Linux is one of the most secure and stable operating systems around, and yet, its user base hasn’t really grown as everyone expected it to. There are many reasons for this, and we won’t go into those right now. However, if you, like any other Linux user, are disappointed by the current market share stats, we can tell you some simple tips that will help you convince your Windows or Mac-crazy friends into using Linux.

Now, many Linux users have already tried to coax their friends and family members to try out this popular and newbie-friendly distro called Ubuntu. A select few have succeeded and many have failed. So here, we will give you some important tips to help you spread the word about Linux without sounding like that arrogant nerd who has nothing but contempt for Windows or Mac.

Show, don’t tell

Yes, this is the first and the most important thing you need to do if you have to convince a Windows or a Mac user into using Linux. Ubuntu, Linux Mint and many other distros look extremely beautiful, and honestly, the latest version of Ubuntu (Ubuntu 11.10) looks just as good as a Mac. But hey, if you’re just going to just tell that to them do you think they’ll believe you? Even if they do believe you, they’ll still have no idea what Ubuntu or whatever you’re talking about looks like. My suggestion is, you take your own Linux laptop, hand it over to them and let them play around with it. If you’re on Ubuntu I’d recommend opening a new Guest session and handing over the laptop to them. That way, they’ll have a better idea as to how beautiful even an uncustomized desktop looks like. If, at all, it is impossible to show the desktop to your friend, send him or her a YouTube video of the desktop.

The Show Don’t Tell policy also applies to feature comparisons. Let’s say you want to outline the salient features of Linux. Instead of giving a huge lecture about how virus-free, how fragmentation-free, how fast the desktop is, just show it to them. Take their Windows/Mac laptop and put it beside your own desktop. Start a timer and show your friend how fast it boots. I hate to repeat, but just show it, don’t talk about it.

Stop telling them Windows is bad, they already know it

For a Linux user trying to convince a Windows user into the light side, there’s always the Windows-bashing that comes in handy. At least that’s what many Linux users think. Windows-bashing is great, everyone curses that dreaded operating system, but there’s no point telling a Windows user about it. I’m pretty sure he or she already knows about it. There must at least be a thousand Windows users cursing Microsoft even as you’re reading this article. But no way are they going to switch to something different.

In short, don’t tell them that Windows is bad, don’t even talk about Windows. Just keep telling them: “Hey, I have this amazing desktop on my computer, you gotta try it out”. Hand over the laptop to them and let them do the Windows-bashing. When I converted my friend into a Linux user, all I did was showed him my laptop. I never mentioned a word about Windows or Mac. The moment he saw it, he started ranting about Windows like a pissed-off sports fan.

If they get stuck

Rather than helping them, show them how to get help and support on Linux. Don’t let them rely on you to fix every problem on their desktop. Just give them a short tour of Ubuntu forums, IRC, and manuals and let them figure out for themselves.

Don’t emphasize on the "free" part

Don’t, and I say it again; don’t ever start your pitch with the "free" part. In fact, it would be better if you drop the whole thing out of the conversation. Sometimes, they’re so impressed by Linux that they eventually end up asking you about its cost. Just look at them casually and say “it’s free” and wait for their reaction.

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

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