An easy-to-use alternative to Windows
The Simplicity Homekey is a clever product aimed at people intimidated by Windows computers. It is an easy-to-use operating system supplied on a USB memory key with lots of video tutorials.
Rather than forcing you to remove Windows or have Simplicity installed alongside it, Simplicity is completely self-contained on the USB key. This means it can be used on different computers, including older ones with less powerful specifications, just by plugging it into a USB socket. A startup CD is also supplied.
Simplicity is actually a heavily modified version of the Linux Mint operating system. Linux is not usually suitable for beginners but here the Linux interface is hidden.
The Simplicity ‘Envelope’ interface is completely different from Windows and Mac OS X. Instead of a Start Menu and windows, the screen is divided into four large triangles for the email, web, tutorials and Documents and Photos apps. A second page contains programs for more advanced users. There are also a handful of buttons for extras such as Skype. Each app fills the entire screen but there is a button to return to the home screen.
The pre-installed apps for web browsing, email and writing documents are good enough for basic tasks. They might not have the swish interface of other modern operating systems but the large, clearly labelled buttons get rid of confusion. Some fonts could look more polished, though.
The Shotwell software, used for managing and editing photos, does not have the same interface as the other apps but is still straightforward to use. It can import photos from digital cameras, memory cards and USB storage so they can be edited and emailed. There are a few more complex apps; Linux versions of Open Office are pre-installed for working on advanced documents, as well as Skype for cheap calls. Confident users can use the full Linux interface and install more software if they want to.
The manual explains the whole process of using a computer - from using the mouse and keyboard to writing emails and browsing the web. There are also plenty of tutorial videos.
Simplicity has the useful Teamviewer remote access software built in. This means the Simplicity computer can be remotely controlled over the internet from a Windows computer or iPad among other devices.
A 64-page handbook is also provided. It is worth pointing out that the support included in the price lasts for just seven days. Homekey is an excellent value alternative to Windows for people who are not comfortable with traditional PCs but want to get started.
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