I am a long time windows user and i cannot stand the direction windows is taking. I loved Windows XP but my computer has been moving slower and slower lately. I think id like to see what linux has to offer but im not sure where to start. Id like to figure out which version is closest to Xp. Any help would be appreciated
When you say close to XP, do you mean functions like XP or looks like XP? Remember, Linux is an entirely different animal with its good and bad parts. The question you should ask, "what linux OS allows me to get work done that I usually do on XP?". Then do research on the types of distros and programs that are within your requirements.
If your XP system is running slow, then you may need to look at what is causing the slow-down. Either you need more memory, stop some running processes, scan for viruses and malware etc. Moving to another OS should be your last resort. You may need to upgrade the hard drive or the CPU of your current system.
If you want to try out some Linux systems and test them against your needs, start out with Ubuntu/Debian based systems. These will let you drive through Linux with a small learning curve. Don't overlook RedHat based OSes like CentOS and Fedora. Fedora is the user desktop version of the famous RedHat OS which is also said to be easy for new comers to Linux.
Try Ubuntu/Debian based systems first. If you don't find what you need, then move on to others. Make sure that you try the LiveCD versions of the systems first.
Have a look at this site and test the first top five that you see on the "Page Hit list" category.
Site of Linux Operaating Systems