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Meet the BeOS

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By the company's own admission, the BeOS is not aimed at the general office productivity market. If this is how you spend most of your computing time, and if you're perfectly content doing those tasks in Mac OS or Windows, the BeOS may not be the operating system for you.

It also may not be the best system for neophyte computer users. That's not to say it's difficult to install, configure, or operate (in fact, many of its features are far easier to configure and work with than their Windows or Linux counterparts), but users with a couple of years experience with Windows or Mac OS will better appreciate what the BeOS has to offer. (See "Is the BeOS Right for You?")

Just because the BeOS is optimized for media applications doesn't mean you can't also make it your general-purpose operating system. In fact, thousands of people use it for their daily word-processing, spreadsheet, email, Web browsing, and other productivity needs.

An important caveat: The BeOS runs only native BeOS applications--meaning it won't run Microsoft Word or Excel, for example. However, vendors such as Gobe Software have done a tremendous job of bringing general productivity applications to the BeOS (these apps are covered in depth in The BeOS Bible). Soon, it will be possible to open and edit Word and Excel files in these applications, thanks to system-wide "Translators."

While more and more people are using the BeOS as their primary OS, many users simply install a partition on their machines and boot into it as the situation demands--when they need to run an audio app, for example.

Remember: An operating system is merely another software option. Just as you would run a specific application for a particular job--for instance, Photoshop for image editing--you can boot into the best OS for a given task, toggling between them as necessary. That's the beauty of the BeOS. You don't have to "commit" yourself to changing operating systems overnight.

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