There are many GNU / Linux distributions to choose. This is both positive and negative. On the one hand, it is wonderful to have a multitude of distros at your fingertips that are aimed at very specific users, with a multitude of pre-installed tools at your fingertips for what you usually do on a daily basis. A way to satisfy many types of users, unlike other unique systems like macOS, Windows, etc.
But on the other hand there is the already known fragmentation, which makes it quite difficult for developers to generate packages for all of them. Fortunately, many of the distributions are forks or derived from others, so they are compatible with the parent distro packages, that is, there are families compatible with each other and not all are made from scratch. It really has been a dilemma until not long ago: happy users with many distros vs happy package developers with few. With the arrival of universal packages, this problem has also been greatly softened ...
In addition to these small inconveniences, there is another, and that is choose one right layout for you. That is what this article is about, in which I will try to help you so that this other problem also disappears.
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What is the best distro? (Criteria)
I always comment on it, but I never tire of repeating it. When making a list of the best GNU / Linux distributions It is not intended to favor some projects and harm others. There are many wonderful distros that are not on the list, but you cannot create an article with all of them, as it would be a bit long and tedious.
La best distribution for you is the one with which you feel comfortable. Neither more nor less than that. If you like it and work efficiently, then don't think twice. It's your distro! Forget what the guides, comparisons, etc. tell you.
Now for those users who are newcomers and that come from other operating systems (tips for Windows users / tips for macOS users), this type of guide will help you to know the most used ones that may interest you.
In any case, when you intend to choose a GNU / Linux distribution, you should keep in mind a series of criteria according to your needs:
- Robustness and stability: Some people, because of the work they do, need an operating system that is as stable and robust as possible. That is not unstable and reduces productivity or makes them lose the work they are doing due to failures.
- Security: Obviously, these days you have to make it as difficult as possible for cybercriminals. Therefore, an operating system should also be safe, especially if you are using it to handle sensitive data, for companies, servers, etc.
- Compatibility and support- Not all distros include support for all architectures. At present, laptops with ARM are appearing, and there are some other projects with PowerPC, in addition to some boards with RISC-V. Therefore, if in your case you want to use a more "exotic" architecture that is not x86, you should carefully monitor the compatibility of the distro you intend to choose.
- Parcel: I don't mean the type of package itself, but the availability of software for your distro. Despite the universal packages that I have mentioned, not all software projects package in that type of package, so it can be somewhat limiting at times. Usually most of the well-known distros have large number of packages and it will not be a problem. But for example, DEBs are the clear favorites in this case. The greatness of Debian and popularity of Ubuntu have contributed greatly to this ...
- Usability- This does not depend so much on the distro itself, but rather on other components. For example, the package manager (some are simpler than others), the desktop environment (or lack thereof), etc. Therefore, it will be secondary, since you could install a favorite desktop environment or advantage manager on your favorite distro, even if it did not use it by default.
- other aspects: other things that can help you choose are certain systems that generate sympathy and antipathy to certain users, whether for technical, administrative, security, etc. For example, SELinux vs AppArmor, systemd vs SysV init, etc. As I said before, always look for the one you feel most comfortable with, not the one that they tell you is better, since a good administration of a specific system can make a difference regardless of the software you use. What's the use of using a system, if you don't know how to use it well, just because they say it's the best? That will only lead to misuse, poor productivity, frustration, etc. That is why the struggles to know which one is the best are sometimes somewhat absurd ...
With that said, come on go for the list...
List of the best GNU / Linux distributions of 2020
Each year the list of the best GNU / Linux distributions, and there are already well established large projects that continue to lead year after year. However, it is good to remember some other project that has especially surprised. And the result is ...
Ubuntu is one of the distributions most loved and used. Both for novice users looking for something simple with good hardware support, and for developers who find a multitude of development environments that work like a charm in this Canonical distro.
Se based on Debian, and it uses DEB packaging, although as you well know, it is also using snap packages nowadays. The heritage of Debian has also endowed this distribution with good robustness, stability and security. Also, if you like gaming, you will also see it can be a great option.
As you well know, they exist Various flavours. Although Ubuntu uses the GNOME desktop environment by default, you will also find distros like Kubuntu (with KDE Plasma), Lubuntu (with LXQT), Ubuntu Budgie (with Budgie), Ubuntu MATE (with MATE), Xubuntu (with Xfce), etc. All of them with all that Ubuntu essence in common, but with other different graphical environments ...
Debian is one of those parent distributions from which many others have derived. This project is one one of the biggest and coolest that you can find in the world of free software. A great stable, robust, and secure distro with which to work at home or create a professional server.
This distribution, as with Ubuntu, can be a great ally for those looking for a multipurpose operating system. Now, it may not be the simplest of all for beginner users.
As for the package manager, like those derived from Debian, this distro uses dpkg as the package manager. DEB packages at low level and also APT for higher level management.
Furthermore, quite versatile. As with Ubuntu, you can choose between different desktop environments, from KDE Plasma and GNOME, through Xfce, LXDE, and even window managers like Openbox, Wmii, etc. And that's not all, you will find Devuan too if you don't like systemd. You will even find Debian projects that do not use the Linux kernel, as we have already discussed several times in LxA, such as Debian GNU / kFreeBSD, Debian GNU / Hurd, etc.
openSUSE is a favorite for many. It can also serve as a generic distribution for all kinds of uses. It is a stable, robust and secure distro. A community-supported project not to be confused with its "big sister" SUSE.
Regarding environments, it is also compatible with KDE Plasma, GNOME, Cinnamon, Enlightenment, LXDE, MATE, Xfce, as well as managers such as Fluxbox, i3, awesome, etc. Of course, as you know, it is based on RPM parcel in this case, with the zypper package manager, or graphically with YaST2.
You already know that you have the option at your disposal Tumbleweed and Leap, the first being a continuously updated distro and the second a complete distro with periodic releases ...
Linux Mint it is another of the best GNU / Linux distributions. Not only because of its robustness, stability and security, but because this Franco-Irish distro based on Ubuntu / Debian is among the ones with the best usability. So doing anything will be very simple, even if you come from Microsoft Windows.
Linux Mint uses the Cinnamon desktop environment, although you will also find other flavors with MATE and with Xfce, etc. Of course, being based on those distros, it will use DEB packages.
By the way, it is interesting to note that there are a number of their own tools, the «mint tools»Which are small applications that will help you with the administration work, such as MintUpdate to update, MintInstall to install software packages, MintDesktop to configure the desktop environment, MintConfig to configure the system, etc.
elementaryOS is an Ubuntu-based distribution that has redesigned its desktop environment. And as you can see, it looks to Apple's macOS for quite a bit of inspiration for simplicity and functionality. Precisely its appearance has made this distribution little by little gain popularity among the user community.
elementaryOS uses a GNOME desktop environment like Ubuntu, but they use their own shell called Pantheon. That is, the same thing that Canonical was doing with its Unity shell. This shell is lighter than GNOME Shell and also has some add-ons like Plank, Epiphany, Scratch, Birdie apps, etc.
Plank is the dock which is displayed on the screen to launch the apps, while Epiphany is your web browser, Scratch is a simple text editor, and Birdie is a Twitter client of its own. In addition, it also uses a Gala window manager, which is itself based on Mutter.
Solus It is an operating system specially designed for home use, with a simple and pleasant interface for the most novice users. It was previously known as Evolve OS, and was started by Ikey Doherty, with a design focus on ease of use.
You can choose to download multiple ISO images with different desktop environments. For example, Budgie, the Solus desktop environment. But also GNOME, MATE and Plasma.
Budgie, if you don't already know it, it is quite a simple, light, modern and minimalist environment in appearance and that arises from GNOME 3 with some aspects of GNOME 2. Also, you should know that this operating system uses its own package manager called eopkg, which is based on PiSi. Therefore, you need your own repositories.
Zorin OS It is an Irish distribution based on Ubuntu and that is oriented to be a simple alternative for Windows (its interface is quite similar) and macOS designed to be fast, powerful, secure, and respect your privacy.
In addition to having an environment of friendly desk for Microsoft Windows users, it would also allow the use of some native software via WINE. And that's not all, as it includes some additional tools to simplify certain settings like Mint does ...
Fedora It is the distribution on which RHEL is based and therefore also CentOS. A distribution developed by the community and based on RPM packages, with the rpm manager at low level and also the high level DNF. And by default it will use GNOME as the desktop environment.
This distribution is very safe, stable, and robust. It can be a great work environment if you do not want problems, as well as being very versatile to adapt to both a home computer, as well as companies and servers.
The platform is also loaded with innovation, utilities for the cloud, containers, and software development.
CentOS comes from Community ENTerprise Operating System), and is a binary-level fork of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), which in turn uses Fedora as a base. Unlike RHEL from Red Hat (IBM), CentOS is compiled by community volunteers from RHEL source code. That is the main difference between the two.
This distribution can be valid for all types of use, although it is especially good if you think create a server with her. It will give you great stability, robustness and good security if you know how to manage it correctly. That is, it could be a great alternative to Debian, but in this case based on RPM.
Remember that you have two possibilities, CentOS Linux, which is the normal distro, and also CentOS Stream. In the case of Stream, it is a continuous release distro that is ahead of RHEL development, that is, it would be halfway between Fedora and RHEL.
Arch Linux It is one of the simplest distributions, but that does not mean that it is the simplest. On the contrary, along with Gentoo and Slackware, Arch has a reputation for not being an easy distro for novice users. Fortunately, his Wiki is one of the best, with everything quite well explained.
Despite this, it is among the best, since it offers many possibilities of customization to adapt it to your needs. Although it is an exaggeration what I am going to say, but it is almost like LFS, being able to build the complete distro with what you like the most ...
It is based on the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle, with a fairly simple and lightweight environment. Also, use the pacman package manager, with its own repos.
MX Linux It may not be a well-known name, but for some reasons it has positioned itself on the lists of the most popular GNU / Linux distributions. Why are so many users using it then? Well, it must be said that it is based on Debian, but it has been designed to be very beginner friendly in terms of its interface.
You will not need great knowledge to be able to handle this operating system, and it can benefit from all the Debian packages for which it is compatible. To that we must add that it is lightweight, and that it takes some core components of the antiX / MEPIS project, along with additional software created and packaged by the MX community itself.
MX Linux uses the environment Xfce / Fluxbox desktop by default, although you can also count on others like KDE Plasma.
Manjaro It is another distribution with Xfce, KDE Plasma, GNOME, etc. desktop environments, and it is based on Arch Linux. Despite that base, it is not complicated like this. It is a distro focused on making the user comfortable from the beginning and easy to use. So if you want the good of the Arch world and ease, Manjaro is a great option.
Being based on Arch, it also uses the package manager pacman, and although it is compatible with its packages, Manjaro has its own software repositories.
If you like any other, you are free to leave your recommendations in the comments. As I said, you cannot include all the ones that I would like in the list, since it would become immense… But I think that with these 12 there is a good representation of the best.