Linux and Windows. It’s like comparing Apples and Oranges. Software can be compared, but how do you do so fairly and honestly? And what sort of presumptions should I make concerning where the reader of this article stands? I presume you are among the “rare” Linux users.
Not easy at all. Let’s start of with where I come from. I use Linux because I really prefer the stability and security of the platform. My system’s performance is better.. Hands down Linux is much better than any flavor of Windows in those three categories. But then there’s the software issue.
I’m going to compare software simply on a “Does it do the job?” and is there a Linux equivalent, or how close to equivalent they are.
Some software, the Open Source Software, is almost identical between platforms (Linux, Windows or Macintosh) because it is identical. Comes from the same source code and the process of “porting” it achieves very similar outcomes. I’ll call that a Clone
As an example of a Clone – Mozillas’ FireFox web browser. Between the various platforms (Linux, Windows or Macintosh) there’s a high degree of compatibility. Bookmarks exchange between platforms, most plug ins are available for all platforms, and the applications’ GUI is very consistently the same everywhere. Know one, know them all.
Compatible is what I’ll call the next category. These are Linux Applications that aim at compatibility with some standard. In the Office Suite arena the standard is Microsoft Office. Sorry, facts are facts here. But with the high level of compatibility OpenOffice and the new LibreOffice has with the standard I have no need nor desire to use Microsoft Office.
My experience with OpenOffice has been excellent. There are a few incompatibilities but no real show-stoppers. Most of the time I have no problems creating MS Office documents that work just as well in MS Office as on my LibreOffice Linux PC.
The next to the last category I’ll call Similar. These are the programs you can use to achieve your outcomes, but with limitations. For my example I’ll briefly compare The Adobe Photoshop with The Gimp (Windows vs Linux)
The GIMP is a fine program, don’t get me wrong here. The GIMP also can load and edit Photoshop image files (PSD), but they are not equals. I’ve used both and although they are both very capable power user Image Editors, one is definitely “more equal than the other”. Both are good, just one is inarguably better. Photoshop has been around for almost a quarter of a century while The GIMP just turned sweet 16
The last category of Linux software is what I’ll call Superior. These are the applications where the Linux software simply is the best.
For my example I’ll use the desktop web server application. You want to serve a website from your desktop or laptop there is software in both Windows and Linux to do so. In Windows it’s the IIS software. My personal experience with IIS is a bit dated – running on NT4 in 1998. I found IIS to be usable. Wasn’t very hard to install and configure. Did what I asked it to.
Fast forward to 2005 when I was using an old AMD-powered IBM desktop PC as a RedHat 9 powered web server on my 3-PC wired Ethernet home network. The old IBM desktop didn’t really have sufficient power to run a GUI so I ran it from the command line. From there I was able to use Apache to serve my personal website in-house on my personal network to test it before taking it live on the Internet. Apache’s performance on that old door stop of a computer was fast and very stable.
Apache is far superior to Microsoft IIS. Not just my opinion. The vast majority of web servers are running Apache. And Linux or Unix.
In summary I’ve tried to come up with a way of categorizing software and comparing Windows vs Linux applications. They were:
- Clone – a piece of software that comes from the same source code and is close to identical.
- Compatible – Software that is intentionally made to be as compatible with a Windows side software as possible.
- Similar – programs that performs the same function as a Windows program.
- Superior – This is a Linux program that out guns all competition.
And here are some of the packages I use and how I rate them:
- OpenOffice/LibreOffice – Compatible but better stability
- The Gimp – Similar Everything I need for what I do, moderate pro stuff
- FireFox, Opera, Chromium – Clone Look/Feel same everywhere
- gEdit, Apache, Kstars – Superior (gEdit 4 Windows lacks spell checking)
There is one group of programs I haven’t mentioned yet. The First-class, those programs you use that really are excellent but not really better or inferior than something in the Windows Universe. As an example a networking utility program like an FTP client. On my desktop I used to use gFTP to move files to and from websites. Then when I upgraded my laptop to the latest Ubuntu gFTP wasn’t available, so I switched on both my laptop and desktop to a different FTP client: bareFTP. Just as good, the tasks gets done efficiently and they are all pretty much equal. What you pick is more a personal preference that a choice of better or worse quality.
Hopefully this hasn’t muddied the waters. It’s helped me personally trying to define the world of Linux software. With the Windows world it’s easy, you get to measure features vs price. In the Linux world it’s a bit more difficult as most software is free.