Nov 242011

Frank Harris-Smith

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:

  1. Clone – a piece of software that comes from the same source code and is close to identical.
  2. Compatible – Software that is intentionally made to be as compatible with a Windows side software as possible.
  3. Similar – programs that performs the same function as a Windows program.
  4. 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)
Note by the Editor:
I like Frank category and i want to add to that list some of the software i use every day.
  • recordMyDesktop – Similar to fraps
  • Turpial – Similar to Tweetdesk
  • Thunderbird/Filezilla – Clone Look/Feel same everywhere
  • Remote connection with a Terminal(any)+ssh – Superior (putty, really ???)
  • Pidgin. shutter – Superior

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.

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  6 Responses to “Windows vs Linux Software”

  1. interesting. i think there is a logical error in your reasoning.

    1. you broke your comparison of categories into categories (clone compatible similar and superior) … reasonable
    2. for clone, you listed mozilla … reasonable, it runs nearly identically functionality on both platforms.
    3. for superior you chose apache over iis … logical flaw here. this should be listed as a clone. apache runs on both platforms with nearly identical functionality.

  2. Pretty flawed categorization, which your own post shows. Apache runs on Windows as well – so it’s a clone. So does GIMP, so it’s a clone. So does OpenOffice, so it’s a clone. You assume (I think) that a clone was ported FROM Windows TO Linux, but there is no way to know that for most purposes. You could just as easily classify Firefox as similar, because you have IE9 for Windows to do that. Back to the drawing table, pal.

  3. An excellent, common sense and clear approach to comparing GNU/Linux with Microsoft Windows.My experiences with GNU/Linux and with Windows over the past fifteen plus years, both personal and professional parallel your findings and general opinion. The only other category not mentioned is that of games – which is unique. That topic is becoming mute however with the transition of games titles to the Apple iOS and on-line media delivery.

    I predict that the majority of all the comments you will get from Windows supporters will center on three non-applicable, ideological bases:

    1/ Windows is more popular and therefore the better quality OS (quantity=quality?) .
    2/ GNU/Linux requires expertise with “Command Line” use and is therefore too geeky, hard to use and not suitable for most PC users.
    3/ There are thousands of software applications for Windows, not existent on GNU/Linux.
    The fact about this last claim is that only a very small quantity of Windows only applications are used frequently by most all Windows users, with the remainder of these apps being totally unknown to the same Windows supporters making non-sensical claims.

    I have installed and configured GNU/Linux (very, very easy) on many computers in last six to eight years on computers of senior citizens [65 to 88 years of age] who have absolutely no good knowledge or understanding of technology. In every case they were one hundred percent productive in performing all the functions they needed or desired – Internet/Web surfing, E-Mail, Typing letters, transferring photos to computers and sending them out to others, getting Music from iTunes/etc, playing games and even recording Karaoke.

    How great is that!

    For web/other development, requiring good multi-threading, powerful database and programming tools, GNU/Linux also wins hands-down. Note: Microsoft is frantically attempting to catch up by subsidizing
    PHP, Python, Java, Ajax and RubyonRails development to try getting these technologies on same level as that already existing for UNIX/Linux.

    W. Anderson
    [email protected]

  4. Sorry Frank, but this is not fair and accurate. I use Linux for about ten years now and not going to switch. Still I feel there are many commercial applications (mostly Windows only) with superior capabilities to what is available OSS. Also there are quite few commercial applications available on Linux at the moment. I think this is mostly because of lack of interest in Linux among SW companies.

    Anyways no one can doubt the OSS people made a good job in providing options in many areas. These apps maybe do not have all the bells and whistles, but they work for 95% users quite well.

    • @Pedro
      For me it is the reverse: I have to work with Windows for my work and I find myself installing all the FOSS applications I’m used to like Graphviz (who needs Visio), LyX (who needs Word), Dia (again, who needs Visio), Latex2RTF, ReadPST (to get rid of these pesky .PST files), KJots, my own compiler, MSYS, MinGW, etc.

      The only thing I miss is a good Access equivalent – I went through several unstable Java tools, but it’s just not the same. I really miss KNoda, which was the only thing that came close.

      The point is, these tools offer me superior productivity. MS-Office doesn’t even come close.

  5. Always the same software gets tested over and over again. Than a personal opinion is made ware it the opinion from us all. It would be better to take more unknown software that some of us use and try to get an Linux equivalent. Than we would see there is not that much software specific for businesses outside the USA.

    Try this one for sending a simple invoice for example: Simplefact

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