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last updated: 5/10/2005

Library Technologies Core Services (LTCS) Linux in the Libraries

What is Linux?

Linux is a free, open-source, operating system designed to run on numerous hardware platforms. The Linux operating system provides functions similar to proprietary operating system such as Windows and MacOS.

Why is the library providing Linux workstations?

Linux is being provided on library workstations because of the numerous benefits it offers.
  • The Linux operating system, and the open-source software run on it are available at no cost.
  • Linux runs well, even on older systems, making it a good choice for computer users on a budget.
  • The libraries can offer a tremendous variety of open-source applications on Linux at no cost.
  • Linux is infinitely flexible and customizable due to it's open-source nature.
  • Linux is an exceptionally stable and secure operating system.
  • Organizations are continuing to realize the benefits of Linux and open-source software. We strive to provide students with skills they can leverage in the workplace, and students are more likely than ever to benefit from a working knowledge of Linux as they begin their careers.

What currently works on the library Linux workstations, and what can I use them for?

Currently the Linux workstations are intended for general-purpose web browsing using the Mozilla or Mozilla Firefox browser. Most library databases are confirmed to work, although we are continuing to improve functionality. Office applications that are available include Sun Star Office, which is compatible with Microsoft's Office suite. There are numerous multimedia applications available, and other applications that you may find useful, but please remember that all applications are in testing at this point and their functionality and/or support may be limited.

Can I open and create Microsoft office documents using Linux?

Many applications on Linux provide some level of support for Microsoft Office documents. The Star Office Suite provides the highest level of compatibility, and is able to edit documents from MS Excel, MS Word, and MS Powerpoint. MS Access is not supported. Be aware that you must save documents in a specific format for them to be compatible. For example, in Star Writer on Linux, you must select to save a document in MS Word format if you want to open it in MS Word. Other applications generally provide some MS Office compatibility by saving in an intermediate format supported by MS Word, such as Rich Text (.rtf), Microsoft Write, etc. Keep in mind that going back and forth between Windows and Linux applications may result in loss of information or formatting, and/or other undesirable effects.

What other libraries on campus have Linux workstations?

Currently, only the reference area, in the first floor of the Wells Library has Linux workstations.

What are the future plans for Linux in the library?

Our deployment of Linux workstations is not intended to replace our Windows or Mac workstations, but to merely supplement and provide alternatives to the existing workstations. It's expected that as we proceed, with feedback from faculty, staff and students, we will continue to improve our Linux workstations and deploy them in additional locations where demand is greatest.

Can I use Linux at home?

Linux is an excellent alternative for use on home computers, especially for the user with an advanced knowledge of computers. Although Linux has excellent hardware support, an oustanding variety of open-source software available, and a great deal of online documentation, many users not familiar with Linux, may experience difficulties while familiarizing themselves with the new operating system. We highly recommend that users first try Linux distributions that can run directly from CD-ROM media. Although these distributions run slower than those that are installed on your computer, they can be used without affecting other operating systems installed on your existing workstation. Linux can also be installed alongside existing installations of Windows or MacOS. This is a fairly complex and difficult task for the average user, but there is a wealth of information on the Internet, describing how to perform this type of installation.

Is it really free and where can I get it?

Linux is open-source and freely available. Open-source software, such as Linux, and the applications that run on it, typically fall under the General Public License (GPL) .  For more information regarding the GPL and similar licenses, please visit the URL's at the end of this section.

There are some Linux vendors that make available CD or DVD installation discs, and/or documentation at a cost, but they typically also offer a free download of the installation discs so that you can burn your own copies at no cost. Additionally, some distributions have the option for professional technical support at a cost. In general though, you can download all that you will need to install and use Linux, legally and for free on the Internet. - the General Public License - the Open Source Initiative - the Free Software Foundation

Where can I get support for Linux?For questions, concerns, or feedback about the libraries Linux workstations, please contact

For questions about a specific distribution, the best source is usually the vendors website, including online documentation, forums, printed manuals (available at a cost), etc.

For general questions about Linux there are numerous sources of information on the Internet. The Linux Documentation Project is a good starting place. The Unix Systems Support Group, on campus, also provides some support for Linux to IU affiliated users.

The library is considering offering workshops on installing and using Linux in the future. If you would be interested in such an offering, please send feedback to

Linux Related Links

General Linux Information - provides useful information about and links to the plethora of Linux distributions - Linux related news - The Linux Documentation Project - Source for free open-source Linux games - Source for free open-source software  - some images of various Linux desktops and applications

Linux Distributions - highly recommended for novice users, very user-friendly - highly recommended for advanced users only - not recommended for novice users - not recommended for novice users

Many distributions are also available from the Unix Systems Support Group ftp server.

CD-Rom based distributions
-These distributions can be downloaded and burned to CD. After burning to CD you can boot with the CD and run Linux from the CD, without interfering with other operating systems you might have installed. These distributions provide the quickest and easiest way to try Linux, without the difficulty and risk associated with installing alongside your existing operating system.

last updated: 5/10/2005