These days there are so many Linux distributions (operating systems) that are easy and enjoyable to use that it must be difficult for someone wanting to try Linux to choose. Of course Ubuntu is the one that gets most of the attention; and it is stable and relatively easy for beginners to try out. If you want to take a dip into the wonderful world of Free and Open Source Software, a distro based on Ubuntu is a good place to start.
The Unity desktop that is standard with Ubuntu has improved a lot, but I just don’t care for it as much as some alternatives like XFCE or Enlightenment or KDE. Of course, one of the neat things about Linux is that you can install other Desktop Environments and Window Managers, and even use several in the same distro. But for people who are not sure what “Linux” is all about, are not used to having so much choice, and just want to try out a Linux-based operating system that is free and ‘just works’ for the average user without a lot of fiddling (like adding Flash support and multimedia codecs and such); here is my short list of personal favorite distros.
1) Zorin OS: A great, easy to use OS that looks similar to Windows and from my experience is very solid. I’m using the newest version on our second desktop computer. Comes with pre-configured goodies and lovely effects. This is a wonderful intro to Linux for Windows users, and it uses it’s own variation of the Gnome 3 desktop that works quite well. Here’s a comprehensive video for more information: Zorin Linux OS 6 Ultimate Review.
2) Linux Mint: I’ve used Mint for a few years through many changes, especially after the change by Ubuntu to Unity (Mint is based on Ubuntu, as are all the distros I’m mentioning). There are many variations of Linux Mint these days, including a Debian-based version. But right now I have Mint 13 (Maya) using the Mint-developed Cinnamon Desktop installed on my HP Mini netbook, and it’s running very fine! Mint is versatile, user-friendly and a joy to use. It’s been the most popular brand of Linux on Distrowatch for a while now.
3) Pinguy OS: PinguyOS recently came out with their 12.04 version that also uses a nicely-augmented Gnome 3 desktop. This distro comes with a lot of extra applications, tweaks and PPAs pre-installed; including WINE software for running Windows stuff (so does Zorin). It’s got software for almost anything you’d want to do with a computer; and they have an exceptionally diverse and helpful forum.
4) Solus OS: This is a relatively new distro based on the stable branch of Debian Linux. It’s the child of Ikey Dougherty, who developed Linux Mint Debian Edition. The aim of Solus OS is to be stable, user-friendly and beautiful. I wrote about it Here. This baby is changing fast and I’m looking forward to trying out the Solus OS 2 final release when it’s available soon. This distro is becoming very popular!
Then there is the distro I use on our main machine, Voyager Linux, based on Xubuntu using the familiar, configurable XFCE. I’ve blathered on about it before, so I saved it for the end. But I really love Voyager and think it’s a great choice for new Linux users, too!
And not to leave out a KDE-centric Linux operating system; honorable mention goes to Netrunner, based on good ‘ole Kubuntu. I have not installed Netrunner on any of our computers, but I am sorely tempted to do so. It looks great and runs very nice from the Live DVD. I think I should do another post on distros that primarily use KDE in the near future. There are a few nice ones out there. And Windows users would also feel right at home in KDE.
I’ll leave you with a couple more links. What do you think of my favorites? This is just a short list of great Linux distros. Other options would be welcome.
Unity alternatives – the many desktops of Ubuntu
25 Things I Did After Installing Ubuntu 12.04