Many of us have toyed with the idea of dumping Windows and switching to Linux. After all, it's hard to knock the prospect of trading a lifetime of paying the "Windows tax" on every new PC for a reliable, mature, low-cost or even free desktop operating system -- especially at 3 a.m., the day before a big deadline, with a Blue Screen Of Death glowing on your monitor screen.
While the idea of switching to Linux sounds great, the reality is that most of us aren't going anywhere. Let's face it: If you have always used Windows, for better or for worse, the prospect of giving it up can be downright scary. For one thing, you've probably worked hard to get your PC just the way you like it: There are hundreds of ways to customize Windows, and you may not even remember some of them until they're no longer there.
You probably also feel warm and fuzzy about your favorite software -- or at least your boss feels warm and fuzzy about them, so they had better work when you need them. Perhaps most important, you're not about to toss out all of your documents, spreadsheets, email, and other content just for the sake of being an Open Source rebel.
But what if you could move to Linux and take your Windows settings, all of your documents, and even your saved email along for the ride? What if you could even continue to run Microsoft Office, as well as other popular Windows programs such as Quicken and all of the Adobe/Macromedia Studio applications, on your new Linux distro without so much as a hiccup?
In fact, it's possible now to accomplish all of these tasks, using two related applications: Versora's Progression Desktop, which retrieves a Windows user's custom settings and documents to a Linux system;and CodeWeavers' CrossOver Office, a software emulator that runs Windows applications on Linux systems. Both products are designed to give PC users already thinking about moving to Linux a little push -- or, in some cases, even a big push -- in the right direction. By ensuring that so many things look and behave just as they always did, they make the biggest change of all -- the fact that a completely different operating system is running under the hood -- a lot easier to handle.
Neither Progression Desktop nor CrossOver Office is perfect: Both come up short, in one way or another, when it comes to duplicating a user's Windows experience on a Linux system. Nevertheless, both applications are polished enough to serve as useful, effective desktop migration tools.