Novell has announced the availability of a new version of the OpenSuSE Linux distribution, with a host of features designed to make it popular with first time Linux users.

OpenSuSE was created by the OpenSuSE project, the community initiative sponsored by Novell to promote the use of Linux. Version10.3 is touted as having "everything a user needs to get started with Linux," and it includes a Linux-Windows dual-boot configuration, improved user interface, Microsoft Office file compatibility with the latest OpenOffice.org office productivity suite, and enhanced multimedia support.

“OpenSuSe 10.3 provides a stable and state-of-the-art operating system based on Linux kernel 2.6.22, and it contains a large variety of the latest open source applications for desktops, servers and application development,” said Andreas Jaeger, director of the OpenSuSe project, which has more than 54,000 registered members.

Certainly, the latest version of OpenSuSE comes with a lot of enhancements, including the newest versions of the GNOME and KDE desktop environments. Specifically, OpenSuse comes with GNOME 2.20 and KDE 3.5.7, but it also includes a KDE 4 preview. GNOME and KDE are open source graphical users interfaces (GUIs) that sit on top of a computer’s operating system.

But the open source distribution also recognises that it needs to provide users with the means to share and use Microsoft Office documents. To this end it comes with OpenOffice.org 2.3, which is a free and open source software office suite that supports the OpenDocument standard for data interchange. OpenOffice.org is based on StarOffice, the office suite developed by StarDivision and acquired by Sun in August 1999.

Securitywise, OpenSuSE 10.3 comes with the newest version of AppArmor which is designed to protect the Linux operating system, and applications, from attacks, viruses and malicious applications.

The new version is also multimedia friendly, as it includes MP3 support out of the box for Banshee and Amarok, which are the default media players in OpenSuSe.

OpenSuSE 10.3 also bundles the latest open source applications for developing applications, setting up a home network, and running a web server. The latest virtualisation software such as Xen 3.1 and VirtualBox 1.5, is also included.

Incidentally, an easy installation is offered to users as version 10.3 is the first Linux distribution to take full advantage of the “1-Click Install” option. This allows users of OpenSuSE 10.3 to easily install what Novell calls Restricted Format software. These are proprietary programs and drivers including Adobe Flash, Sun Java, MP3 support, as well as the ability to play encrypted DVD, and codex for DivX, Xvid and the WMP (Windows Media Codices).

OpenSuSE 10.3 is available for free download here.

Meanwhile the retail edition of OpenSuSE 10.3 is available here or in “select retail locations.” Essentially, the retail edition comes on DVD and it delivers the same packages as the downloadable version. It is accompanied by a second DVD containing a large selection of additional software. Also included is a "comprehensive" user manual and 90 days of installation support. Suggested price of the retail edition is $59.95.