April 7, 2003

GNU for Windows?

- Lee Schlesinger -
One of the first things many people think of when they hear "open source" is Linux. True, Linux is probably the most visible and most ambitious open source project, but there are thousands of open source applications out there, and some of them even run under -- gasp! -- Windows.

Take for instance GNUWin II from GNU Generation. It's a collection of more than 100 GNU applications that run under Windows.

While I'm waiting for a spare PC on which I'll install Linux to arrive from my new employer, I'm telecommuting using the Windows client in my home office. I'm using the GNUWin collection to help transition from one platform to the other. True, I'll have to set configurations and preferences for each machine, but that's a lot easier than having to shift mental gears when moving from OpenOffice on Linux to Microsoft Office under Windows, and back.

The collection includes a broad selection of programs that let you accomplish common and special-interest tasks. For instance, general users get the OpenOffice suite of word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing tools; the Mozilla browser and Sylpheed-Claws e-mail client and news reader; the Gimp GNU Image Manipulation Program, which is comparable to Adobe PhotoShop; and audio player and compression utilities. In addition, certain special-interest users get special tools. The disc includes several programs aimed at engineers, software developers, and gamers, for instance.

You can order a CD-ROM for a trivial amount of money, or better yet download an ISO image of the software and burn a disc yourself. I found it easiest to simply visit the page that catalogs the programs in the collection and download the handful I wanted one at a time. I started with OpenOffice, Mozilla, and Xchat, an IRC client. (The OSDN editorial staff uses IRC in a manner similar to the way some organizations use instant messaging.) All installed easily under Windows XP Professional and ran at least as well as their more popular Win-specific counterparts. That's not to say I like them all as well as the programs I'm more accustomed to -- Xchat, in particular, seems unlikely to satisfy me as much as mIRC. But that's less important to me now than the fact that a version of each program runs on both Windows and Linux.

I intend to use the best applications I can find on whichever desktop operating system suits me best. Most organizations don't have that luxury. For those organizations, the applications in GNUWin II can help ease the pain of making a transition from one platform to another.


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