For those who might make a New Year’s resolution to try linux this year, Download Squad has a nice article. It is helpful and not distribution specific. Check it out! Also, the latest incarnation of some of the most popular distros are getting good reviews.
Free replacements for many commercial apps are already available. Here is a good list to help you get started looking, once you have your basic Linux system up and running. (Some of these apps will already be bundled with many distros!) If you don’t find it in the list, freshmeat and sourceforge are your friends. A more complete list is available at the advocacy site, Open Source As Alternative.