Can there be one? Distro’s for new users

by franksmcb

What’s the best Linux distribution for a new user? Its a simple question with a myriad of answers. It is also a question that is asked on numerous websites with sometimes questionable answers.

Recently an article on this subject led to lots of discussion on BDLL about this very issue. That discussion has led to this article. The BDLL community is a good place to ask this question. Why? BDLL is a diverse group of individuals with experience levels ranging from programmer to gamer to this “unicorn” user we discuss here as well as a wide range of use-cases.

Before we jump into this, there are a few things to be aware of. We used the following parameters:

  • Define what a “new” user is.
  • Choose a distribution you would recommend for that person
  • And most importantly why

Those seem to be pretty simple but as you will see this brought forth a wide variety of opinions. Let’s begin:

Barbara M. Harris suggests Ubuntu MATE

WHO IS A LINUX BEGINNER?

The question of who is considered a Linux “beginner” and what distro(s) should be suggested as good “beginner” distro(s) has as many answers as the people answering this question. In thinking about my answer to this question, I think the needs and knowledge of the end user (AKA beginner) must be considered. I consider a Linux beginner to be someone who uses a computer at home and/or work but is not a power user, programmer or sysadmin type of person. The person is able to get on their computer, do basic functions like word processing, e-mail, browsing the web, and basic file tasks such as adding, copying, deleting, renaming files and directories. That person may never opened a command line window in their lives. In other words, a beginner is you basic, nontechnical user who uses Windows or MacOS to get things done.

THE BEST DISTRIBUTION FOR A LINUX BEGINNER

The best distro for a Linux beginner must have the following:

  • Stability: To me, that is the most important feature. The easiest way to turn off a Linux beginner is to have him/her use a distribution that can easily break with an update, or one that throws errors. This will make the user feel very uncomfortable and make them decide to go back to their previous OS. Better the bad OS you know than the new one you don’t.
  • Ease of installation: The installer should be easy to follow and require a minimum of input from the user. It goes without saying that most Linux distro installers will install the OS much faster than Windows or MacOS ever does.
  • Easy to use with a minimum of previous knowledge: The successful Linux beginner will be one who feels comfortable with the layout of the desktop. Navigating around should be relatively straightforward without cryptic terms. Features should not be buried way down in menus or require the user having to open a terminal window. That would discourage a lot of Linux beginners.
  • Update when it’s convenient: One of the features (or should I say detriments) that drive many users crazy is when updates occur. Windows always seems to want to run updates when it is most inconvenient, and they can take what seems like, forever. MacOS updates aren’t as fast as they used to be, but you can decide when and which applications you want to update. You are not forced to update them (at your peril) at all, if you choose not to.
  • A good selection of software that is easy to install: Users should not be required to install software from the command line, or try to figure out cryptic descriptions from package managers, such as Synaptic. Synaptic is an excellent package manager but it can be very intimidating for the new Linux user when they are coming from and OS that has a straightforward, GUI “application store,” such as the Apple App Store.
  • Configurable Desktop: The Linux beginner should not expect that any Linux distro they have selected or was suggested to them, will look and work exactly as the the OS they are coming from. The user should be able to start using their computer once the distro is installed and the system rebooted. The user can go with either the default setup, or be able to select an interface that looks and feels familiar to them, or be able to customize it to fit their workflow.
  • It should just work: This requirement goes along with stability. The best way to make a new-to-Linux user have less apprehension is to use a distro that functions reliably and as expected.

AND THE WINNER IS…UBUNTU MATE!!!!

  • Ubuntu MATE (UM) meets all the requirements, stated above, for a Linux beginner.
  • Stability: UM is very stable, especially the LTS. It rarely crashes.
  • Ease of Installation: Installing UM is simple, requires just a few options to set up at the beginning, and then just installs the OS as it should. Going with default settings will result in a painless installation and a system that just works.
  • Easy to use with a minimum of previous knowledge: UM uses easy-to-understand commands and explanations. Also, there is an excellent UM community on the Web and many Ubuntu resources that are just a browser click away.
  • Update when it’s convenient: UM will notify the user when updates are available, so the user can choose when to update the system. Also, updates can be configured to run when convenient. Most important, you can still use your computer while it is being updated. If a reboot is required after an update, the user is given the choice of then to reboot.
  • A good selection of software that is easy to install: The Ubuntu Software Center and the MATE Software Boutique are excellent examples of this. Each provides an easy to navigate GUI application which provides a summary of the application, and simple installation/uninstallation with a click of a button.
  • Configurable Desktop: UM provides a nice selection of predefined desktop themes, including ones that look more like Windows (Redmond) or MacOS (Cupertino). In addition, the desktop can be configured to fit one’s workflow.
  • It should just work: This goes along with stability and is the most important requirement. I have never had any problem installing Ubuntu MATE on any computer and not have it work after reboot. If a distro requires any bit of tweaking to get it to work right after installation, it will make the Linux beginner feel rather uncomfortable and less likely to feel they made a good choice.

Vash (Michael) suggests Linux Mint Cinnamon

My new user ends up being more of a casual user who is tired of Windows or that their hardware just doesn’t run windows very well. Their needs are fairly limited, web browsing, email, YouTube, maybe some light gaming. They aren’t someone who typically wants to dig deep into settings and customize things. They are just going to use something mostly as is.

As long as the hardware they have is decent, then I’d suggest Linux Mint Cinnamon. To me the layout is similar enough to Windows that they will be comfortable. The update manager and gui app installer works. It also even prompts them to start backups if they are slightly more savvy they can do that. I also find the options to be fairly intuitive when it comes to where I’d expect to find those particular settings. It’s Ubuntu based so many of those articles apply if someone runs into trouble. I also think many of the right click options in Nemo would be helpful to new users.

I switched to Linux in November and overall found Mint to be a great way to transition and learn how it all fits together without an overwhelming amount of options.

Dreamingwolf suggests Xubuntu or Ubuntu MATE

For me, a new Linux user is someone who has little to no experience in Linux and is unfamiliar with online tech communities and the help that they can offer. This means that, at least in the beginning, I will be their primary resource for questions and problems.

The distro I would recommend for Windows users would be Xubuntu, and for Mac users Ubuntu MATE. The DEs are so that they will have a somewhat recognizable environment in their new home and will feel more comfortable exploring what they can do. The Ubuntu base would be for stability and the fact that I can troubleshoot many of the problems they are likely to encounter as they begin their Linux journey. I would also recommend Ubuntu based distros because, when they do decide to start reaching out to explore the Linux community, I know they will find many helpful and friendly people within the Ubuntu groups they are likely to find first.

Peter Paterson suggests Peppermint or Pop!_OS

Lately I actually have recommended two Linux distros to people who do not know Linux, one with low tech knowledge and the other with higher.

  • My Pastor’s wife was given her daughter’s low spec laptop that had Windows 10 installed on a 32GB drive. I recommended Peppermint to her, she agreed, and I installed the distro with one input from her, that I ensure Chrome be included.

This was about 2 months ago, and on Wednesday I asked her how it was all going. She stated that the machine is running well. She and middle school students where she is a therapist have been using it. She really does not know that much tech. Really just a user.

Peppermint uses a mix of LXDE and Xfce.

My wife runs Elder Scrolls Online, and one of her gaming friends is getting frustrated with Windows 10 on a security level. He and I have been chatting on Discord, and I recommended Pop!_OS to him as he is a gamer who knows more than most users.

Pop!_OS uses a customized Gnome DE.
Personally I really like Peppermint and have it installed on a laptop partition, and was impressed with Pop!_OS when I tested it with my System76 System before installing Solus Budgie.

Eric Adams suggests Linux Mint

Given that there has been extensive discussion about what constitutes a “new” Linux user I will start by stating that my definition of new is someone who is a casual Windows or Mac user with some level of competence but not an enthusiast or technical person. That being the case, I would want to provide them with a stable system that provides graphical tools to manage the day to day tasks of managing a computer. When I think of all of the possible choices available the first one that comes to mind is Linux Mint.

Linux Mint provides the solid base of an LTS release and reasonably new packages. The welcome screen takes users through the initial steps of setting up their system, including backup, drivers, updates, customization and most of the common tasks that most users would undertake. It also points to documentation and how to get help (web forums and 1-click IRC). The default set of applications that come preinstalled makes sense for most people and the software center (more functional than most) provides a curated list of the most popular software from the repository as well as the ability to install current releases via flatpak.

Linux Mint strikes a balance between sane defaults and customization, providing guidance and hand-holding without nagging, and being familiar while offering all the advantages of the Linux desktop. I won’t say it’s perfect and many might disagree with my reasoning but I am confident that a new user stands a better chance of migrating from their current OS and staying with Linux using Linux Mint than most other distributions.

franksmcb suggests Ubuntu MATE

The endless discussion of what is the best Linux distro for a new user is fraught with issues as to defining what a new or beginning user even is. For this discussion I am going to define that user as someone whom uses a smartphone and uses a computer or Chromebook for work or school. With that out of the way…what do I recommend?

Ubuntu MATE. Why Ubuntu MATE? It provides a stable user-friendly environment that is easy to customize and scales well as a user progresses in knowledge and familiarity with Linux. The Ubuntu MATE Welcome Screen may well be the best I have seen. It is both informative and user-friendly, it offers an easy way for a new user to see what the distro offers while leading to a nicely thought out Software Boutique and an introduction to the greater Ubuntu MATE community. The MATE Tweak tool allows for the user to easily make the desktop appear to be something familiar to them.

As it is an official flavor of Ubuntu, it has a wealth of software available in the repositories and as snaps. This also means it has lots of support options; including the Ubuntu MATE Community Forums, the official Ubuntu Forums, Ask Ubuntu, and many others. This gives a new user some sense that they can get answers from reliable sources. Ubuntu MATE is also well served by 2 books by Larry Bushey (Using Ubuntu MATE and its Applications and Ubuntu MATE: Upgrading from Windows or OS X) that are very good resources for that new user. They are available for download or in print editions.

Beyond the fact that the default installed software will fit the needs of most users, the Software Boutique offers a wide array of software that is useful for many users, it also provides a simple means to install the Gnome Software Center as well. The above mentioned Welcome Screen makes it easy for that new user to install codecs if they are needed and offers a way for the user to easily setup Backups (via Deja Dup) and the Firewall (via gufw) straight from that Welcome Screen.

Lastly Ubuntu MATE plays well with other OSes. That hypothetical new user might not want to jump straight away into the world of Linux and having a distro that allows that user to easily dual-boot is important.

Is Ubuntu MATE the be-all and end-all of Linux distros? I don’t think that is even a real question. I do think that any user starting off with Ubuntu MATE will be ahead of the curve and will have a better chance of staying with Linux long-term.

Profetik777 suggests Linux Mint or Elementary OS

What is a New User?

I describe a new user who has not used an operating system other than Windows or Mac OS on a tower or laptop form factor. This includes enterprise versions of said operating systems (aka power users). The reason for this is because even power users of Windows systems would be comfortable with some tinkering as a new Linux user. This might skew some of the first impressions about a distros and how user friendly it actually is.

Only 2 Distros come to mind when I think about introducing someone to Linux.

Linux Mint (default DE) and Elementary.

WHY NOT (k)UBUNTU OR MX LINUX?

While I would love to include my ol’ faithful MX Linux there (I use this as my daily system at home), the default configuration, plus the User Experience when installing software, keeps me from recommending it with confidence. Of course, there are a few individuals who are advanced windows users that could make MX Linux their home and be happy, they are the exception not the rule.

Unfortunately, Ubuntu is just out of the question for me. I find their default setup too jarring for someone coming from windows or mac. While it gets the job done for the average Linux user, I wouldn’t recommend it. While I love Plasma, and ran KDE NEON for over a year, I think most users coming from windows would like it well enough, but might be so comfortable for so long.

For instance, most laptops these days are coming out of the box with touch support. Sadly, Plasma isn’t really designed with touch in mind. On the other hand, Gtk based applications/environments tend to make some design decisions to account for the occasional usage of touch. I find that most users still use a mouse and keyboard, with occasionally using their screen to click a button or scroll on an article momentarily. Gtk designs (button/header sizes) make this easy to use…so despite my unwavering love for plasma and growing love for MX Linux, these distros/flavors just can’t make the cut on my recommendations list.

3 FACTORS FOR CHOOSING LINUX MINT & ELEMENTARY

1) Solid default desktop environments.

2) Solid software installation experiences

3) Community with new users in mind

Despite the vast amount of evidence showing us otherwise (for literally decades!), there is still a hesitancy to acknowledge that design matters in much of the Linux community. Some think that the most logical thing to take into account when building systems is functionality. But the most logical, in my mind, is to take the user into account first, then think through technical functionality (if in fact your project aims to target new users). Both distros make design (from looks to behavior) a high priority, if not a 1st class experience. Granted…most of what someone will do is in the browser, but there will come a time when eventually the user will have to install something and need to poke around a software center. What they find will drastically color their confidence in the system and Linux overall.

Lastly, when the user will need help and the person who installed their system is not around (I assume a new user might not always install it on their own but get help from a Linux user/friend), they will seek help from an online community. It is crucial they don’t get hit with the RTFM or even the “but why are you doing xyz that way when all you have to do is ABC instead?”.

We have to meet people where they are from platform, programs, and even the people they engage with. For these reasons, I would recommend Linux Mint and Elementary OS.

Nate Thompson suggests Fedora 29 Xfce

What do I consider to be a new user: This is very subjective as I know “new users” that are just computer aficionados that are trying to find a new computing experience outside of the Windows or Mac ecosystems all the way to a developer that is looking to find a more efficient way to perform their job in an environment that can tune up their workflow. I will consider them both.

My OS selection: I would likely point these new users towards Fedora 29 Workstation with XFCE Spin.

Why am I selecting this distribution?

I have been a Unix user/admin since the early 90s, and a Linux user/admin since the mid 90s and have played with many distributions. Most of the shops I have worked for have had a strong affinity to Red Hat Enterprise Linux in the production environments, especially in the Space segment. I would suggest Fedora for several reasons. Documentation is strong, the OS is very relevant in the job market, it is a nice mix of modern vs bleeding edge (I wouldn’t put them on rawhide!), and there is a large community available to help. I personally have jumped all over the place, but I have run every release of Fedora since Fedora Core 1, and I even have some systems that I have upgraded all the way from Fedora 16 up to 29, proving it is solid, upgradable, and approachable. Xfce I find to be a very usable, lightweight window manager that can get out of a new users way enough for them to use the system and begin figuring it out. Too much customization too early can lead to frustration.

Colin Brash suggests Linux Mint Cinnamon

I have run Linux Mint Cinnamon on and off for many years, I have always found it to be stable and trouble free most of the time, I’m familiar with the distro and I’ve installed it to many devices, in excess of 15, laptops mostly, all in one monitor and a Asus tablet, I rarely get any follow ups from users regarding issues. That’s why I would have no hesitations recommending to family and friends.

For the record, none of these people were gamers.

Nathan Wolf suggests openSUSE

This is my recommendation to a “New to Linux” user but also someone who is technically minded. This is NOT a recommendation for new to Linux who also thinks of a computer as a mystery magic box that makes flashy lights.

If you are interested in in Linux and have a passion for computers along with having control over your system with privacy and security as a priority, I recommend openSUSE. What makes it fantastic is that it is incredibly boring to use. Everything just works and continues to “just work.” Once you have it set up appropriately you can basically forget about it and not worry about an update breaking the system. The openSUSE ecosystem is the best you are going to find having the distribution backed by a build service and a super helpful community makes openSUSE a great place to start and to grow.

For the standard desktop, you have two options from which to choose: Leap and Tumbleweed. Leap is a Static Release while Tumbleweed is a rolling release.

Leap is an enterprise hardened system whose Kernel is maintained by SUSE. They ensure reliability and security to the enterprise level. The software for Leap is not bleeding edge but rather new at the time of release. These static releases are approximately one year apart from one another.

Tumbleweed is a rolling distribution that has the newest packages that have passed the automated testing by the OpenQA system. As long as the software passes the testing. A “snapshot” will be released that your system can pull down. The beauty of Tumbleweed is how durable the system is. Far more resilient than any other distribution in dealing with “weirdness”. If you like to tinker with your system, you can tinker without worry on Tumbleweed, (and to a lesser extend, Leap, in my opinion). If you break your system, have incomplete packages or install something manually that breaks compatibility one command will fix it 90% of the time or better: ‘sudo zypper dup

Run this simple command and the package manager will essentially baseline your packages against the latest snapshot available for Tumbleweed. In this process, Zypper will update all your system packages against the latest available and wipe away the cruft. If you happen to be on the latest snapshot and the system still has garbage in it and you have set up the BTRFS with snapshots enabled, a simple rollback to your last working state will restore your system and a subsequent ‘sudo zypper dup‘ will update openSUSE to the latest software.

Installing Software on openSUSE is extremely easy and convenient. Visit software.opensuse.org make a search for the application you desire and it is likely available, if not by the official repository than by a community maintain repository. This is not like the PPA nightmare of the Ubuntu based distributions. You don’t have to worry about incompatibilities as the package manager will work it out. If it does have a question about which version of a package to use, it will politely ask you which version you want to use. This does require that you are to be conscious of your system and know what you have installed.

Managing the system is by far the easiest with YaST (Yet another System Tool). This gives you an easy to use graphic user interface as well as a terminal ncurses interface that makes it intuitive to configure nearly every aspect of your system.

Lastly, and probably one of the post important reasons, openSUSE puts security first. By default, your system has a firewall that is active and you the user are required to know what it is your are opening before you open it. All software has flaws, having a firewall up is a necessary layer of protection that many Linux distributions neglect to activate automatically for “convenience”. openSUSE also has AppArmor activated by default. This is a Linux kernel security module that is configured to restrict programs capabilities on a per-program basis. The fine folks in the project have already set up these profiles so you will very rarely have to look at or modify these profiles.

Some added benefits of openSUSE, should you decide to dig into the system, learn and grow, it has a great community and a lot of great documentation to get you going on some more advanced features.

openSUSE, great for a new user that is passionate about computers who is concerned about the technological underpinnings, security and privacy. It is great for the new user that doesn’t want to have to continually fiddle with his computer, get work done weather they are the type that wants the latest software (Tumbleweed) or the enterprise hardened (Leap) type.

Steve (mowest) suggestsUbuntu MATE and in some cases Bodhi Linux

The “new” Linux user in my circle of influence would be a person with limited computer knowledge, minimal computing needs, and desires to keep an older computer running safely. The individual would likely be using a Windows 7, 8, or 10 desktop or laptop. My recommendation would be Ubuntu MATE knowing that I would probably need to do the install for them.

Ubuntu MATE has features that would help the type of “new” Linux users, I’m likely to encounter. Out of the box, UM has everything installed that these users would need like an office suite and web browser. The Welcome program with “one click” access to browser selection, documentation, and the Software Boutique will assist these new users to become familiar with UM features, options, and allow them to install additional applications. If one of these users is savvy enough to search for help on the Internet when issues arise they will likely find workable solutions because of the Ubuntu base. Also if the user is willing to join the Discourse forum, the home of the UM Community, they will find an excellent and active community of users to give advanced support. Thanks to UM Tweak the “new” Linux user is able to easily arrange the visual presentation of the desktop environment to feel more familiar by picking the “Redmond” layout. UM features that are easy to overlook, but offer incredible benefit to my defined “new” Linux users are the automatic update reminders and the backup reminders. The graphical updater will encourage “new” Linux users to keep their systems patched. Deja Dup encouragements to back up their data encourages an important practice often neglected by “normal” computer users.

Although, I believe Ubuntu MATE to be an excellent choice for the “new” Linux user. I believe the following hurdles may prevent me from ever meeting this “new” Linux user. First, they have an old legacy Win32 application that they can’t live without. My parents fall into this category. My Dad uses Family Tree Maker which runs on Windows. No, at his age he will not consider an alternative program to create his family trees. Second, they have hardware that only works on Windows. The “new” Linux users in my circle of influence will be on limited budgets. If they switch to Linux and their printer, scanner, or some other esoteric hardware fails to work, they will run back to Windows. Third, their old Windows PC has less than 4gigs of RAM. My experience has found Ubuntu MATE a struggle to enjoy on less than 4gigs. If their computers have 2gigs of RAM I would probably recommend Bodhi Linux, but then you loose a number of the benefits that I describe above that are unique to Ubuntu MATE. I fear that the “new” Linux user I have described might be as mythical as a unicorn. I have been running Linux off and on since 2004, and the only person I have won over to Linux is my son who is stuck with the same hardware that I use.

eshep suggests Gentoo

The “want to learn” type.

The most common request I get from new users is the “I want to learn Linux” one. After first confirming the authenticity of their desire, I recommend they go through a Gentoo install (only stage3) and read the handbook completely. I also advise they run through it at least three times to a usable graphical environment to get comfortable with the process, more if they feel the need. While it may seem ridiculous to most, I have good reason for this advisement. The Gentoo method of install is very methodical and gives you most of the skills necessary to work comfortably/confidently in a Linux environment. Also, the Gentoo Handbook is by far the most well written installation walk through out there. The processes it takes you through give you a good understanding of how things fit together and why they are done that way. The learner may not understand it as they’re walking through all the steps but by the time they’re on their third install, they’ll be skipping over pages because they already know what to do and have done it.

Once they have a comfortable understanding of how it all goes together, they will never have problems in other distribution types that they don’t know how to troubleshoot. I’ve found that if I give someone an easy to use, one click install, made for the common consumer distro, they constantly have questions about things and have less desire to dig into it to find out what’s wrong. However if they start by building it themselves, they have a far different approach to the learning process.

BigDaddyLinux suggests Ubuntu MATE

Is there one?

The discussion about what Linux distro to give to a new user will be never ending for two reasons.

  • The first reason is because you first have to define a new user and that will differ from person to person when discussing who will be using it.
  • The second reason this is an extremely difficult question is because we have so many choices in the Linux world that you could basically make a case for any number of distros and they could be the right choice for that person.

So let’s just start with how I define a new user.

I am taking real life examples of people who I have had the pleasure to interact with. Most people I talk to have never heard of Linux, the one or two people I have talked to in real life that at least know about Linux have made statements like “Do you still have to install everything through the terminal?”. I also know some people who are very competent in making their way through Windows and MacOS that would struggle with Linux just due to the nature of learning so many things at once. Most of the users I know just browse the web, check email and watch videos on YouTube so the challenge is to not only introduce them to Linux but also why they should be interested in Linux, but I’m getting off topic.

A new user to me is someone who would probably not be comfortable with the terminal or if they were comfortable with the terminal, it would be due to not understanding the power of your actions in the terminal. Which is okay if there is some guidance along the way which is where each of us comes into play. Mentoring people who are new to Linux to guide them through the pitfalls and yet still allow them to learn it without doing everything for them, Teaching them.

Now that we have somebody who indeed wants to try Linux, which distro should we choose and which desktop environment do we pick for them. There is no right answer here, this question will be subjective based off of any number of criteria for the person trying out Linux.

  • How much technical knowledge does this person have
  • How much desire to learn do they have or do they want a “Ron Popeil” Setup
  • How much available time does this person have to commit to Linux and learning it
  • Is this is a production machine or just a fun experiment?

These are just a few of the considerations that have to be taken into account when you are suggesting a Linux distro to a friend.

For this scenario, we are going to run with the new user who has only ever used windows and will not be up to the task of using a terminal very often. Limited time to learn and wants to enjoy using his/her computer.

For this person, I think there are two clear choices. I think Linux Mint or Ubuntu MATE would be the best fit for this person to use. I know, I know, I am supposed to pick one, Keep reading, I do pick one but this goes back to my point that there is no “Perfect” choice, both of these distros would be great for this user.

Linux Mint has some great things going for it which are,

  • Familiar user interface
  • Apps that you use daily preinstalled and look cohesive across the board
  • Most things are setup out of the box
  • A big community that has a ton of answers that plague a new use in their forums.

These are all great reasons and if you gave your friend Linux Mint, it would be a great choice.

I however tend to suggest to new users in this category Ubuntu MATE because most likely, I will be helping them install it and work through it and there is something to be said for being familiar with the distro yourself because undoubtedly you will be helping all along the way. To me, Ubuntu MATE strikes that happy medium because it has some great features like

  • Familiarity in layouts
  • Customization
  • New user friendly
  • A helpful community.

But not only those reasons. I can install the system for the person and I can lead them to how to use the system but ultimately they will be in front of the computer without me there to help them and what better place to leave them to learn their new system on their own than the Ubuntu MATE Welcome Screen. It has everything a new user would need to learn their new system step by step. It will guide them through their system without you being there. It also leads to the Software Boutique, which obviously does not have every piece of software but what it does have is the best of the best software to start that person out on the right road with software in Linux and then later once they are more familiar with everything, they can start installing software via other methods. Once they progress more, they can open up MATE Tweak and discover the power of Linux and making it their own.

Jon Uhler suggests Ubuntu MATE

What is a new user. More importantly what is a new Linux User.

I’ve been in the Linux community for a long time and I have fond memories of Linux get togethers back in the day when it was harder to get a hold of Linux and you would have physical meet ups and use someone else’s floppies. So to me a new user is that person who knows how to use a computer, knows enough to know there are options out there other than Windows and they want to try that out.

In the past I would have pointed that person to Linux Mint. I think the hardest part of the whole Linux experience for this new user is the install process. Ubuntu MATE is now my go to when a new user is looking to get into Linux. I choose this distro for several reasons. One, I think Mint is awesome, but people tend to out grow it. Two, the install is easy and the welcome screen is the best in the business. I love the community behind MATE and Ubuntu. I love Wimpy’s idea of a distro. The software that is installed is awesome and of course since it is Ubuntu you get anything you need. The bottom line is Ubuntu MATE just works. It gets out of the way and allows you to get work done. For those of us that use a computer in their daily work flow, and choose to use Linux to do that work, Ubuntu MATE just works.

Thomas (Drauger OS Dev) suggests Linux Mint or Elementary OS

To me, a new Linux user is someone who has little to no experience with Linux, or computers in general. These people may be a power user in Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, or any other OS, but have never, or rarely, touched Linux before. They could also be people who have barely touched a computer, smartphone, or tablet at all in their life. In general, they have little to no experience with Linux. So, with all that in mind, what do I feel, in my honest opinion, is the best distro for new users?

In my book, that mostly depends on if they experienced with Windows or MacOS. If they are experienced with Windows, or no other OS at all, I feel Linux Mint is the best for them. If they are more familiar with MacOS, then I feel Elementary OS would be better.

The reason I feel this way is fairly simple, both Elementary OS and Linux Mint are Debian/Ubuntu-based distros. This means finding support is fairly easy as most of the Linux market share is made up of other Debian-based operating systems (ignoring Android of course). Furthermore, Linux Mint, in my experience, is one of the most stable distros, which makes it great for new users. Also, Linux Mint has an interface which is similar to Windows which makes it easier for former Windows users. Likewise, Elementary OS has an interface which somewhat resembles MacOS, making it somewhat easier to navigate for former MacOS users.

These reasons, plus my experience with Debian-based operating systems, makes me inclined to suggest either Linux Mint or Elementary OS to anyone looking to hop into the Linux world for the first time.

So there you have it.

As you can see there is a wide variety of opinions and some very strong feelings.

The purpose of this article was not to drive page-hits or simply to push out content for contents sake. The hope is that someone interested in Linux will gain some insight from the different perspectives seen here and hopefully will be motivated and inspired to install and try Linux.

Grab a distro and give Linux a try, you might be surprised what you find inside.

Finally we will leave you with this message from Big Daddy Linux:

Do you remember when you had your first good experience in Linux? How awesome and magical it felt to have the freedom and power of Linux? Maybe even one day this person who you introduced to Linux will start to contribute to Linux and take their place in one of the best community’s out there.

Long Live Linux!

by franksmcb

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution v4.0 License.

 

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  1. Interesting, but you are all wrong, and you are all right at the same time.

    The 1st question is “who is the new user?”, followed by “what is their skill level”, what is their interest level, and finally “are they too thick to be let loose on their own”, “are you prepared to provide their level of support?”

    For some people I know a Chromebook (or desktop equivalent) would be all they need. I am curious if Porteus-Kiosk would be a solution for minimal users.

    For a big chunk of potential new to Linux users probably many of the suggested seem reasonable, Did anyone above mention MX? how about Debian 10 (may be too early but as Testing it ran for 9 months for me with no problems that had me scratching my head, and the new installer makes the install as easy as a lot of the above suggestions.

    The really hard group of new to Linux users are the “Windows Guru” ones, the one so entrenched in their “expertise” they just don’t want to start learning and thinking again.

    So, my list to pick from would be MX, Peppermint, Mint (choose desktop - MATE or Xfce for me), Ubuntu MATE or Xubuntu.

    For slightly more techie users I’d add Debian 10, ArchoLinux (with Xfce but pick your own poison) and I think Endeavour may join my list if it holds up.

    For the curious, I might add SparkyLinux (the 5 series using Debian Buster) and perhaps Linux Lite. I don’t have a feel for the communities about those last 2, I’ve tried them and they’ve been OK for me.

    Just my 2 pence worth… and as the pound is going down the pan, that’s not a lot of worth probably

  2. I think for me the first question you should ask when supporting a new user transition to Linux is: What am I confident I can help them with when I get a support request, for me that would be Mint, Mate or Ubuntu Mate. I also like to check what someone does with their PC before deciding how to set it up. I recently installed Mint 19.1 Mate on an 8 year old laptop with 4Gb Ram for a friend. I set up desktop icons for all the software she needed which was Firefox, Word, Excel and PowerPoint these were obviously the LibreOffice iteration of these applications but I labeled with the familiar names for her. That was 3 months ago and I have not had any support calls as yet, so all good so far :smile:

  3. Johan says:

    You mean Arco Linux:wink:

  4. I still stand by Linux Mint as the most well-rounded. polished and new user friendly distro but having spent time with Zorin recently I can see being another option, particularly with the Ultimate edition providing multiple familiar layouts and support.

  5. I think that when it comes to directing noobs to their first Linux distro you have to know your guy.
    Because, if the Debian/Ubuntu family seems like a given for stability and simplicity reasons, the DE really depends on whom you’re talking to.

    I switched to Linux nearly 6 years ago and nearly went back to windows because Mint was just boring and ugly to me. Fedora and Gnome actually saved the day for me and hooked me firmly in the Linux world. Ever since when helping someone transition to Linux I always take to have them experienced multiple DE before recommending a Distro.

    I really think that if people are enjoying their user experience and finding their computer interface nice and fun and different they’ll gloss over bumps or problems and actually go through the trouble of learning how to fix those because they’ll be having fun with their machine.

    That said for someone just wanting to have something that works for browsing the internet or sending an email a week Mint or MX do just that they work.

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