Re: Ubuntu choice for new user?
I don't think you can go wrong with 12.04.
Start with Unity and see how she likes it. It might be better for her - Unity is a very "helpful" desktop if she uses its features, and if she doesn't use its better features at least it has big buttons
It's also quite good on laptops due to the overlay scrollbar and the better use of screen space.
If she can't wrap her head around it, then you can fall back on Gnome Fallback. I wouldn't recommend changing to anything non-Gnome; if she sticks with Gnome 3 or Gnome Shell she'll be able to use all the same programs and configuration utilities seamlessly.
I try to treat the cause, not the symptom. I avoid the terminal in instructions, unless it's easier or necessary. My instructions will work within the Ubuntu system, instead of breaking or subverting it. Those are the three guarantees to the helpee.