Quanta Plus is the Linux html-editor with the most bells-and-whistles right now. Bluefish is the Gnome equivalent. Mozilla and OpenOffice both also have html editors.
For AIM there are at least a dozen different linux clients, including an official one from AOL. I'd agree that GAIM is probably the one you'll want to use though.
As far as which distro to use, I'd say Slackware. It's not as hard to install as it looks, it comes with almost everything you'd want (the rest being easy to add) and is as stable as you can get.
Gentoo is a fine distro and has several advantages over Slackware if you don't mind the compile times. Most of those advantages are not ones I would have any need for, which is why I don't use it.
If you want something easier to install I'd look at Knoppix or something Knoppix-based like Morphix or Mepis, which are even easier.
And if you don't mind using something which isn't quite finished, there's Ark Linux. It's as user friendly as you can get, and is loosely based on RH so it'll be somewhat like what you are used to.
Last edited by Greyweather; 03-01-2004 at 02:17 PM.