The idea is simple: Linux isn’t always the best non-Windows operating system. Windows is excellent and unbeatable for quite a few people and tasks. But neither is perfect. Almost exactly 10 years ago, a team began to search for a fix. In 1996, Linux was unusable for anyone but the most technologically ‘gifted’ and Windows 95 wasn’t anywhere near as complex as Windows today.
Originally called FreeWin95, the project had a decent idea, but terribly organized, implemented, and coded. Two years later, the dos-clone kernel was dumped, and the real project began. It was called ReactOS, and this time it was for real.
ReactOS is a 100% Open Source (mostly GPL) rewrite of the Windows Kernel. At its heart, ReactOS is an initiative to create an open-source project that is fully compatible with the all Windows NT-based drivers, applications, and services.
ReactOS is a project intended to bring together the power of open-source, the usability of Microsoft’s Windows, and most importantly the immense driver and application database available to Windows users into one operating system that can distributed free of charge and licensed at will. ReactOS is a true community-driven initiative to make a better operating system, and it strikes at the heart of the corporate OS world by appealing directly to the users of Windows, theoretically providing the very things that Microsoft advertises Windows as being excellent for – without the price tag and with greater flexibility.
But ReactOS is much more than just a GPL Windows-Clone. Rather, ReactOS takes the Windows code a step further by stripping it down to the bare minimum – leaving a kernel that is (supposedly) fast, light, clean, and powerful with a more stable user interface with greater flexibility where implementation is concerned.
This review of ReactOS will not revolve as much around usability, stability, or features as much as it does on the core concept and the development cycle. You can see NeoSmart Technologies’ ReactOS Screenshot Tour for a quick look at what there is to see.