Find the best desktop Linux distributions for new users

Today in Open Source: Which desktop Linux distros are best suited for new users? Plus: You can find Linux in the strangest places, and what do Linux users miss from Windows or Mac?

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The best desktop distros for new users

Everyday Linux User takes a look at the top ten Linux distributions according to DistroWatch's rankings and points out the ones that are best for new Linux users.

Users are confused when they first come to Linux about which distribution they should be using and I have heard people say “I was thinking of Ubuntu or Arch” or “I was thinking about Gentoo and how hard is it to use Linux From Scratch”.

This article lists the top 10 distributions according to Distrowatch for 2013 and gives a brief outline of the purpose of those distributions and whether they are the sort of operating systems a new user or average computer user should be using as their first port of call.

Linux Mint

Ubuntu

Debian

Mageia

Fedora

openSUSE

PCLinuxOS

Manjaro

Arch

Puppy

More at Everyday Linux User
Best Desktop Linux Distros for New Users
Image credit: Everyday Linux User

I found this to be a very helpful article for new Linux users. DistroWatch has an amazing selection of Linux distributions, but it can be quite murky and confusing for Linux newbies. The Everyday Linux user article does a good job clarifying which distributions are well suited to desktop use for newer users.

I can't help but be surprised that newer users are considering Arch for their desktop distribution. I had no idea that folks new to Linux would have even heard of Arch since it doesn't get anywhere near the media coverage that Linux Mint or Ubuntu get regularly. But it is listed in DistroWatch's top ten so perhaps it's not surprising that new users are finding it.

It might be a good idea for DistroWatch to add some sort of rating system that would clarify whether or not a distribution is well suited for new users. Or maybe the site could let readers rate distributions based on the installer and other criteria with star ratings for each factor. I'm not sure if DistroWatch would be interested in adding that kind of functionality, but it might help new users find distros that are better suited for their needs.

I noticed that the article seemed to consider Debian as potentially harder to setup for newer users. I suppose that's still true to a certain extent, but I've found that Debian has gotten somewhat easier to install in the last few years. If a new Linux user is curious about Debian then I usually recommend that he or she try installing it in VirtualBox first. That way they can check out the installer and see if it presents any potential snafus before trying to do a real install on their system.

The article's take on Linux Mint is pretty much spot on. It's a great choice for new Linux users, and it comes in different desktop flavors so they can get a feel for various environments before settling on one. I usually recommend Linux Mint to folks who've never run Linux before since it lays the groundwork for them to learn about Linux while also providing a genuinely good desktop experience right from the start.

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