Myth - You have to be comfortable on the command line to use Linux

We have all heard this one in one form or another. You have to use the console to use Linux. Linux is for command line junkies, etc.

While this used to be the case not so long ago, this simply is not the case anymore. Ok, semantically the last form is still true but we will come back to that. Today Linux is better on the desktop than Windows as far as the Desktop is concerned. You can do more in Linux with the Desktop than you can in Windows and it is more intuitive to boot.

This may not be true for all Linux Desktops, in Linux you have your choice of Desktops Managers with Gnome and KDE being the most popular. I find KDE to be more feature rich, intuitive and pleasing to use than Windows so I will make my argument with KDE, but there are a lot of Linux users that could make the same argument for Gnome or XFce or Enlightenment. For a list of Linux Window Managers and Desktops goto:

Until Recently after installing Linux you had to configure a lot of stuff from the command line, but not anymore. Today most distros install and configure all of your hardware without a hitch.

What really gets me about this myth is that there is so much you can not do in Windows without hacking the registry. Pick up any PC magazine and it will be full of Windows registry hacks. Sometimes they even devote full issues to this topic, yet the same issue will say you have to know the command line to use Linux. Please!!!

Lets say you want to add a folder to your file open dialog in Windows. You can do it, but you have to hack the registry.
In KDE, you simply drag the folder you want to the list and bingo, or you can right click an empty space and select add entry. Right click on an item and select delete to remove it - Intuitive enough?
In KDE you can right click on any menu item in the program menu (start menu) and edit it or add items to the menu. Add items to a menu by working with the menu, that seems pretty intuitive.
In Windows you add items to hidden folders to edit the program menu.
In Windows if you want to change which programs automatically run when windows loads you have to run msconfig from the run menu or from the command line, and then you can check or uncheck the programs or services you want.
In KDE, you goto System Settings > Advanced > Service Manager. So here is a case where you have to use the command line in Windows but not in Linux.

I can give a lot more exmples, but the point here is that in Windows you can't do that much with the GUI. Without a third party tool like tweakui or other addons, you have to edit the registry to configure your system.
In KDE you can do most of this stuff with the GUI out of the box. Personally I would much prefer edit a config file than my Windows registry. Linux config files are humanly readable, and usually include help and recommendations in the comments but you don't have to do that anymore because you can do everything via the Desktop.

The reason that you often see linux users in a command line environment is because the Linux shell is very powerfull.
There are very powerful tools like grep, cvs, svn, diff, patch, vi, emacs, slocate, ssh, rsynch, scp, tar, gzip that are much more efficient on the command line than they are in a gui.
GUI interfaces exist for all of these things, but they are more clumbsy and slower to work with. In Windows unless you install CygWin the command line isn't nearly as powerful.
Here is a quick eaxmple. If I want to install a program in Linux I can:
A. Use a GUI tool like synaptic

  1. Click on the program icon
  2. wait for it to load
  3. click on search
  4. find the program in the list
  5. right click on it and mark it to install
  6. click apply on the toolbar to install the program

or B. From the command line

  1. type: sudo apt-get install program-name

That is much quicker and if you do not know the name of the program you want there is one extra step to search for it. Still both options are better than...
C. Windows Install

  1. Drive to the store
  2. purchase the program
  3. load the disk
  4. type in your registration number
  5. click register later when promted to register
  6. click install
  7. blindly accept the license agreement
  8. uncheck view readme and check run program now from the install finished screen (add icon to desktop is usually there too)
  9. click yes to check for and download new updates.
  10. wait for the program to load

What a pain, and you actually have to pay money for that experience. I will save the open source vs closed source arguments for another article though. Back to the main argument that Linux is a more user friendly desktop experience than windows.

Have you ever tried to delete a whole bunch of files in windows? To the point where the hour glass just spins and spins and then goes away? Did you give up or select less files and try again? Windows can't handle that many files in the GUI. I am not sure if this is a hardware thing like memory or not, but I do know that KDE handles the same tasks no problem because that is how I fix it.

In KDE I can create keyboard shortcuts for anything, change my keyboard layout to Devorak, set my Icons to be a miniature version of the contents and much more from the gui.
The built in file explorer / browser for KDE is named konqueror and it is leaps and bounds ahead of IE in both functionality and usability. I could write several articles on why Konqueror blows the doors off IE in fact here is one such article. konqueror is one of the biggest reasons I stopped using Windows.

So let it be know that you do not have to use the command line to use Linux, but the command is highly recommended especially for command line junkies.