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I would like a list of some good, very stable (emphasis on stable) Distro for business. I need basically good printing support, libreoffice and/or OpenOffice (Microsoft word, and excel) PDF and .XPS export and import/viewier. I need a mail client.
I need to be able to open, view and edit PDF files. I need to be able to export Excel documents as PDF. I need to be able to have a good mail client. I need to be able to open and edit word, excel and PowerPoint files.
This Distro will be running on a fairly old PL (Pentium 4).
It is difficult for me to answer your question, because your "must have" list basically consists of application features, not distro features. So for example, you don't create spreadsheets with Ubuntu/Slackware/Debian/etc. ("distros") but rather with LibreOffice/OpenOffice/Gnumeric/etc. ("applications"). And most of the popular applications run in most any distro. So it would be silly to claim something like "Slackware is no good for word processing," or "for entering spreadsheets, you should definitely choose Fedora over Arch."
Anyway I think a paid Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription would give you outstanding stability and support for your business environment. Red Hat's salespeople may or may not be able to answer your specific questions about office applications, I'm not sure. One nice thing about LibreOffice is that it runs on Windows, too. So a good first step might be to install LibreOffice on your existing Windows machines to evaluate the feasability of migrating from MS Office to an open-source office suite. If the test results are an enthusiastic "go for it!" then I think the Windows->Linux migration will go smoother, having already cleared the hurdle of migrating from proprietary->open-source office suite.
The thing you might run into, is that LibreOffice can create/read/write Word/Excel/etc. files, but it doesn't have ever single feature of those other applications. Some of the really advanced and/or seldomly used stuff is missing. Pivot tables as in Excel? You won't find those in LibreOffice's Calc program (at least I haven't found them). For the basic stuff that 99% of these application users actually use, LibreOffice is quite compatible though.
Debian is quite stable (as are many other distros). I have a Debian box I set up in a lab at work, running the "Sarge" release, that has rebooted exactly twice since I set it up (way back in 2005). And it is one busy little box, remotely monitoring tons of stuff with a handful of users on it at all times. Both of those reboots were due to power failures. One, when I manually brought the box down to move it to a different location, and the other was a real power failure with the UPS'es running out of backup battery power. Not a fault of the distro.
For stability in a business environment, I'd be inclined to recommend Debian. It's rock-solid stable, does not release new versions on a break-neck schedule, and is easy to update or even upgrade to a new version on-line. I've upgraded the box I'm typing on from Lenny to Squeeze to Wheezy and now to Sid (testing--did that last night) without a single hiccup.
As for LibreOffice, I have used it for years. As I understand it, the primary items from Excel that do not work in Calc are the MS macros, as they are written in MS Visual Basic. I used to be treasurer of my church before I moved, and managed a complex spreadsheet with 26 individual worksheets in (then) OpenOffice (there was a worksheet for each month, for each monthly report, and for year-to-date).
Regarding Writer documents, I have found that saving simpler ones in *.doc format works very well, but, with complex ones (lists embedded in other lists, text boxes--LO calls them "frames," and the like), formatting sometimes gets lost or rearranged when you "save as" *.doc. When I have to send LO documents to a Windows user, I usually export them to *.pdf. If I must send them in *.doc, I'll test them in MS Word (my girlfriend must use Word for work) before I send them. LO can also export spreadsheets to *.pdf.
Linux offers a number of excellent mail clients. I normally use the Opera browser or Claws-Mail, but I don't think you could go wrong with Thunderbird (Icedove in Debian--that's Thunderbird with some of the branding removed, since Debian is aggressively free).
I have not had to deal with *.xps files, but a web search tells me that there are Linux applications that can handle them.
Edit: You could also take a look at Crossover Linux, if you absolutely must have MS Office. Many years ago, I had a need for it and it was quite reliable.
Distribution: Debian Wheezy, Jessie, Sid/Experimental, playing with LFS.
As has been pointed out you don't need a particular distro you need certain applications. Personally I'd go for one of the main distros (the ones that all the others are basically forks of) such as Debian, RedHat Enterprise Linux (also called RHEL) or even Slackware (if you're happy to set up every single little bit and maintain and monitor all the dependencies). Then just install the applications you want to use using the distro's own package management system. This will give you a rock solid system and they will all run on a Pentium 4.
Why does a business still run an old Pentium 4 though? or is this a learning exercise?
Distribution: Linux Mint 15 MATE and Win XP. Others.
Linux platform for the office.
for Pentium 4 I would keep it light and I recommend Debian because its loads are small, it uses its own repository and also Ubuntu's, it is very stable and proven and it has a good lab. For office functions I would and do use LibreOffice, a free download from Oracle. For serious publishing I have downloaded Scribus 4.1, also a free app from independent Oracle engineers which is much like MS Publisher, and Front Page, only better. (You will have to buy the Scribus manual that costs about $50.) There are tons of templates for Libre Office whatever your needs are. Also, with Ubuntu, Debian and Mint 15 (which I use, there is Wine, a special app in the repository that lets you download many Windows applications and programs, except its proprietary business applications such as MS Office. While Ubuntu uses its Unity, the others use the standard Linux opp. Each Linux upgrades every six months and uapdates at least every day. (sudo apt-get update. download the app from the repository for auto updates.) If you run a small business and it is not geared toward highly complex operations I see no reason to dive into Red Hat or the higher level linuxes and pay dearly for them. Remember that they are KDE, not Gnome, which does give you a Win95 style environment, up to a point. I say like Elvis, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free." Eric Raymond, Open Source philosopher says when people hear free they automatically think "shoddy", "cheap", "small" and "unstable". If that were true then why would Google be using it to run their servers and the Turkish Army using it for the defense systems' management? One of the great things a bout a Linux is that you cans et it up which ever way you want. And, yes, there is ample tech support for Linux, nearly always from highly experienced techs and engineers who know multiple operating system and not merely Have MS A+ certification. Test download a Linux tomorrow and sue the "live" version. If you like it, download the hard version. If not, find another. You will find the right tool for the right job.
Distribution: Linux Mint 15 MATE and Win XP. Others.
We will note that I do not talk in absolutes. I use relativity. I think the term best is "for the most part...". Y advice is 'solution oriented' for practicality's sake. If this were a laboratory environment, and it isn't, I would choose my words a bit more carefully and be ready to defend my thesis, whatever that is. I stand my my recommendation of of using the methods I recommend which is to not go to unnecessarily complex and expensive subscription software if it is not absolutely necessary. I am a firm believer in Occam's Razor. I also recommend a Gnome over an KDE because it is more widely used and understood. SuSe, Red Hat, Fedora and Mandriva are KDE,, Of course, if our friend were in the engineering design or research business I would, of course, recommend a KDE, or if form deeper projects a UNIX. Its all a matter of the right tool for the right job. Why buy a Cadillac SRS when a Kia Optima will do the job even better and less expensively. Thank you for your comments.
My desktop is of a similar age to yours, and my laptop is even older. I use much the same programs as you.
On the desktop, I have CentOS, which is a free version of Red Hat and so very stable and secure. On the laptop, where CentOS would be a bit slow, I use Salix, which is Slackware with lots of extra software ready to use: another very stable system with long-term support.
Personally, I don't like Debian. It is weak on configuration tools, and a lot of things have to be taken as they come or else you may have to wrestle with configuration files. We had someone here last year trying to set up a web server with Debian: after struggling with the firewall configuration commands, he gave up and switched to CentOS.
Have a look at the GUIs and see which you prefer. CentOS defaults to Gnome and is best kept that way, as a lot of the configuration tools are designed for that environment. Salix uses Xfce, which is lighter (that's why I use it on my older computer) but equally functional.