Interested in the open source OS but unsure what to try?
Linux has always been the outsider’s operating system. Even more hipster than Apple’s iOS and completely off the radar of most Microsoft Windows users, the open source OS umbrella covers an ever increasing collection of mutations and flavours, known to its users as distros (short for distributions).
For the beginner such choice can appear overwhelming, and so CBR has pared it down to the five most accessible.
Created around the same time as Ubuntu, Fedora has the distinction of being the distro used by Linux creator Linus Torvalds (whose name, combined with that of the Unix OS, inspired Linux).
The OS emerged after Red Hat Linux was discontinued by the enterprise software vendor. Red Hat decided it would combine its efforts in the consumer distro realm with the folks at the Fedora Linux Project, paving the way for Fedora Linux to continue development with the sponsorship of Red Hat.
These days it is one of the most popular distros available, and coming with Firefox and the productivity suite LibreOffice out of the box, alongside many other handy programs and plenty of documentation.
Ubuntu is one of the most prominent Linux distros in existence, known for its user friendliness that makes it a particular draw to those feeling their way into open source software.
Created more than a decade ago, the project has since been taken over by the software firm Canonical, headed up by the appropriately South African Mark Shuttleworth. (Ubuntu’s name is taken from a South African philosophy of universal humanism.)
Aside from being easy to use the distro includes many stock open source programs, including the web browser Firefox, email client Thunderbird and LibreOffice. Users can access more software from the Software Center repository, as well as a large support community.
Debian is one of the original Linux distributions, having celebrated its twentieth birthday in September of 2003 , and has spent much of its life supporting the wider open source community.
Named after its founder Ian Murdock and his former wife Debra (Deb-Ian), the almost 1,000 developers of the distro pride themselves on supporting a wide array of easily installed software packages, which now number around 37,500.
As such users of Debian will be able to find software for just about any need imaginable, including customised versions of Firefox, Thunderbird and Internet suite SeaMonkey, as well as the usual office tools every needs to hand.
4. Linux Mint
Linux Mint is a younger and less prominent distro than others on this list, having been forked from an earlier release of Ubuntu from its second iteration.
Having spent much of its life synchronising its releases to Ubuntu, the developers behind Linux Mint decided to release an alternative version based on Debian, and now support several streams for those needing to run it in different hardware conditions.
Whilst the resulting design is less flash than some of its rivals, Linux Mint still comes with most of the software you would need out of the box. As per the team’s philosophy it also seeks to streamline access to advanced technologies without dumbing down the software.
openSUSE, as befits the name, was based off a commercially backed series of Linux distros known as SUSE (a German acronym for "software and systems evolution").
The project was born out of decision by US software firm Novell to open up its SUSE Professional series, allowing those outside the firm to work on its development, and effectively creating the openSUSE Project, which still runs the distro today.
Perhaps more so than some of its rivals, openSUSE offers a great degree of customisation, allowing high configurability and support for different desktop environments, easy access to third party apps, and YaST, a handy tool for controlling the entire OS from one program.