Why Ubuntu: part 1 – a comparison

Why would you choose for Ubuntu as your new operating system instead of (the new) Microsoft Windows? This article tries to answer that question by describing the similarities (or differences as you like) between these two operating systems. For this article I assume that you know Microsoft Windows.

What most people want is a computer to look around on the Internet, to socialize, to email, to write and read documents, to view or edit photo’s or video’s or to listen to music. Let’s see if that’s possible with Ubuntu. Microsoft has the programs to do so. How about Ubuntu? Below the alternatives will be discussed.


Microsoft Windows: Internet Explorer. Installed by default.
Ubuntu: Mozilla Firefox. Installed by default.
Description: Firefox is a cross-platform web browser, developed by the Mozilla Foundation. Firefox is very popular because it can be extended with extra capabilities through the use of approved extensions and themes. It is widely used by Web developers because it follows the W3C standard better than Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Available for: Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, OS/2 and Solaris.

Ubuntu alternative: Google Chrome. To be installed via a Personal Package Archive (PPA).
Description: Google Chrome is a tab based web browser originally developed by Google for Microsoft Windows. Chrome is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Like Mozilla Firefox Google Chrome supports extensions and themes. As of February 2011 Google Chrome can use web apps as extensions by going to the Chrome Web Store. Google Chrome also supports automatic web page translation.
The open source ‘edition’ (BSD license) is called Chromium and is also released by Google.  Chromium serves as a base for Google Chrome, which is Chromium rebranded (name and logo) with very few additions such as usage tracking and an auto-updater system. The open source enabled third-party developers to study the underlying source code and to help convert the browser to the Mac OS X and Linux operating systems.

Installation: Open ‘Ubuntu Software Center’ and go to ‘Software sources…’ in the menu Edit. Go to tab ‘Other software’ and add Google Chrome by pressing the ‘Add…’ button and add ‘ppa:chromium-daily/ppa’ to the APT-line. Now Chromium will appear in the ‘Ubuntu Software Center’.
Available for: Linux, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.


Microsoft Windows: Microsoft Windows Live Mail. To be installed via download.
Ubuntu: Evolution. Installed by default.
Description: Evolution (a development of Ximian / Novell) is a client and is characterized by a simple graphical interface that is very similar to Microsoft Office Outlook. However, these agreements do not go beyond the appearance, since the underlying code and configuration options are essentially different. Evolution is a groupware suite which integrates mail, calendar, address book, to-do list and memo tools. Additional features include integration with Microsoft Exchange and Novell Groupwise servers, newsgroup client, LDAP support, web calendars and synchronization with Palm devices. The connection to Exchange Server 2000 and 2003 is handled via a plug-in called evolution-exchange and to Exchange Server 2007 via evolution-mapi. Programs like opensync allow it to synchronize with PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) and mobile phones.
Available for: Linux, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.

Ubuntu alternative: Mozilla Thunderbird. To be installed via the Ubuntu repository (Ubuntu Software Center).
Description: Mozilla Thunderbird is a free, open source, cross-platform e-mail and news client developed by the Mozilla Foundation. Thunderbird is available for the same platforms as Mozilla Firefox is. It has the following features: message management, junk filtering, extensions, themes, file formats support (mbox, Mork, SQLite) and security. Thunderbird can be extended with Lightning, the Mozilla Calendar extension for Thunderbird. Lightning also support Google Calendar and is tightly integrated with Thunderbird, allowing it to easily perform email-related calendaring tasks. Lightning can connect to Microsoft Exchange Server (2000, 2003 and 2007). Additional features, if needed, are often available via other extensions.
Available for: Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, OS/2 and Solaris

Instant messaging

Microsoft Windows: Microsoft Windows Live Messenger. To be installed via download.
Ubuntu: Empathy. Installed by default.
Description: Empathy is an instant messaging client which supports text, voice, video, file transfers and inter-application communication over many different IM protocols. It supports Bonjour, Facebook IM, IRC, Lotus Sametime, MySpaceIM, MXit, MSN, Novell Groupwise, Skype, XMPP and Yahoo.
Available for: Linux and BSD.

Ubuntu alternative: Pidgin. To be installed via the Ubuntu repository (Ubuntu Software Center).
Description: Pidgin is a multi-platform instant messaging program which includes AIM, Bonjour, Jabber, Facebook IM (via plug-in), Google Talk, ICQ, IRC, Lotus Sametime, MSN, MySpaceIM, MXit, Novell Groupwise, Skype (via plug-in), XMPP and Yahoo. It also has a plug-in called pidgin-sipe for Microsoft Office Communicator. Pidgin has some plug-ins for configuring colors for a.o. conversation, chat log, integration with Evolution and automatic text replacement in outgoing text.
Available for: Linux, BSD, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.

Social Media

Microsoft Windows: As far as I know no default tool. Mainly via Internet Browser. Additional tools like Tweetdeck or HootSuite can be installed additionally via download.
Ubuntu: Gwibber. Installed by default.
Description: Gwibber is a social networking client for GNOME. It supports Facebook, Twitter, Identi.ca, StatusNet, FriendFeed, Qaiku, Flickr, Brightkite and Digg.
Available for: Linux only.


Microsoft Windows: Microsoft Office (MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint). Additional installation.
Ubuntu: OpenOffice.org. Installed by default and working.
Description: The package consists of the following programs:

  • Writer for word processing and HTML documents (similar to Microsoft Word)
  • Calc for spreadsheets (spreadsheets) (similar to Microsoft Excel)
  • Base for databases (since OOo 2.0) (similar to Microsoft Access)
  • Draw for drawings (vector graphics)
  • Impress for presentations (similar to Microsoft PowerPoint)
  • Math for Formulas

These programs can open and save files in different formats. By default, documents are saved as XML files. Other file formats are supported, as most files from the Microsoft Office bundle. There is also the possibility to export to the PDF format (PDF from OpenOffice 3 can also be changed).
Available for: Linux, Unix, BSD, Solaris, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.

From Ubuntu 11.04 and upwards Ubuntu will include LibreOffice, a fork of OpenOffice.org 3.3 after Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, the developer of OpenOffice.org. LibreOffice is a free software office suite developed by The Document Foundation that is compatible with other major office suites and available on a variety of platforms (Linux, Unix, BSD, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows). Its developers’ goal is to produce a vendor-independent office suite with ODF support and without any copyright assignment requirements.

Multimedia (Music and movies)

Microsoft Windows: Microsoft Windows Media Player. Installed by default.
Ubuntu: Totem Movie Player. Installed by default.
Description: Totem is a media player that can handle a lot of formats (codecs). If you want to play something for which there is not a codec (encoder and decoder program) installed, Totem will look for a suitable codec and asks whether to install it.
Available for: Linux and Unix.

Ubuntu alternative: VLC. To be installed via the Ubuntu repository (Ubuntu Software Center).
Description: VLC is a multi-platform media player developed by the VideoLAN project. It supports many audio and video codecs like MPEG, MPEG2, MPEG4, DivX, MOV, WMV, QuickTime, mp3, Ogg/Vorbis files, DVDs, VCDs and multimedia streams from various network sources. VLC can also be used as a streaming server that duplicates the stream it reads and multicasts them through the network to other clients or serves them through HTTP.
VLC has support for on-the-fly transcoding of audio and video formats, either for broadcasting purposes or for movie format transformations. Support for most output methods is provided by this package, but features can be added by installing additional audio plugins or video plug-ins. There is also a web browser plugin in the mozilla-plugin-vlc package.
Available for: Linux, BSD, Solaris, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.

Ubuntu alternative: SMPlayer. To be installed via the Ubuntu repository (Ubuntu Software Center).
Description: SMPlayer is a Mplayer front-end, with basic features like playing videos, DVDs and VCDs to more advanced features like support for MPlayer filters and more. One of the most interesting features of SMPlayer: it remembers the settings of all files you play. So you start to watch a movie but you have to leave… don’t worry, when you open that movie again it will resume at the same point you left it and with the same settings: audio track, subtitles and volume. MPlayer plays most MPEG, VOB, AVI, Ogg/OGM, VIVO, ASF/WMA/WMV, QT/MOV/MP4, FLI, RM, NuppelVideo, yuv4mpeg, FILM, RoQ, PVA files, supported by many native, XAnim, RealPlayer and Win32 DLL codecs. It can also play VideoCD, SVCD, DVD, 3ivx, RealMedia and DivX movies.
Another big feature of MPlayer is the wide range of supported output drivers. It works with X11, Xv, DGA, OpenGL, SVGAlib, fbdev, DirectFB, but also SDL (plus all its drivers) and some low-level card-specific drivers (for Matrox, 3Dfx and Radeon, Mach64 and Permedia3). Most of them support software or hardware scaling, therefore allowing full-screen display.  MPlayer is also able
to use some hardware MPEG decoder boards, such as the DVB and DXR3/Hollywood+.
Available for: Linux. Mplayer is available for: Linux, Unix, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.


Microsoft Windows: Itunes. To be downloaded and installed from Apple website.
Ubuntu: Rhythmbox. Installed by default.
Description: Rhythmbox is a very easy to use music playing and management program which supports a wide range of audio formats (including mp3, mp4 and ogg). Originally inspired by Apple’s iTunes, the current version also supports Internet Radio, iPod integration and generic portable audio player support, Audio CD burning, Audio CD playback, music sharing and Podcasts. Rhythmbox has a Jamendo, Magnitude and Ubuntu One music store.
Available for: Linux, Unix, BSD and Solaris.

Ubuntu alternative: Banshee. To be installed via the Ubuntu repository (Ubuntu Software Center).
Description: Banshee is a media management and playback application for the GNOME desktop, allowing users to import audio from CDs, search their library, create playlists of selections of their library, sync music to/from iPods and other media devices, play and manage video files and burn selections to a CD. As of Ubuntu 11.04 Banshee will be the default media player and will have both the AmazonMP3 and Ubuntu One music stores turned on by default.
Available for: Linux, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.

Photo maintenance

Microsoft Windows: Windows Photo Gallery. Installed by default.
Ubuntu: Shotwell. Installed by default.
Description: Shotwell is a digital photo organizer designed for the GNOME desktop environment. It allows you to import photos from disk or camera, organize them in various ways, view them in full-window or full-screen mode and export them to share with others.
Available for: Linux only.

Ubuntu Alternative: F-Spot. To be installed additionally via the Ubuntu  repository (Ubuntu Software Center).
Description: F-Spot is a full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop. It simplifies digital photography by providing intuitive tools to help you share, touch-up, find and organize your images. It allows for importing of your existing photo collections, tagging photos with identifiers, as well as doing simple edits of photos (e.g. rotating). F-Spot makes use of plug-ins to enhance its capabilities.
Available for: Linux, BSD, Unix and Solaris.

Photo editing

Microsoft Windows: Microsoft Digital Image Suite. To be installed via additional purchase.
Ubuntu: GIMP. To be installed additionally via the Ubuntu  repository (Ubuntu Software Center).
Description: GIMP is a graphics program for editing photos and other digital imaging on the computer. Distinctive features include the GIMP functionality, the supported image formats and the built-in scripting engine. The extensive functionality, expandability and the free license GIMP has become a package that can compete with popular commercial programs like Adobe Photoshop. Since the program that calculates how the component parts of an image are finally displayed (the so-called rendering engine) is  accessible to everyone, new inventions developed by scientists are often built first in GIMP, before they find their way into other applications. All this makes GIMP a program that is suitable for designers, illustrators, artists, for scientific applications, for film productions and editing photos (including the web).
Available for: Linux, BSD, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.

Video editing:

Microsoft Windows: Windows Movie Maker
Ubuntu: Cinelerra. To be installed additionally via a Personal Package Archive (PPA).
Description: Cinelerra supports high-fidelity audio and video: the audio processing with 64 bit precision and can work with RGBA colors and Yuva. It is resolution and frame rate independent, which means that it supports all video speed and size.
Cinelerra can compete with Adobe Premiere Pro. The user has four screens are available:

  1. The timeline, which gives the user a time view of all video and audio tracks in the project. It gives the user the key frame data for camera movement, effects and transparency.
  2. The viewer, which enables users to “scrub” through footage.
  3. The resource box which shows the user all available video and audio sources in the project.
  4. The compositor, which interactively shows the final result.

(Afbeelding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinelerra)
Installation: Open ‘Ubuntu Software Center’ and go to ‘Software sources…’ in the menu Edit. Go to tab ‘Other software’ and add Google Chrome by pressing the ‘Add…’ button and add ‘ppa:cinelerra-ppa/ppa’ to the APT-line. Now Cinelerra will appear in the ‘Ubuntu Software Center’.
Available for: Linux and Mac OS.

Sound editing

Microsoft Windows: Sound Recorder. Installed by default.
Ubuntu: Audacity. To be installed additionally via a Personal Package Archive (PPA).
Description: Audacity sound editing software, which allows creation and editing of WAV, AIFF, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC and MP3 files.
Audacity has filters for sound editing. But what makes Audacity special is that it can perform calculations with a higher internal quality, such as 32-bit floating point. Audacity can also edit multi-channel signals and different tones can be played simultaneously.

Installation: Open ‘Ubuntu Software Center’ and go to ‘Software sources…’ in the menu Edit. Go to tab ‘Other software’ and add Google Chrome by pressing the ‘Add…’ button and add ‘ppa:audacity-team/daily’ to the APT-line. Now Audacity will appear in the ‘Ubuntu Software Center’.
Available for: Linux, Microsoft Windows, BSD and Mac OS.


Microsoft Windows: Vista theme.
Ubuntu: Compiz Fusion. By default this is turned on for your video card. It depends on the video card how much is turned on (see screenshot).

All modern ATI and Nvidia cards can handle Compiz.
Description: Compiz Fusion is a so-called compositing window manager for Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu. The program is responsible for managing the appearance of running program windows. A characteristic of Compiz Fusion is a wide range of effects, shadows and animations added to simple actions such as the minimization of a window.  These effects, which are realized by so-called plug-ins are similar to effects in Apple’s Mac OS X operating system.


Operating System
Microsoft Windows: on average 2 to 3 hours. Drivers to be installed afterwards.
Ubuntu: on average 30 minutes, 95% of all hardware is automatically detected. Bye bye driver disks.
Additional packages
Microsoft Windows: To be searched on and to be downloaded from the Internet.
Ubuntu: Ubuntu Software Center program. Download from the Ubuntu repository, which contains approximately 20,000 packages to be used with Ubuntu.


Microsoft Windows: Good stability. Windows NT and XP are very stable. Windows Vista is less stable than XP. If something crashes, the whole system crashes. Windows is open to hackers and suffers from viruses. The result is (sensitive) personal data loss.
Ubuntu: High stability. If there is ever a crash, only the application crashes. Ubuntu has very few viruses and few hackers. In the past there where a few virus attempts which have hardly caused some damage. This is due to the architecture of Linux (rights and policies), preventing a virus to become active. A warning is in place: as Linux (and Ubuntu is a Linux system) becomes more popular, the number of hackers and viruses will increase. It becomes lucrative for hackers.


Microsoft Windows: Once a month.
Ubuntu: Daily/weekly.


Microsoft Windows: Windows XP and Vista run only on newer heavy machinery.
Ubuntu: Ubuntu also runs on older machines. Needs less CPU power and memory than Windows Vista (even less than Windows XP). Minimum memory need of Ubuntu is 256 MB.


Microsoft Windows: Minimum € 100, – (OEM). Students can get it even cheaper.  Additional (if not open source or freeware) packages cost money.
Ubuntu: Free. Additional packages are free. Ubuntu is open source.


Ubuntu can be downloaded here.

Other parts of the Why Ubuntu series

Part 1: A comparison
Part 2: A good alternative for Microsoft Windows, but…
Part 3: The first actions after installation (coming)

12 thoughts on “Why Ubuntu: part 1 – a comparison

  1. Waarom geen VLC als alternatieve media speler? speelt vrijwel alle codec formaten, gratis, opensource en cross-platform!

    Voor de rest goede post, alleen het ‘Stability’ stukje lijkt wel erg op een persoonlijke mening ;)

      • Bedankt voor het bijwerken van het artikel!

        Ik gebruik Ubuntu tegenwoordig als standaard OS, maar windows 7 werkt wel aardig goed ten opzichte van vista/xp.
        Probleem met virussen ed. blijft nog wel bestaan…

  2. Pingback: IT Corner » Blog Archive » Why Ubuntu: part 1 – a comparison « Leo Cardinaals's Weblog

  3. Hoi Leo,
    Heb uw artikelen altijd met veel belangstelling gevolgd, en er ook veel van opgestoken.
    Er is aan Nederlandstalige artikelen altijd veel behoefte. Dus jammer dat dit artikel in het Engels is.
    Hoop toch dat je af en toe nog in het Nederlands schrijft. Immers het Engels is al zo overheersend.
    Met dank voor alle voorgaande artikelen.

    • Ja en het doet me deugt dat er behoefte is aan Nederlandse artikelen. Zoals ik al in een voorgaande reactie heb gezegd: “Dit is nagenoeg een vertaling van het Waarom Ubuntu? artikel. Tot nader order blijft alles tweetalig.” Dit artikel is alleen bijgewerkt met de nieuwe stand van zaken.

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