Recommended user-friendly Linux distributions
Below I’d like to show you 3 different Linux distros who I deem perfectly suited to new users. They all are well maintained by their respective developers, do come with a great selection of preinstalled software (which of course won’t stop you uninstalling them, unlike on Windows) and offer a great experience for everyone.
Aiming to be the most simple, intuitive, straightforward offering you may find, Mint doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel but keeps things as you know it, where you know it. Why would you need a fancy new Metro design if the only thing it does is making things more complicated compared to the good old icon overview? However, this also means simpler solutions like the window switcher you see in the second screenshot on the left and no multiple workspaces by default (you may add a switcher using Mints’ Extension feature, multiple workspaces are a standard Linux feature since last millennium).
A little downer here are the older software versions available in the Store. While staying on proven versions does have its merits you’re missing out on most current updates which is most annoying if you’re planing to game a lot, as development in this field is currently very fast paced. You can always add the newer software source to your Software Store of course.
If your computer isn’t from the bleeding-edge and you don’t need the newest features (or software – except security updates of course) this is as cozy and thought-through as it gets. With a huge, friendly community you’ll also find all the help you may need in case something still doesn’t work out as you hoped it would.
Large, helpful community
A reliable workhorse that won’t surprise you
Got a well-known way on how to use the desktop
- Homepage: Linuxmint.com
- User Forum: forums.linuxmint.com
- Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_Mint
- FAQ: Linuxmint.com
Technical aspects good to know:
Distro based on: Ubuntu Used Desktop Environment: Cinnamon Default software sources: Repositories, PPAs, Flatpak Major Release cycle: 2 years Releases supported for: 5 years (LTS)
Visually unique and coming with all common desktop arrangements, Zorin OS definitely got a certain “coolness” factor built in. Meanwhile it’s not missing out on important features that lets it stand out: its Software Store gives you access to almost any Linux software distribution sources (more about that on page 7), meaning you have the greatest native availability without any additional steps. In addition to their standard “Core” system they also offer a paid “Pro” version with better user support and more, professional software available. More interesting however might be their free “Lite” version aimed at very old computers. It offers an almost similar experience while being more lightweight so old hardware isn’t overwhelmed.
“Zorin Connect” is especially interesting: it’s a software tool providing great integration for your Android Phone with a lot of functions like SMS Syncing, Filesharing as well as using your Android phone as keyboard & mouse for your computer. Of course you can install these features on other systems too (either “KDE Connect” or “GS Connect”), but it’s always nice to have such goodies already come well integrated into the user experience. Unfortunately it seems very taxing for old computers, so they’ve left it out of Zorin Lite.
If you’re new to Linux but still like nice visuals, Zorin OS might be for you. Of course you can always modify the looks of applications yourself, there’s a huge arrangement of Gnome themes¹ available to be tried out.
¹ Note that you can’t just apply Shell themes to Zorin as it’s been modified, meaning the bottom bar won’t change. What you can apply are GTK themes, which will modify the look of any window. More about that on page 8.
Backed and developed by a company offering support plans and advanced features
Software Store connecting to almost every source available, newest updates
Devices available worldwide with Zorin OS preinstalled
Modern goodies like Android Phone integration (“Zorin Connect”)
- Homepage: Zorin.com
- User Forum: forum.zorin.com
- Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zorin_OS
- FAQ: help.zorin.com
Technical aspects good to know:
Distro based on: Ubuntu Used Desktop Environment: Gnome ("Core/Pro" version, Modified), Xfce ("Lite" version) Default software sources: Repositories, PPAs, Flatpak, Snaps Major Release cycle: 2 years Releases supported for: At least 3 years
As their in-house made operating system, Pop!_OS by System76 is a fast, easy and astonishingly stable distribution (at least from my experience). Its primary aim is towards productivity and system stability, apparent in their forthcoming offer of installation media with Nvidia graphics drivers preinstalled – which is great since those drivers can be a pain to install, even with tools provided by almost any distro specifically to help you with them. In addition to that Pop!_OS comes with everything set up to work with hybrid graphics on modern laptops (they are selling those after all) making it an excellent choice for your hardware. Their tiling window management you can activate on the top right corner also makes productivity for certain tasks really fun once you get a grip of it. It’s definitely not something non-Linux users are generally used to, but I’m sure you can see the benefits for your personal workflow too.
Windows users will immediately realize the differences in desktop design. Cosmic, the desktop environment System76 is developing for their distro, is a fork of Gnome and will therefore remind many people of MacOS with its top and lower bar / dock. However all menus are very simple and straightforward, so no matter where you come from, you’ll get used to it very quickly.
Pop!_OS is a great choice for modern as well as slightly older hardware, and as far as I heard the hardware sold by System76 is also reliable and of good quality. If you wish a more in-depth review of the OS, there’s a nice video over at The Linux Experiment.
Backed and developed by the company System76, offering free support
Devices with Pop!_OS preinstalled available for purchase
Excels in productivity tasks and Notebook compatibility
- Homepage: pop.system76.com
- Chatrooms: chat.pop-os.org/login
- Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop!_OS
- FAQ: support.system76.com
Technical aspects good to know:
Distro based on: Ubuntu Used Desktop Environment: Cosmic Default software sources: Repositories, PPAs, Flatpak Major Release cycle: 2 years (LTS) Releases supported for: 5 years (LTS)