Until recently, many software publishers considered the software market for Linux to be too small to bother releasing software for it. Though this is beginning to change, most proprietary software does not run within Linux.
That being said, there are several Open Source programs that can replace these “essential” proprietary ones (see this section).
Give these programs a try; they often release Windows versions, which you can use right now. Take a look at their screenshots and feature lists, and see if they satisfy your needs.
If there is a piece of software that you absolutely cannot work without, then keeping Windows is probably a good choice. However, you can have both operating systems installed (often called “dual-booting”), which can be used to suit your needs.
There is also a project called “Wine” which, in some cases, is capable of running a given Windows application in Linux. You can visit their homepage, which includes listings of compatible software, at www.wineHQ.org. Another option available is to emulate Windows itself within Linux, though this is typically not suitable for running high-performance programs.
Most games are compatible with Windows, and nothing else. Some of them have Mac versions, and some of them have Linux versions (Quake 4, Neverwinter Nights, etc.), but most of them just run on Windows.
So if you spend a lot of time playing recent games, you should stick to Windows. But you can still install Linux, keep Windows (see the install section), and use both of them, depending on your needs.
If you do like to play games but aren’t very demanding on their recency, note that software like Wine or Cedega can help you run not-so-recent Windows games under Linux without any problem.
Books & printing industry
Linux software still has very experimental CMYK features. This is getting better, but it’s not really satisfying for professional use yet.
While most books and magazines about free software switched to Linux a long time ago (and don’t they look great ?!), if you work in the printing industry and use a lot of CMYK colors, with subtle images, special printing effects, etc., you probably should stick to Windows for now. But you can still install Linux, keep Windows (see the install section), and use both of them, depending on your needs.
Note that you can also use am image editor called Pixel, which supports CMYK. However, I still believe that Linux isn’t ready for prime time in the printing industry just yet.
Most pieces of hardware work just fine with Linux. However, very recent hardware (a few months old) are sometimes not yet supported. Like software vendors, many hardware vendors still consider the Linux market as a very small one, and don’t bother to provide Linux drivers for their hardware. The Linux developers work on that, and do a terrific work to let every piece of hardware work like a charm, but this takes a little time.
The best and most straightforward way to see whether your hardware is well supported is to run Linux from a Live CD (see the “Try Linux without touching Windows” section).