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Replacing Windows with Ubuntu

If your Ubuntu experiment has convinced you to make the switch to a completely FOSS system, you'll need to spend some time preparing. Most important is to ensure that the data files on your current Windows system can be used on your new Ubuntu system. And, in case you may want to pass your computer on to someone less forward-thinking one day, consider making a Windows recovery drive or set of disks before you begin the transition.

You don't have to convert all your data files before making the switch. Most FOSS applications can read the files of their commercial counterparts. Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files, for example, can be saved as they are and converted file-by-file as needed by LibreOffice Writer, Calc, and Impress. There are exceptions, such as Microsoft Access files, which will require an export/import operation for data tables and recreation of queries and forms.

Export/import Outlook data easily

Microsoft Outlook also requires export/import operations, either to Evolution Mail and Calendar or to Mozilla Thunderbird. Happily, this data transfer is much easier than that required for Access. Evolution does a better job of replacing Outlook feature-for-feature than does Thunderbird. Since Thunderbird is included in the Ubuntu distribution package, and Evolution is not, the latter might be your first additional FOSS installation.

Some applications on both sides save to open file formats, particularly media files. Check carefully, though, because a few applications, such as the Inkscape vector graphics editor, save to their own variation of an open file format with the same extension, in order to provide additional features. Saving to the more generic version may cause the loss of those features.

Once you're ready, you'll find that installing Ubuntu is similar to setting up Windows, and perhaps even easier. Unlike Windows, your Ubuntu installation includes fully functional versions of plenty of essential applications, not just limited-use versions. These include the Firefox Web browser, LibreOffice word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications, and many more. You'll be ready to perform many essential tasks without any additional installations.

Add more applications with Ubuntu Software

After your basic Ubuntu system is up and running, you can visit Ubuntu Software to begin adding new functionality. It's like going on a shopping spree without spending any money. You can complete your LibreOffice suite by adding Base, the database application. In addition to replacing Adobe Illustrator with Inkscape, you can replace Photoshop with GIMP for raster graphics, and replace InDesign with Scribus for desktop publishing to complete your graphics toolbox.

Ubuntu includes an assortment of media applications, including music and video players. You can consolidate your media access by installing VLC, the all-in-one media player. To take photos or movies with your Web cam, you can download Cheese.

No matter how many applications you install, they will all be cataloged by the Ubuntu Update Manager, which searches online repositories for updates and upgrades for all of them, as well as for Ubuntu itself. As these updates/upgrades become available, you're notified through a desktop icon. Click on it and the Update Manager window opens. Another click starts the installation of everything in one operation.

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