The large majority of computer users around the world are Windows users: Windows is easy to learn and use, supports just about everything and anything that has ever been released for PCs. However, Windows also costs quite a lot, depending on where in the world you are from, has little to no customization options, and the security is not what it could be. That is why more and more “common” computer users are thinking about switching to Linux operating systems.
First of all, it should be noted that Linux is not an operating system per se; rather, it’s a “base”, a kernel upon which multiple different operating systems, called distributions (or shortly distros), are built. Secondly, Linux has always been considered a “tech-savvy users only” operating system, since it requires the usage of command lines. However, Linux distributions have long since developed GUI (graphical user interfaces), allowing both the complete beginners and former Windows users to quickly adapt and learn how to get by. Also, have we mentioned Linux is completely free? Below is the list of some of the Linux distros deemed the best for beginners by the community. The best thing about these Linux distros is that they can be installed using Etcher.
Chances are, everyone who has ever heard of Linux has also heard of its iteration called Ubuntu, which, in turn, means that there is a large community the new users can turn to for help if stuck: there are tons of websites, i.e. askubuntu.com, that are designed for that. This also means that there is a large pool of supported software, which, sadly, isn’t the case for many other Linux distributions.
Let’s start from the very beginning: the installation process. Ubuntu comes with a full package of necessary programs, such as an office package, web browser (namely, Mozilla), various multimedia tools like multimedia players, and, most importantly, a whole set of drivers for your hardware, which is something not a lot of Linux distributions can boast with. Some other pros of Ubuntu include near-immunity to any malware whatsoever, which might come in handy for not-so-experienced users, low hardware requirements, and is quite stable. There are quite a few different desktop environments Ubuntu supports as well, such as GNOME, KDE, and LXDE, so everyone can find something to their liking.
The cons would be issues with hardware sometimes, as a lot of manufactures don’t bother with making drivers for any non-Windows/Mac OS, privacy, since Ubuntu is Amazon Affiliate, and is sharing user data with Amazon, as well as having pure Amazon-related adware integrated into it, which can certainly be off-putting to a lot of users, and, for the tech-heads amongst the new users, divergence from its open-source origins. Also, its Dash feature can be a bit tricky to figure out at first. Here is how to install Ubuntu onto your computer with Etcher.
Linux Mint has begun as a spinoff of Ubuntu. Although probably not as popular with the public as its predecessor, it’s still the second most popular distro and with the second biggest community that is very willing to help with any problem its users could potentially run into. Its similarity to Windows 7, as opposed to Ubuntu’s bigger likeness to Mac OS X, makes for a great starting point in a potential new user’s transition from Microsoft’s OS, specifically if they don’t like what the newer versions of Windows look like.
Like most other Linux distros, Linux Mint comes with an excellent base of various necessary software with just a tick of one box during its installation process and, also, doesn’t require any kind of antivirus to stay safe. It has probably the best hardware detection system out of all Linux distributions, since it detects and installs drivers, and it also offers users to pick between their standard and their open-source versions. Cinnamon is undoubtedly the best Linux Mint interface new users can pick, as it is very intuitive and elegant, but also the “heaviest” on resources out of the three, the other two being MATE and Xfce.
Some other features worth mentioning are TimeShift, which is, essentially, a checkpoint where users can save their progress in case anything goes south further ahead during tweaking, software manager that is supplied with basically anything a user could ever need, update manager, which allows for a simple updating of apps, and, also, for those looking to learn their Linux baby steps, it is probably one of the better choices, if not the best one. Lastly, it comes with Long Term Support (LTS) that lets you keep your system for up to 5 years without needing to update it. In the following video, you can see how easy it is to use Etcher for installing Linux Mint.
Zorin OS is basically made for users who want to try their hand at Linux, and have been Windows users before: the reason why it’s probably the most appealing one to newbies is because of its uncanny similarities to Windows — it’s not too alien and doesn’t “scare away” potential new users. Like Mint, it is also based on Ubuntu. There are three free versions — Core, Lite, and Educational, and there is also the Ultimate Edition, which costs a measly $39. All of these four versions also come with various desktop environments, i.e. Lite comes with Xfce, Educational and Ultimate have both GNOME and Xfce, while Core only gets GNOME.
Out of all distros, Zorin probably has the biggest package of pre-installed software, which means you get everything you need to use the computer immediately after installation, such as various multimedia software, LibreOffice, etc. Zorin is also the lightest one, even in its non-Lite versions, so it makes for a perfect fit to install on your grandparents’ gracefully aging machine. Learn how to install Zorin OS correctly.
What Zorin is for Windows refugees, Elementary OS is for Mac OS X users; it was made specifically with Apple product users in mind. It is very minimalistic-looking and, also, arguably the most beautiful of all Linux distros, with its Pantheon desktop environment, which was heavily inspired by Mac OS’s looks.
Elementary’s pre-installed package isn’t as big as Zorin’s, but its comprehensive App Store makes up for that: it’s very simple to use and is supplied with a wide variety of popular apps and loads of open-source programs, most notably GIMP image editor, which is in many aspects on par with Adobe Photoshop; it also acts as an update manager.
Elementary is also based on Ubuntu and its LTS, which can at times mean it some features will get outdated, but it is still the perfect choice for Mac OS users looking to experience Linux.
Unlike all the previously mentioned distros, Manjaro is not based on Ubuntu, but on Arch Linux, which is considered the most cutting-edge Linux distribution there is, but also one of the most complex ones to use. However, Manjaro retains none of its complexity and is very beginner-friendly. It has access to Arch User Repository, which is a software library for Arch (and Manjaro) in which users deposit their scripts for software that was meant for Ubuntu mostly. Since Arch is an expert-level distro and requires a lot of time and knowledge to just install, you can be sure the scripts in the AUR are very rarely broken or outdated. Aside from that, Manjaro has its software depository.
This distribution also boasts a great hardware detection system that has no problems setting up even some of the more outdated hardware parts your machine might have. It is kept up-to-date, but the release of new features and updates is delayed in comparison to Arch, to ensure stability: no glitches, crashes, and other annoying stuff.
It is highly customizable, so if you feel adventurous enough to step away not only from Windows/Mac OS, but also from Windows/Mac OS-looking Linux distributions, and all that without diving straight into a too-high learning curve distro, Manjaro is the perfect choice for you.
Linux distributions offer a large palette of options a new user can choose from, and also customize them in a way that fits their needs. It is hard to say whether Linux is better than Windows or macOS, but it is certainly worth a try, especially since there are free live disc options to test out how you would handle a Linux distribution.