Are you getting tired of Windows and Mac-based systems due to various reasons and want a change without compromising quality? Well, you have an obvious choice; Linux.
Linux came into the big picture in the early 1980s, when many developers started using it in their projects and gave birth to various distros or distributions. Soon it became the heart and soul of the Unix-like operating systems.
Currently, there are hundreds of Linux flavors readily available for you to install right away. Each has its own benefit and negative aspects, so you have to choose carefully, according to your needs. We understand that as a newbie in the vast Linux world, it’s hard for you to pick the best distro at the moment. Don’t worry; we are here to help.
Below, we have gathered some good Linux-based distributions and mentioned their strengths, why you should use it, and why you shouldn’t. And yes, we have also included choices for experienced Linux users.
13. Peppermint OS
Pro: Sleek and user-friendly interface
Cons: Less frequent updates
Peppermint OS is a Lubuntu-based Linux distribution built on long-term support (LTS) codebase. What makes this OS unique is its approach to creating a hybrid desktop that integrates both local and cloud applications.
Its handy cloud and web application management tool “Ice” puts web apps on an equal footing with locally installed applications by seamlessly integrating them into system menus.
The OS is packed with plenty of native and cloud software, including Firefox, Dropbox, Nemo, VLC, Google Drive, 2D/3D Chess, Solitaire, and much more. Like other Linux distributions, you can install packages like Skype, LibreOffice, GIMP, etc. Since it’s an Ubuntu spin, it supports whatever Ubuntu supports.
Image Courtesy: Deepin.org
Pros: Stylish and simple to use
Cons: Sub-par performance, slow
Deepin is a stylish Linux-based operating system that you can easily use on your personal computers and on network servers. It carries its own desktop environment known as DDE or Deepin Desktop Environment. Deepin also carries all the packages from the underlying system, Debian.
According to DistroWatch, it was the most popular Linux-based distribution from China in 2017. However, Deepin is well known for its sluggishness. Apart from high resource usage problems, even when the system is idle, Deepin takes much longer to download packages from its default repositories than other Linux distros, which can be frustrating.
Cons: Not suitable for daily desktop use
CentOS is a community-driven Linux distribution that is highly compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and basically a free version of an enterprise-standard distribution. While technically you can use CentOS on your personal computer, it is not recommended. The distribution focuses largely on stability with a support cycle for 10 years.
But if you want an operating system for a home server, then CentOS is for you. Since version 7.0 was released in July 2014, CentOS officially supports x86-64 instruction set architecture only. The older versions, however, support the 32-bit version of the x86 instruction set.
10. Gentoo Linux
Pros: Fast and Adaptable
Suitable for: Slightly advanced Users
Gentoo Linux is a feature-rich and highly customizable Linux distribution intended for those who want full control of all the applications on their computer. Gentoo allows you to customize your system according to your need, though not easily. It demands adequate knowledge about critical system tools, which will help you to put a fine-tuned Gentoo system in place.
You can reduce your system’s memory usage, and unlike many other distros, you can erase any kernel service or feature you don’t need. Gentoo also provides a huge collection of applications at your disposal through Portage, Gentoo’s advanced distribution and package management system.
9. Elementary OS
Pros: Intelligent design, suitable desktop environment
Suited For: New users
If you are looking for a smart, attractive Linux distro, then you should give Elementry OS a try. Based on Ubuntu, it boasts on the Pantheon desktop environment, which is basically built on GNOME software base. Its current interface or any upcoming updates follow a design philosophy known as the Human Design Guidelines.
Its design, in particular, is pretty simple, which attracted praise from many users. However, many have also criticized it for mimicking macOS in terms of both UX and UI. The new version of the operating system, Loki (0.4), was well received and is a great improvement over its precursor, 0.3 Freya.
This version was also the first to carry its own application installer known as AppCenter.
Pros: Highly customizable
Suited For: System admins and developers
openSUSE is an extremely popular Linux-based project and operating system that is generally used by sysadmins and developers worldwide. It provides an extra layer of security protocols, which allows developers to work without worrying about attacks.
openSUSE offers two different release models: openSUSE Tumbleweed with rolling release model for those who need an up-to-date system and openSUSE Leap, which is more stable and thus perfect for commercial use.
Tumbleweed is supported by ‘Factory,’ openSUSE’s principle codebase so that packages and other updates are quickly available for download soon after testing. It is perfect for non-commercial or home systems.
OpenSUSE features its own system admin program called YaST (Yet another Setup Tool), which takes care of important functions such as firewall configurations, RPM package management, disk partitioning, and more.
7. Kali Linux
Pros: Lightweight, fast
Cons: Not user-friendly
Suited For: Ethical Hackers, penetration testing
No security-focused distribution is better at its job than Kali Linux. Derived from Debian, Kali Linux facilitates the appropriate environment for system managers and developers to evaluate their system’s security, aka penetration testing.
Kali comes with many useful stress testing and Vulnerability Analysis tools like DHCPig and BBQSQl. Important digital forensic tools such as Binwalk and Volatility are also included. If you are wondering what other tools are included, you can always check their tools listing.
Pros: Advanced security
Suitable For: Privacy concerned users
Tails is known for its capacity to maintain users’ privacy and anonymity in any given situation. With Tails, you can surf the internet with freedom and not worrying about any censorship. The operating system can only be booted as Live USB or Live DVD, and there will be no digital footprint left on the system unless instructed otherwise.
It makes sure that all your internet traffic passes through the Tor network, a specialized program that makes sure your data remains anonymous. Tails also feature advanced cryptographic tools to protect your files and emails.
It is so effective that many international news websites have published internal reports from the NSA concerning the level of threat the system poses against its secret data-gathering missions over the years.
Cons: Less user friendly
Suited For: Older systems
Perhaps one of the most efficient flavors of Ubuntu, Lubuntu is the perfect distribution for those who have older systems and netbooks. Currently, it uses an LDXE desktop environment, which comes with minimal, lightweight applications designed specifically for efficiency, low RAM usage, and high speed.
Pros: Stable, Fast, and Secure
Suited For: Everyone
Debian is one of the oldest Unix-like operating systems, based on which many of the now popular distros are built. With Debian, you can access more than 50,000 software packages. While it generally carries free and open-source software, many non-free tools can also be downloaded and installed from repositories.
Furthermore, you have the liberty to install a desktop environment of your choice. You can choose KDE, XFCE, and LXDE from the boot menu. There is one thing that you may be interested to know that Debian as an institution is known for its policies and manifesto. These policies directly affect the operating system in several ways.
3. Arch Linux
Pros: Easy customization
Cons: Not recommended for beginners
Arch Linux is a bar of gold for programmers and advanced Unix-based systems users. While technically, this distro can be used by anyone, it’s curated for the special needs of advanced users.
The distribution follows a strict design principle that tends to keep things as simple as possible. Unlike many other popular Linux distributions, Arch Linux needs a considerable amount of expertise on the part of users to master the system’s core operations.
It is lightweight and provides you with the necessary tools for various customization; you can choose which packages you want to install and uninstall. Programmers love this level of freedom, but a novice most probably won’t. It employs a rolling release model for delivering system updates.
To wrap it up, Arch Linux is a good way to go for those who already have a bit of experience with Linux distributions and want to try something new.
Pros: Better security and stability
Best For: Beginners
For many people out there, who are untouched by the Linux world, Ubuntu means Linux, and Linux means Ubuntu. Now you either called it popularity or just bad luck. Anyway, if you are a newcomer and looking for simple yet powerful Linux-based distribution, then just pick Ubuntu without a second thought. Ubuntu comes in three different versions; Ubuntu Desktop, Ubuntu Server, and Ubuntu Core.
It carries a good amount of default applications, including LibreOffice, word alternative, Thunderbird, a popular mail client, and Transmission, torrent client for Linux. You can easily get other software packages from Ubuntu Software.
It is secure and implements extra safety features to ensure file security. Overall, it’s a great operating system for beginners.
1. Linux Mint
Pros: Easy to use, vast multimedia support
Best For: Beginners
Linux Mint is a powerful yet easy-to-use distribution that can do wonders for those who are new to the Linux world. It is also adored by veteran Linux users due to its high flexibility and also the uncanny ability to use several proprietary software without putting in much labor.
With Mint, you get a wide range of desktop environment options. You can either stick with the default Cinnamon environment or can go with KDE, MATE, or even Xfce. You can install few other desktop environments via Synaptic and Advanced Package Tool (APT).
Overall, Linux Mint is a great option if you are looking to migrate from Windows or Mac to an open-source operating system. It basically has every ingredient that will make your transition much smoother.