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Some IT shops tired of dealing with constant patching, complex Microsoft licensing and keeping up with operating system versions are turning to alternative OS and productivity suite options. Open source desktops are still a niche in the enterprise, but administrators may want to check them out, since they may have to support them in heterogeneous environments.
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Consider an alternative OS
Now that official Microsoft support for Windows XP has ended -- and Windows 7 isn't that far behind -- one columnist makes a case for moving to an open source OS. Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 may not disappear anytime soon, but admins will have to weigh Microsoft's popularity against the community of support for free OSes.
Sure, troubleshooting Mac or other desktop OSes can be intimidating to admins accustomed to Windows, but Android PCs offer affordability and a mobile focus. It's best to know your organization's device inventory and use requirements before moving between any operating systems.
Microsoft has maintained its dominance in the productivity suite market with Office 2013 and Office 365, so competition is paying off. Other app suites, such as LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice, have steadily gained capabilities.
Like Office, Internet Explorer is everywhere, but other Web browsers have much to offer. And if you're looking to take advantage of the wealth of open source programs out there, package managers can make Linux app installation easy.
In addition to the OS and office productivity suites, graphics-editing programs are usually costly and aimed at power users. The GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP, is a full-featured alternative to Adobe Photoshop.
The graphics editor is fast, and like many open source products, GIMP benefits from a lot of user support.
Another example of the utility of open source is the Nightingale media player. Since the Songbird music player was discontinued last year, Windows 8 users can turn to Nightingale, which works across platforms.
Even in IT shops where Microsoft continues to dominate the desktop, admins should be aware of the possibilities that an alternative OS, productivity suite or another open source program can save on support costs.
Consider these five mobile alternatives to Microsoft Office
Look at alternate routes on the migration path from Windows XP to Windows 8.1
Build bootable Windows flash drives with the open source Rufus USB tool