Choosing a Distro

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I've compiled a short list of the most actively-developed and user-friendly distros below. All of them are good distro choices, though some are geared more towards basic use. If you have trouble with one, try another!

Choosing a Distro

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Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning roughly "humanity to others". It uses Unity, which is Ubuntu's own in-house DE, but comes in nine additional "flavors" which include KDE, GOME, MATE, LXDE and Xfce. It is backed by Canonical, a private company founded and headed by South African multimillionaire Mark Shuttleworth, which has ambitious plans for Ubuntu.

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Xubuntu is one of the alternative flavors of Ubuntu, which ditches Unity for xfce. It inherits most of Ubuntu's benefits without some of its more controversial aspects. It is very lightweight and runs well on new as well as older PCs. The "look and feel" is also much more customizable. It can accommodate basic as well as power users.

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Linux Mint, based upon Ubuntu, is the most popular GNU/Linux desktop distro. Its goal is to provide a full multimedia experience out-of-the-box by including popular non-FLOSS software needed to support those formats, although it is available without this software as well. Its default DE is Cinnamon, but it is available in MATE, KDE and Xfce editions also (Cinnamon edition always comes out first, so you might need to download an older version for your favorite DE edition, located under "all versions").

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ElementaryOS is focused on being simple to use and aesthetically-attractive. It uses Pantheon, a custom DE designed by the ElementaryOS team. If your computing needs are basic and you want something simple and attractive to use, this is your distro. Unfortunately, the trade-off of this simplicity is a lack of customization options, so if you are a power user, you're better off on another distro.

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Fedora is one of the older distros, forked in 2003 from Red Hat Linux, which launched in 1995. It offers a lot of options and is favored by Linus Torvalds. It features GNOME by default, but offers KDE, LXDE, Xfce, MATE and Sugar options. It also offers specialized "Spins" focused on security, design, scientific computing and hardware design & simulation.

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openSUSE is a mature distro launched in 1998 with lots of options. It comes with KDE, but offers GNOME, MATE, LXDE, Xfce, Enlightenment and Awesome alternatives from SUSE Studio and the Derivatives Wiki.

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gNewSense is a distro for the purist. It does not contain any non-FLOSS software (needed to play DVD movies and MP3s, for instance) like most other distros, and is not designed to encourage the installation of such proprietary software. It comes packaged with GNOME, is backed by the Free Software Foundation and considered ethical by Richard Stallman.

Specialized Distros

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Tails is designed to give you freedom from snooping and delivers a high degree of privacy and security by using Tor to route all Internet activity. It is meant to be used via CD or USB flash drive and not be modified or customized while in use for security reasons.

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SteamOS is a currently Beta distro by Valve designed specifically for gaming. Its goal is to deliver a "living room" gaming experience, much like dedicated gaming consoles.

You can explore additional GNU/Linux distros here.