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I am seriously considering installing Ubuntu, it looks cool, the tour felt nice and it's a really smooth program.

But what if I decide later on in life that I would like to go to Windows again, could I? Will I be able to run programs like PowerPoint, Word, Excel and iTunes?

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Ruben's answer is correct, but I figured you may want to know the alternatives. On Ubuntu, the programs you'd probably use instead of the ones you listed are OpenOffice (or LibreOffice which is nearly identical) (comes with programs similar to Word, Excel and Powerpoint) and either Rhythmbox or Banshee for music. If you want to try them out, some of them run on Windows too: download Banshee, download LibreOffice. –  Brendan Long Dec 7 '12 at 18:26
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Banshee on Windows is very buggy right now - might not be recommended. But OpenOffice runs on Linux! –  WindowsEscapist Dec 7 '12 at 19:26
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4 Answers

If you install Ubuntu, you can install it alongside Windows. That means, whenever your computer starts, you will be greeted by a selection that asks you whether you would like to start Windows or Ubuntu.

You can also, however, remove Windows upon installing Ubuntu.

In the first case, all of your programs are kept exclusively on Windows. There is no synergy between the Ubuntu and Windows installation. That means no files or programs are shared between the two operating system. You can access files that are on the Windows system from Ubuntu per default. Windows requires you to install a driver (ext42fd) to be able to access Ubuntu's files.

In the second case, all programs and files are lost. You will need to back up your files before making the switch. Programs can never be transferred. So if you have Word on Windows, it cannot be moved to Ubuntu. First, because Word doesn't exist for Ubuntu (we have LibreOffice Writer). Second, because if a Word for Ubuntu existed, it would be incredibly different from the version for Windows under the hood.

So, if you install Ubuntu, you will have to reinstall programs that you currently have on Windows. If the program doesn't exist for Ubuntu, you will have to find an alternative program that functions approximately the same. So instead of Word, you would have Writer. Software like Skype, however, has both a Windows and a Linux version. This differs per piece of software.

If you decide to switch back to Windows after a while, and you had taken the approach of removing Windows, you will have to reinstall Windows entirely and reinstall all programs you had previously had. So if you have Word now, wipe Windows, install Ubuntu and reinstall Windows, you will have to install Word again.

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one other option is to p2v the windows installation and use it in a vm such as virtualbox,but it is only possible (efficiently speaking) with hardware virtualization processors (i3,i5,i7 and many but not all core 2duo processors,and amd processors but i don't know which ones!) –  marc-andre benoit Dec 8 '12 at 0:30
    
@marc-andrebenoit +1 for virtualization. It's a great way to try out a new OS in a safe environment. –  jumpnett Dec 17 '12 at 19:41
    
I don't fully agree. There are many ways to run Windows applications on Ubuntu: wine and virtual machines. VirtualBox has also a seamless mode that looks nice. Also, do not give an impression that for every Windows application an alternative exists, and there is just one alternative. LibreOffice Writer is not the only word processor available in Ubuntu, there are many many others. Sometimes exact alternatives do not even exist. –  Andrea Corbellini Dec 19 '12 at 10:58
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You can have both Windows and Ubuntu installed on the same computer. However, in general, you cannot run programs built for Windows on Ubuntu.

You could also potentially run either Windows or Ubuntu, and any applications you need on them, inside a virtual machine, such as VirtualBox or VMWare; though for some types of applications, you may experience a severe degradation in performance.

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It is also a hassle getting OpenGL/DirectX running in Virtualbox when Windows is the guest. –  WindowsEscapist Dec 7 '12 at 19:28
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PowerPoint, Word, Excel and iTunes all have open source equivalents available for installation in Ubuntu: LibreOffice Impress, LibreOffice Writer, LibreOffice Calc and Banshee (or Rhythmbox or any number of others). I dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu, only because my two sons would revolt if I were to remove Windows (because of games). Remember that besides any practical considerations for migrating away from Windows, there are ethical reasons to do so, as well. Microsoft restricts its users from altering or redistributing its programs and hides its source code away from the public as proprietary. Open source software, by definition, makes its source code available to the public, where it can be freely scrutinized, modified, improved upon, and redistributed. Whenever another person starts using open source software, it helps everyone, even if the new user is only another pair of eyes to look out for and report bugs.

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If you are pretty serious about running Windows programs in Ubuntu, you can use Wine Install winet, to run some, if not all, of the Windows programs.

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This is true, but it's worth mentioning that Wine is usually a lot of work to get programs running poorly, and is almost always not worth the effort (exception: games). –  Brendan Long Dec 7 '12 at 18:32
    
@BrendanLong: is it better if you use PlayOnLinux? Or not that much? –  Suman Dec 7 '12 at 19:29
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@Suman PlayOnLinux automates some things about Wine, so it generally makes it much easier to run Windows games on Linux. Under the hood, it's still Wine, so the same caveats apply (your games might work, but you shouldn't depend on it). Technical description: You know all the comments on WineHQ explaining the hoops you need to jump through to get stuff to work? Stuff like (1) install this version of wine (2) install these libraries (3) do these changes to the register, etc. PlayOnLinux does all of those things automatically. –  Brendan Long Dec 7 '12 at 22:42
    
@BrendanLong: thanks, that's really helpful. –  Suman Dec 7 '12 at 23:25
    
winetricks actually in my opinion does a better job than playonlinux.. but like in any situation your mileage may vary .. –  marc-andre benoit Dec 22 '12 at 7:43
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