A layman’s guide for laymen; experienced Linux Geeks please give this a wide berth, it is not for you!
I have compiled this because these are the things needed by newcomers and it can take very long to find a practical solution. This could save newbies time & effort!
Linux really is easier to use than some Windows versions. Distro’s like Zorin and Linux Mint already include much of what the business user may need, such as Thunderbird mail, LibreOffice, Apache OpenOffice, etc. Another office suite that works well is Kingsoft Office for Linux.
Email: If you are using a Google account and an Android phone, you can sync email, calendar & contacts with add-ins for Thunderbird, also tasks. Thunderbird as a good mail client supporting POP and IMAP. The Android alternative with enhanced functionality is MailDroid
Calendar: Your Google calendar opens in a tab in Thunderbird and it can be made accessible off-line as well. In Android, BusinessCalendar works better and it is free. You may also like Calltrack for Android.
Notes: I have been using ThunderKeep which is an add-in for Thunderbird although you can sync that through a browser app as well. Of course, there is Keep in Android!
Outlook Alternative: Want a more Outlook-alike PIM organizer? Then also include Evolution, which shines in IMAP connectivity for emails. It has a built-in calendar, contacts, notes & tasks. Once again, Google sync is well supported but yet more sync options are catered for by the excellent Syncevolution by Patrick Ohly. It adds various synchronizer options, even Funambol’s OneMediahub and even supports local sync for some mobile phones. This PIM suite has served me well and currently this is what I am using. Accounting-wise, there is Grisbi or GNUcash that will address most or all of your bookkeeping requirements.
Local sync is possible and you will need a very basic computer to set up as a server to run ownCloud. With this tool, you can sync PIM organizer data, documents, audio, video, etc., between your computer/laptop, tablet and phone without needing to take data off your premises or using the internet. Your own private wireless network will do just fine. There are other solutions but the set-up above is aimed at former Windows XP users who need a new home, or others wanting to board the Linux train, but get lost amidst the myriad distro’s, strange jargon and too many opinions from geeky enthusiasts. It is not meant as being authorative; just entry level solutions that can be put in place by an average Windows user.
Having tried and tested a host of Linux distro’s since around 2006, I could form a fairly good opinion of the most widely used ones. If it is a Windows-like experience you want, Zorin 8.1 is best, followed by Mint Cinnamon and UltimateOS. Also consider the locally developed MakuluLinuxOS, an excellent project deserving applause. Interestingly, these are all Debian/Ubuntu based. The above ones are easier to get used to and have little or no hardware issues. My Windows 7 Ultimate 64 had serious hardware compatibility issues, needing some level of expertise to get some devices running. In fact, I had to buy some new hardware appliances that could be used with Windows 7!
Linux is not more difficult than Windows, it is just different.
I have also tried openSuSe, PCLinuxOS and a few other non-Debian ones. Always, graphics were pixelated or downright crappy, so I’d steer clear of them unless you like fiddling under the hood. There are better things to do than having to get an OS to display more than half a screen, etc., so I give these a wide berth. From this family, I understand that Fedora is quite good, but I never tried it. Do you want to get your hands dirty and learn to hack your way through a terminal window? Then go for Arch or Slackware. I have run up tp 12.04 on a HP Compaq NX9010 with Pentium4 Mobile 2.8GHz and 1GB RAM. You need much less resources than that to run many Linux distro’s. Linux in general: each of the 100+ distro’s have its own disciples who may disagree with me.
My approach here is to inform prospective Linux users migrating from Windows or, like I did, from Mac.
Mint or ZorinOS remain the safest options.