This is based on Katherine Noyes article called “Switching to Desktop Linux? 6 Ways to Ease the Migration” located here.
Ms. Noyes does an excellent job of explaining how to ease the transition, if you’re in a corporate environment. But, what if the “users” are your family, or friends? How can you ease that transition? Most of the steps are similar (and you can probably use her article as the guide). I’ll try to put the steps in terms of home users though. (And probably in the future, I’ll be attempting this with my 75 year-old mother).
Here are the Steps:
1. Determine what the user’s needs are. If your end user is a gamer, then you probably won’t be successful in switching them (or at least all of their computers) to Linux. While there are improvements in the gaming front on Linux, it still has a long ways to go.
However, if your end-user mainly surfs the Internet, and checks their email (or basic finances), your switch will be a lot easier. They can surf with virtually any operating system. But, they will have to accept the change.
2. Choose the right distribution. Like Ms. Noyes article, this is an important step. Unless you will be available to help the end-user on a near-constant basis, you need to find a distribution that will be easy to use, easy to learn, and as similar to Windows as possible.
Ubuntu and Kubuntu are probably the most common choices, however Fedora or Linux Mint (which is based on Ubuntu) would possibly work too. The most important thing is to set it up to do most of the administration stuff in the background (updates and things like that). You could probably create (or download) a script that will perform all needed updates whenever an Internet connection is detected, and set it as a cronjob.
3. Choose the right desktop. In the case of home users, the choice isn’t so much which one to use (based on their experience), as it is to configure the desktop for them. Set up their commonly used icons (Internet, email, games, financing, etc) as shortcuts on the desktop. You could even go so far as to rename them to “Internet, Email, etc) to help out.
In Ms. Noyes’ related article (located here), she describes KDE as more complicated. I would have to say that it’s a YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) situation. When I first started using Linux, I found KDE to be easier to adjust to. Mainly this was due to the fact that it’s so similar to Windows. Currently, I use GNOME, but still think KDE would be easier.
I would avoid the XFCE and other alternative desktops–especially if the end-user isn’t very computer savvy. This is because the extreme differences in some of them may turn the end-user off.
In Part 2, I will continue discussing the ways to make the transition to Linux easier.
Have a great day:)