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Switching to Linux: Where to start

In an earlier post, I briefly went over my reasons for ditching Windows 10 and turning to Linux. Today we’ll look at options new users have to begin their journeys into open source software.

I’ve used more Linux operating systems—called distributions for those in the know—than I can count. Ultimately, I settled on Antergos, which is an operating system based on Arch Linux. For new users, this isn’t the best place to start. When you’ve experiment with Linux enough to decide on what you like or don’t like, remind me to bring up Antergos in the future.

If Arch (and derivatives) are off the table for now, what do I recommend for new users? Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and elementary OS all immediately come to mind. And while they all share similarities, I recommend each for different reasons.

A quick note on the distributions mentioned in this post. Users can run the software from a DVD or USB thumb drive, do your original operating system is safe until you decide to install the software. (More on how to install a Linux on your PC in a future post.)

Ubuntu (includes siblings Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu MATE and Ubuntu GNOME) is an operating system looking to be as user-friendly as possible for new users while offering plenty for Linux veterans. Once booted up, users will find Ubuntu’s Unity interface easy to navigate. Preinstalled with software to get you laughing at cat videos on YouTube, to make sure you catch up with the latest Twitter explosion, Ubuntu (and its derivatives) got you covered. Additional software is just a click away in the Software Store. Enjoying the experience and want to commit? Go with a Long Term Support (LTS) release, which receives support from Canonical for five years. The current LTS release is Ubuntu 16.04 (all flavors).

Linux Mint (Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce editions), while based on Ubuntu, is made more user-friendly by including proprietary codecs to make watching videos and listening to audio much easier. Both the Cinnamon and MATE desktops give users enough of a Windows 7 feel to make navigating the system as simple as possible. Like Ubuntu, Mint is ready to go with everything users need to get be productive and to crank out words after installation. Mint is a great choice for dipping your toes in Linux waters. Mint also comes with an LTS release that receives support for five years.

elementary OS is one of those Linux distros that will just make you say wow! While it’s easy for users to dismissed the OS as another Ubuntu derivative, the elementary team has presented a desktop that is equal parts beautiful and functional. While new users may not notice as many apps preinstalled as in Ubuntu or Mint, feel confident that all the software a user would need is in the App Store. Often touted as a viable replacement for Windows or Mac OS, elementary OS has a familiar interface to Mac users. This isn’t a bad thing. Like Linux Mint, elementary OS is based on Ubuntu, which means many of the apps that work on Ubuntu and Linux Mint, work on elementary OS. Taking a more stable approach to development, elementary OS is built on Ubuntu LTS release base. albeit an older version. (There is a new version of elementary OS on the horizon, but the developers have not given a release date.

While all three (technically nine choices when you count the Ubuntu and Mint flavors) are great choices, Linux Mint gets my vote for the friendliest distro for new users. Not only does it come with everything you need to get started, you get the ability to play video and audio files right out the box. Someone new to Linux should be able to do what they were able to do in their previous OS with the least amount of fuss. Mint fills that requirement with ease.

Think you’re ready to dive into Linux? Then pick a distro, burn it to DVD (or USB if you prefer) and spend some time using an operating system that’s secure, feature-rich and easy to use.

Feature Photo by laboratoriolinux

Published in Linux Technology

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