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Linux User-Friendliness

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A reader asks: Why is Linux still not as user friendly as the two other main OSes with all the people developing for Linux? Is it because it is mainly developed by geeks? My initial feeling when reading this question was that it was kind of a throwaway, kind of a slam in disguise as a genuine question. But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I felt. There truly are a large amount of resources being dedicated to the development of Linux and its operating system halo (DEs, drivers, apps, etc). Some of these resources are from large companies (IBM, Red Hat, Novell). Why isn't Linux more user-friendly? Is this an inherent limitation with open source software?

I won't pretend to give an authoritative answer to this question. All I hope to do with this article is posit a few possibilities and open the topic for discussion. First I think we should try to clarify the question by defining user-friendliness. ;Often, user-friendliness is conflated with beginner-friendliness, and this is a grave error. Just because the use of an object isn't immediately obvious to a new user doesn't mean that it's not well-designed or even that it's not easy-to-use. I have a nail pulling tool that's unquestionably the most effective nail-puller you can buy. But whenever I hand it to someone, even an experienced carpenter, who's never used one, they give me a blank look, and it usually takes five minutes or so to figure out how it works. They make nail pullers that are much easier to understand, but they don't work as well. They take longer and damage the wood more. But the thing about the slide-action pullers that I like is that even though they take a few minutes to learn, once you know the trick, they save you several minutes with each nail. Over a lifetime, a tool like this might save a professional carpenter several entire workdays. You could say the same for computer users.

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