Looks like you are still a bit confused.
You can install everything into one partition or in the way you feel more comfortable. There's no real need to make a swap partition because it is possible to use files for that. It is not, however, recommended at all.
Its up to you, that is Linux. No matter the oddest idea you have, sure you can implement it in some way. I suggest you tu backup and test a lot. Once you feel happy with one scheme, keep it and enjoy !!
As long as you don't have any work over your Linux distro yet, this is the best (probably the only) moment for learning without worying to loose your Linux customization work.
As a Linux professional, according to my experience this configuration gave me the best results:
LVM (Logical Volume Manager)
I suggest you to google a little about it, you will find it very usefull. A brief summary:
The idea is pretty simple but a little confusing on the beginning.
* Create a partition, type LVM.
* Create a PV (physical volume) over that partition. (Most installers do this automatically)
* Create a VG (volume group), using the disk space of the PV we created before.
* Create the desired LVs (logical volumes).
LVs are now the equivalent to partitions, but as long as we have an additional abstraction layer trough LVM, we can easyly add, remove, copy and resize them on the fly. Not so hard as it looks like on the begining. The final scheme would be something like this:
MNT POINT FILESYS LV SIZE
/boot ext3 - 100 MB
Swap swap - 2 GB
… nº of 2G swap partitions, variable according to the physical memory.
/ ReiserFS root_lv 500 MB
/tmp ReiserFS tmp_lv 300 MB
/usr ReiserFS usr_lv 3 GB
/home ReiserFS home_lv 200 MB
/var ReiserFS var_lv 900 MB
Use ext3 instead of Reiser if you don't like it.
PARTITIONS (not LVM)
If you choose not to use LVM, the same scheme for partitions, but only boot, swap, /, /tmp and /var. That is, excluding home and usr.
* var and tmp tend to grow up in Linux, and could fill the whole disk if you don't take care of logs and temporary files. This will happen sooner or later and could break your Linux forcing a rescue.
* boot is where you keep your kernels, easier to go for __every__ boot loaders with the first separate primary partition
* swap must be alone, and the sooner the better because (as other said before) disk IO performance is fater on the begining of the disk.
What about home?
Well, I keep it in a separate LV which I can resize at will but if you chose partitions... do you know how much will grow your home?. You will tend to do it biiiiig. The result: a lot of spare on the begining but in a couple of months you will probably need all the unused space on /. I suggest not to do a partition. You have in turn to be carefull not to fill / with your favourite movies
. Anyway, if this happens you will not blame Linux but yourself for that action. And Linux reserves some space for himself which as normal user you can never use.
For those who share home among distros: mount root first and later a mount -o binding.
* Don't use all the disk space on the first OS installation if you plan to install later Windows XP or another Linux. A thorough plan allways worth the time.
* If you install windows after linux, you will not be able to boot Linux because microsoft overwrites the MBR. google for solutions on this.
* Take your time for backup your bookmarks, documents, email before.
* Don' fear. If you decide to go back to windows its easy. (Insert CD, delete all partitions you made, create one NTFS partition with the whole disk and install)
* Download and keep a Linux Live CD. Test it before. In case you mess everyting and need to search for help on The Internet while you are installing, use it for surfing.
Hope it helps
Sorry for the mistakes / misspelling.