Is this much choice really a good thing?

Is this much choice really a good thing?


Fri, 2007-04-27 22:31 -- admin

Due to the nature of free software, there exists a great deal of choice. You have 100s of distros to choose from, and a handful of desktop environments, office suites, browsers, email clients, media players... you name a piece of software and there's almost always at least one alternative. And, if there isn't, there soon will be. Is all this choice a good thing? Or is it just too confusing? Should we strive to have an ultimate tool that suits everyone's needs or do we really need 50 types of hammer and a 1000 types of nail? Let us know how you feel about choice?

Ramesh's picture
Submitted by Ramesh on

Choice gives a feeling that we have freedom. Want to have a very mature environment with minimal configuration? Use Gnome. Want a prettier desktop that can be configured to the lowest possible level? Try KDE.

Don't like the above two? try a different desktop environment. All this for free (as in beer and freedom).

However, choice also makes me think that perhaps I'm missing something. I use Firefox for browsing, Liferea for feed reading, Open Office for word processing and tool X for task Y etc. But is that the best scenario? Am I using the best of all worlds? With so many choices, it is very difficult to decide and is not practical to have the best tool for everything.

1. I think we should strive for the interoperability of various tools from different Linux environments.

As mentioned previously, I like linux for its choices. But maybe the same reason is keeping the people in Windows World from trying Linux. Perhaps they are intimidated by too many options. (Of course, I'm only talking about those who want to try something new, but fearful. Not the folks who are happy with their crappy and bloated Windows applications and can cope up with security problems).

2. We should create some kind of questionnaire about the distribution and tools to choose, for various scenarios and come up with the solution. For instance, a wizard that asks questions like "1. Will you use this system as a home desktop or a business system? 2. Do you want the system to be used as the e-mail server or run an engineering application etc" and come up with answers.

Terry Hancock's picture

"1. I think we should strive for the interoperability of various tools from"

In fact, of course, "interoperability" is a key to "choice". Without it, your choices become increasingly limited because of the inability to use tools together.

I say I prefer KDE, but the truth is, its the actual window manager and launcher that I like. Many of the actual applications are less appealing to me than their Gnome counterparts. So for exampe, I use KDE for my environment, but I use gpdf to view PDFs and Gimp to edit images. I use kuickshow (from KDE) for reviewing images before using them in Gimp. When I compose vector artwork, though, I don't use an official KDE or Gnome package, but rather Inkscape (except for those jobs I find easier in Skencil!).

For serious writing I typically use LyX, which isn't specialized for either, and I use gvim for coding.

So, it should be pretty obvious that I'm quite happy with the choice that is available. I do acknowledge that this presents some difficulties for the new user, but there are a lot of places to go for reviews. I think the biggest obstacle is that most people coming from a proprietary background are used to doing this kind of research before purchasing software, but when the purchasing step is removed, they no longer respect the time needed for review and selection. But rationally, of course, it's the same basic process, but without having to pay for the privilege.

alejandroz's picture
Submitted by alejandroz on

I'm torn. I like having choice. However, there IS a problem for new users. When I decided to try switching to GNU/Linux last year, I was intimidated by choices. Plus, many users in the FLOSS world (particularly those with a strong *nix background) tend to be particularly evangelical: just because a tool works better for them, all other choices become invalid in their eyes. Thus, for a die-hard KDE user, using GNOME is practically blasphemy (and I won't even attempt to touch the issue of text editors...).

I think it helps if we define different solutions with a few words. For example, KDE is "the power user's DE", while GNOME is "a simple DE", XFCE is "Lightweight but complete and easy to use", Fluxbox is "A fast (but not beginner-friendly) WM", etc. A bit of differentiation would help newbies a lot.