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Corel launches Linux into the mainstream

And it hasn't done a bad job of it

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Corel released its Linux distribution today. Aimed at the mainstream PC market, Corel Linux OS promises to recast what's widely perceived as a complex operating system for tech-heads as an easy-to-use system for the rest of us. And, it has to be said, the Canadian software company appears to have done a good job. Not that simplifying the Linux installation and set-up procedures is exactly rocket science. It's largely eliminating much of Linux installation flexibility in favour of creating a basic system the user can add stuff to and tailor to their own needs later. Corel has also added some features common to mainstream operating systems but missing from Linux. So, the GUI's (Corel Linux uses KDE) control panel sports on the fly monitor resolution and colour depth switching, a pane in which the user sets up his or her TCP/IP network information, and a printer selection pane. Corel has also stripped out most of the elements from KDE's applications menu and give it a more Windows-style feel, with Find... and Run... options, for example. KDE has been modified to detect and auto-mount CDs and floppies, and its been restyled visually to look more like the MacOS so the GUI's icons and graphics now look like they were designed by designers rather than programmers. A specially written file manager which includes Web browsing and FTP support, and a update manager that presents you not only with a list of available updates (from the Web or CD) but what you already have installed completes Corel's key extensions to the standard Debian kernel and KDE GUI. In fact, Corel Linux OS represents a good solution for more experienced users keen to take a look at the open source OS. Fortunately, all of these additions are open source, so should soon find their way into other distributions. Indeed, Corel's software is arguably more likely to appeal to those users than the mainstream market the company wants to approach. Providing a very easy to install system and applications to go with it (Corel Linux OS ships with WordPerfect Office, and the company is working on Linux versions of CorelDraw and QuattroPro) is all very well, but how do you persuade people who already have an OS, Windows, to switch over? Linux's advantages are clear to those who care about reliability and Microsoft's grip on the market, but it's questionable how many ordinary users do, and thus how many of them Corel can attract to Linux. Still, Corel has at least shown that Linux can be as professional a product as Windows, the MacOS, BeOS or any of the commercial Unix variants -- it doesn't have to have that slightly work-in-progress feel most of the other distributions, keen not to make assumptions about their users needs, inherently possess. Corel Linux OS ships in two versions: standard and deluxe. Standard retails for $49 and bundles WordPerfect Office Lite; Deluxe contains the full version of WordPerfect Office and printed manuals, and costs $79. UK, French and German versions are due February. ®

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