'm smitten with what our community has achieved, and I'm ecstatic about the future.
Kevin Bush is a Linux systems admin, dad and book-lover who spends far too
much time tinkering with gadgetry.