1. -What are some useful shortcuts/commands to know?
Learn your shell commands. There are plenty of sites to help, here is one I love. Bruno is the man! http://brunolinux.com/
2. - Gnome or KDE? I think I've heard KDE is better, but I've only used Gnome in the past.
I prefer KDE, some love gnome. kde ftw! p
3. - What are your opinions on Beryl? I've seen vids and it looks awesome.
I only played with it when it was still beta, after the fork, and tried it again after they reunited under the new name, compiz-fusion. Still too buggy, and wasn't productive, just pretty. Meh.
4. - Could I run any .exe with Wine? I'm interested in Adobe Flash and 3DS Max for my design clases.
Probablly not any exe, not sure about flash or 3DS. Search here. http://appdb.winehq.org/
5. - Where can I configure standby/shutdown options? I want to be able to standby by pressing the power button. (On a side note: Hibernating takes AGES)
dunno? Standby can be a pain in the arse.
6. - EDIT: Burning software
Only one for me K3b. I have used the xfce burner xfburn.