Every once in a while I try some new version of Linux, some overhauled or updated "distribution" of the operating system that supposedly improves the user experience. And inevitably I get frustrated with it because, well, it's just not Windows.
Not that I have mad love for Windows, mind you, it's just what I'm used to.
Zorin OS 6 is an Ubuntu-based OS that comes closer to re-creating the Windows experience than any other Linux distro I've tried.
For you Linux neophytes out there, Ubuntu is one of most popular and heavily developed versions of Linux. Zorin OS uses Ubuntu as its core, but coats it with a decidedly Windows-like interface.
That means you get something akin to the Start button in the lower-left corner of the screen, and a programs list and search tool that pops up when you click it. In the lower-right corner there's a notification area, clock, volume control, etc.
These and other familiar trappings make it easier for Windows users to make the transition. I can't say Zorin is an exact Windows 7 replica, but it does a pretty good job re-creating the look and feel of its interface.
Interestingly, you can use the Zorin Look Changer to choose from a variety of other interfaces, including Windows XP, Mac OS X, and the Linux-standard GNOME 2. (Some looks, like Mac OS X and Ubuntu Unity, require Zorin Premium.)
The OS comes with a ton of useful software, including Google's Chrome browser, LibreOffice, Thunderbird, and GIMP. You also get PlayOnLinux, which allows you to install and run a wide variety of Windows programs (including iTunes).
I've been using Zorin OS on and off for the past few months, and overall I'm impressed with it. The only downside is that certain underpinnings reveal its Linux core, and those areas can be confusing. In other words, the Windows coating goes only a couple layers deep.
But if you're looking to experience Linux for yourself, revive an older PC, or outfit your kids with something that's familiar, virus-proof, and school-friendly, Zorin OS is without question one of the best Linux distros currently available. It's certainly one of my favorites.
To get it, you'll need to download either the 32- or 64-bit version, then burn that ISO to a blank DVD (something Windows 7 can do natively). You can also create a bootable USB drive via a utility called UNetBootin.
As for actual installation, you can boot and run the OS straight from the DVD or USB drive; install it alongside your current Windows installation (which will result in a dual-boot configuration); or just wipe whatever you have now and overwrite it with Zorin. Whatever you decide, I think you'll have some fun.