The world of GNU/Linux distributions is a world full of open source and mostly free operating systems, all of them based on the same core. If you are thinking about giving some of them a chance, here are 47 GNU / Linux distributions series so you can find the one that best suits what you are looking for.
We will start with the best and simplest to start and take the first steps in GNU / Linux, and then we will continue with some a little more advanced. Once covered these two, we will talk about the best to take care of your privacy, cultivate your hobbies and even to get the most out of a Raspberry Pi. Let’s focus on the desktop, so it will be the most popular operating system based on the Linux kernel: the Android.
To start in GNU/Linux
- Debian : Debian is one of the most important distributions of the Linux ecosystem, which stands out for its stability. So much so that there are many other distros like Ubuntu that are based on it. It stands out for its .deb parcel system and its APT package management.
- Ubuntu : For years is one of the great references for first-time users. It is based on Debian and seeks simplicity above all else. After years of controversy, Canonical has decided to reuse a Gnome-based interface in its latest versions but maintains its characteristic sidebar and its ease so that anyone can use it without major problems.
- Linux Mint : Based on Debian and Ubuntu, is another of the best known and recommended distributions for first-time users. Your Cinnamon desktop environment has similarities in common with Windows as the design of your start menu, so it may be even easier to adapt to them.
- Elementary OS : Of all distributions based on Ubuntu, this one of the most focused on the visual aspect, which irremediably reminds macOS. It is a distro that is receiving updates calmly and without haste, looking for the greatest possible stability, and that includes its own application store to control its security.
- Zorin OS : Another distribution based on Ubuntu that seeks to attract users who want to migrate from Windows thanks to a familiar interface and the situation of its start menu. It has two versions, one free with the essential, and another better equipped with software whose license costs 14 euros.
- Mageia : Born as a fork of the missing Mandriva Linux, it is a stable, simple and compatible distribution with the Red Hat RPM packages, which also ensures that no large company is behind its development.
- Antergos : Possibly the best known multilingual distribution in the world, which is based on Arch and seeks above all to offer a simple and attractive desktop environment. Saving the differences, it could be seen as a mixture between the philosophies of elementary OS and Manjaro.
- Solus OS : A distribution designed to get the most out of modern computers with its Budgie desktop environment, although it also has a version for more modest equipment. This distro seeks to offer a modern and attractive design above all.
- MX Linux : A distribution created cooperatively between the communities of antiX and the old MEPIS. It is a distro based on Debian and intended to try to offer maximum stability while maintaining simplicity and ease of use as much as possible.
- Peppermint OS : Distribution based on Lubuntu, an Ubuntu derivative, with the LXDE desktop environment. It is characterized mainly by being web-oriented and prepared to use web apps as if they were native applications, something very similar to what we can see in projects like Chrome OS.
- Deepin : Another distro that focuses mostly on design. It is based on Debian, has its own desktop environment based on QT5 and has several native tools of its own.
For more advanced users
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux : This is a commercial distribution of GNU / Linux developed by Red Hat. With more than 25 years of history, it shows that millions of dollars in profits can be generated with Linux, offering a payment operating system that stands out instability and flexibility.
- Arch Linux : Another of the great heavyweights in the world of GNU / Linux distributions. It is a modular distro in which you must start installing from scratch all the components you want to add, which makes it an alternative especially focused on the most advanced users. It is a rolling release, so instead of different versions, all its components are updated on the fly.
- openSUSE : Another popular and classic distribution that is available in two flavors. On the one hand, you have the Tumbleweed version, a rolling release that is continually updated on itself destined for developers, and on the other side the Leap version in which launches of different versions are made more stable for the users on foot.
- Gentoo : Another veteran distro with more than a decade behind him, and aimed above all at the most advanced users. This distribution focuses on the power of use and maximum customization, and in turn, can be extremely difficult to use.
- CentOS : This is a distribution derived from the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) code, only it is maintained by the community and is completely free. In fact, there is Red Hat staff in its board of directors after both distros joined forces a few years ago.
- Manjaro : As Arch Linux is a distro for advanced users, Manjaro is an attempt to make it closer to the user. It is a distro based on Arch Linux that is already mounted and with its main components pre-installed, so without being as simple as Ubuntu itself, it is easier to use than its parent distro.
- Sabayon : And if Arch Linux has Manjaro or Antergos, Gentoo has Sabayon as a “ready to work” version, and destined to offer its power in a more friendly and simple environment for the users on foot.
- Fedora : Free distribution created and maintained by the Red Hat company that uses the RPM package system (Red Hat Package Manager). It is not as stable as its older sister, but Fedora is a good free alternative for the users on foot.
To take care of privacy
- Tails : A distribution recommended by Edward Snowden himself and based on Debian. It is small and light, so you can run it even from a USB or DVD on any computer, and connects to the internet through the TOR network using your browser to leave no trace.
- Kali Linux : Based on Debian and with a customized kernel with security patches and support for ARM architecture, Kali Linux is a distro founded for general information security and auditing. And with audit and security, they mean that it also has a large collection of attack and defense tools.
- BlackArch Linux : The dark side of Arch Linux, a distro born as an Arch expansion but that has evolved to become an “audit and penetration test” tool, which is why it offers an impressive amount of hacking tools.
- ArchStrike : Formerly known as Arch Assault, is another distribution based on Arch Linux aimed at the world of hacking and security tests.
For old computers
- Puppy Linux: A distribution designed to work fast on computers with few resources. It occupies only 100 MB, which allows you to take it almost on any CD or USB and load it directly from there, a process that takes only 30 or 40 seconds.
- Lubuntu: This is a version of Ubuntu that has been adapted to be lighter and can be used on computers with only 128 MB of RAM and old processors. Use the LXDE desktop system and the Openbox window manager.
- Damn Small Linux: Devilishly small, is a distribution that occupies just 50 MB with 128 MB of RAM to run without problems. That allows it to be used on older computers, such as the first-generation Pentium or even the i486.
- SliTaz: SliTaz GNU / Linux is a free operating system that works directly in the computer’s memory, from removable devices such as CDs or USB drives, although it is also installable. It is designed to run on hardware with 128 MB of RAM, which makes it an ideal choice for low-power equipment.
- LXLE: Based on the most stable LTS versions of Lubuntu, it is a distro that bases its lightness on the start processing and the LXDE desktop environment. It offers several profiles that will mold the distro to look like Windows XP, Vista, and 7 Starter / Basic.
- Bodhi Linux: This is a distribution that applies the philosophy of providing a minimum base on which users can assemble their operating system by installing the applications they want. It is based on Ubuntu and uses the Moksha window manager, its own manager based on Enlightenment 17. It only needs a 500 MHz processor, 5 GB of hard disk and 256 GB of RAM to work.
- Q4OS: A distribution that practically clones the aspect of Windows 7 and previous versions so that users do not have adaptation problems. They say they want to stand out for stability and performance, and for being able to use both new and old computers because of their few hardware requirements.
- Linux Lite: It does not work for computers as old as some alternatives in this list, but this featherweight can be used in 1 GHz computers and 768 MB of RAM. Based on Ubuntu, it combines a careful design with well-known applications for Windows users, such as Skype, Steam, Kodi or Spotify.
Specific for hobbies
- Distro Astro: A distro based on Ubuntu with the MATE desktop environment and a collection of preinstalled applications designed for lovers of astronomy. Unfortunately, since the release of version 3.0, it seems quite abandoned.
- Astronomy Linux 16.04: We could consider it as a kind of successor to Distro Astro. Based on 16.04 LTS, Astronomy Linux is a distribution designed for lovers of astronomy, for which it includes pre-installed several applications related to this subject.
- SteamOS: The distribution based on Debian created by Valve, the same people responsible for the popular Steam platform. Your goal is to offer an open source alternative to Windows to play your favorite games on your computer. For this, this operating system is a kind of media center with Steam’s Big Picture mode.
- Fedora Games Spin: SteamOS may be the most popular gaming distro, but this alternative focuses on native GNU / Linux games and preinstalls SuperTuxKart, The Battle for Wesnoth or Freeciv among many others. Of course, neither Steam nor Wine nor PlayOnLinux comes pre-installed, so you have to do it by hand.
- Ubuntu Studio: A variant of Ubuntu loaded with a collection of open source applications for multimedia creation, and aimed at audio, video and graphic design enthusiasts.
- Scientific Linux: This is a binary-level clone of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution, and is developed and maintained by the CERN and Fermilab physics laboratories with the aim of having a specific operating system for scientific computing.
- CEELD: Distro based on OpenSUSE that uses the KDE environment and is especially aimed at electronic engineers and students of this career, allowing them to design or simulate electronic circuits. However, after the closing of Suse Studio, its development is stopped while the creator learns kiwi.
- OpenELEC: Small Linux distribution created from scratch to convert a computer into a multimedia center based on Kodi. It occupies barely 150 megabytes of internal storage, and has support for a wide assortment of graphics cards, although it also works on less powerful computers.
Designed for your Raspberry Pi
- Raspbian: It is the official distribution of Raspberry Pi, based on Debian and adapted with all the necessary packages so that everything works without problems in the MicroPC.
- Ubuntu “Snappy” Core: Ubuntu Core is the smallest and lightest version ever developed by Ubuntu, maintained by Canonical itself and aimed at the IoT world. However, you can also use it on your Raspberry.
- Ubuntu MATE for Raspberry Pi 2 and 3: It is one of the most popular Ubuntu-derived distributions, and it makes use of the MATE desktop environment. It has a version especially aimed at Raspberry, which differs from Ubuntu CORE in that it is based on the full version of Ubuntu.
- LibreELEC: An independent distribution, although derived from OpenELEC to offer an operating system based on the Kodi multimedia center and designed especially for Raspberry Pi. Even so, it also supports any other x86 computer, being a good alternative for any microPC.
- OSMC: A distribution based on Debian and Raspbian that also seeks to easily convert your Raspberry Pi into a multimedia center. It does so, like LibreELEC, through the Kodi application.
- Pi MusicBox: The application with which to convert your Raspberry in a multimedia center destined for music. It has support for Spotify, Google Music, SoundCloud, Webradio, Podcasts, and other services in the cloud, as well as support for devices compatible with DLNA and AirPlay.
- Backfoot: A distribution that links Raspbian with Emulation Station and RetroArch to turn your Pie into a retro video game console in which you can install dozens of emulators to play the ROMs of your favorite consoles.
Glad you finally reach here… As we have seen so far, Debian and Ubuntu based distros are the most populous in this but For many, there is no doubt that Arch Linux is still one of the best distributions, and alternatives such as Manjaro show that it is possible to offer an Arch-based distro that is novice proof. However, among the distros that use Arch as a base, the one that caught my attention this year was Archlabs Minimo, a distro focused on minimalism.
Unlike all the others on this list, it is not intended for all types of users, nor for beginners, but it has its audience. Lovers of minimalist window managers like Openbox will appreciate it, as well as being extremely light and customizable. Enter this list perhaps as the “hipster wildcard” , and I recommend it to the more adventurous.