old friend, fear not. Ubuntu is one of the answers. http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop
Things have really developed over the years. Sure I am a geek, and I like consoles, but that is because I grew up toggling programs into machine in machine code, and thought assemblers were the last word in software. (1965)
Ubuntu using X-org is very much like Windows for the regular user who doesn't want to be bothered with stuff outside the Graphic User Interface. It is, perhaps, a little more sophisticated than the marching morons of Redmond, WA could ever anticipate, but that is due to its being derived from UNIX which was in business long before Bill Gates was out of short pants. And before Bell pulled out of Project MAC at M.I.T. the forerunner was the Desk Side Computer System (DSCS) which was based on Multics (Multiplexed Computer System). UNIX, by the way, actually means Uniplexed Computer System, but most of us old guard Multicians pronounced it as if it were the noun for a harem guard.
Like any other GUI system, of course, a program being launched by Ubuntu (or Mint or Debian) uses a short script that you don't ever need to see. There is about a one-day learning curve for users who want to use the Internet (Firefox, Chromium, Empathy) and e-mail (Thunderbird, Empathy). You really don't have to know anything about the system other than it will do what you want, when you want, and doesn't have a license fee for individuals.
Now, if you want to access a Windows file, go right ahead. gvfs
the GNU Virtual File System handles many different file layouts and decors including NTFS. You just have to tell it that that disk partition over there is NTFS, and all is cool. This makes dual boot with both Windows and a Linux decor a push over. If you do that as part of your install, you will also get GRUB
ootloader which will normally choose the last Linux system loaded, but you have 10 seconds to just cursor down to cancel the timer, when you can then choose among the bootload options.
Of course, you only get GRUB if you choose a dual boot. Take the tour, link above.
You can see from the tour that obtaining the software is pretty easy. You download the ISO, pick up its checksum (MD5) given on the site, burn it onto a DVD, then boot your machine with the DVD (or memory stick) loaded. The system loads 100% into memory and will not affect your disks unless you install and give instructions. You can play with this test system to your heart's content. It knows nothing about your storage devices unless you tell it, which is probably more than you'd like to do.
After your test run, you can pull the media and boot your old system or use one of three choices to install Ubuntu:
- In the same partition as your existing system
- In a new partition parallel to your existing system
- Clobber your old system and make a total Linux box. (Better backup your files, first)
I would chose option 2 provided you have that extra partition. The system will make another partition for swap space, because swap space is a partition on Linux. Mine, by the way, is 20GB.
Once you get installed you should request an update. There will be lots of them if you pick a release that is not the immediate one, because you get a couple (you choose to get them and how) every week or so. Linux like other systems is an ongoing project, and new features and fixes show up regularly.
I haven't said anything about the Office suite. It is Libre Office, and it quite happily reads in stuff from MS Office. However, it uses the ISO (proposed?) standard formats. You can write several different MS Office formats at need. https://www.libreoffice.org/
If you go this route, you will find yourself in a system that is essentially in the public domain but very, very secure. There is a firewall (ufw) and a virus scanner (CLAM-AV) but also a kernel item called apparmor which uses a set of (default) profiles to control execution of programs. If you are very paranoid you can learn how to mess with this. I haven't found it necessary.
You can get into "safe mode" called superuser in Linux, but this is definitely not recommended. To execute something that needs superuser permissions the sudo
command handles this. You will be asked for your login password if you invoke this, and you should set a good one.
If you do decide to go with Ubuntu or another distribution, I will help you. Just ask.