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Linux has traditionally been a server OS and an OS for running fairly specialized workstation applications, such as scientific data analysis programs. Most people and organizations have bypassed Linux in favor of other OSs, such as Windows and Mac OS, for running desktop productivity tools such as word processors, office graphics programs, and spreadsheets. Linux does support these tools, though. The Linux offerings have been growing in capability; today, they're powerful enough to meet the needs of many people and organizations.

To use Linux for office productivity, you must first select the appropriate tools. Many packages are available, and which ones you choose will have a big impact on whether Linux works well for you. One common issue with Linux office productivity tools, and especially word processing, is that Linux's font handling is odd compared to most OSs; therefore, word processors frequently require special font configurations. Getting this detail right will greatly improve your word processing capabilities. Likewise, knowing how to configure printers in office tools can help you get the most out of a Linux workstation configured for office productivity uses.

Note This chapter is nowhere near long enough to cover every detail of the day-to-day use of even one Linux office productivity package. Most packages work much the same as their Windows or Mac OS counterparts, but some don't. If you need help on this detail, consult the specific package's documentation or purchase a book on the program, such as Haugland and Jones' StarOffice 6.0 Office Suite Companion (Prentice Hall, 2002) or Kopka and Daly'sA Guide to LaTeX: Document Preparation for Beginners and Advanced Users, 3rd Edition (Addison-Wesley, 1999).

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