There’s no question in any PC user’s mind that the desktop GUI is one of the most important pieces of any operating system. Fortunately for Linux, we have two great GUIs to choose from, KDE and GNOME.
GNOME has quickly become the de facto GUI standard for several major Linux distributions (such as Red Hat, Debian, and Slackware) mainly because it is completely free software and all of its components are licensed under the GPL. Alternatively, KDE, while completely Open Source, does not meet all of the criteria of Free Software as stipulated by the FSF (Free Software Foundation) and the GNU project, which is why it has fallen out of favor with many Linux distros as the GUI of choice.
Helixcode is a company that was founded by several members of the GNOME development team, including Miguel de Icaza, the leader of the official GNOME project. Their product, Helix GNOME, is the closest thing there is to a “commercial” distribution of the GNOME environment. Like the official GNOME distribution, Helix GNOME is completely Free Software (in the strictly GPL sense of free) but it’s packaged with dozens of third- party GTK programs that a lot of the more popular distributions don’t install by default.
Helix throws in multimedia enhancements like XMMS and Grip, many Internet utilities like Gaim and Xchat, productivity packages like AbiWord and Gnumeric, a cutting edge build of The GIMP graphics manipulation program, a GTK version of Napster (the popular MP3-sharing client) and a whole slew of games.
In addition to having many updated software applications that the official GNOME doesn’t have, Helix GNOME is also a lot more polished and “feels” more like a commercial product — it has a lot more desktop themes to choose from and the pre-loaded menu icons have a more professional look.
But the beauty of Helix GNOME isn’t only skin deep: not only does Helix GNOME look more professional, but it can be installed and updated more easily than the official GNOME distribution. Helix GNOME can be installed and updated over the Web (much like Microsoft’s Active Setup for Windows 98 and Windows 2000). If Web updating isn’t your thing, you can also download the Helix GNOME files from the Helixcode FTP site. We recommend this approach for end users who don’t have high-speed Internet connections.
Once Helix GNOME is installed, updating the environment is a cinch — the user simply has to run the Helix-update program, which checks a user-selected Helix GNOME mirror site to see if any of the GNOME modules have changed or if new programs have been added. You are then asked to choose which programs you would like to have updated.
All in all, Helix GNOME is the ultimate version of GNOME, and is an essential download for any Linux user looking for a world-class GUI environment that’s easy to install and keep up to date — and while it’s a big download (over 114 MB) you can’t beat the price.