Ready to give Linux a try? These are the 5 distros you need to consider

So many distros, so little time. Let us narrow it down for you.

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Choices, choices

There are so many Linux distributions that choosing one can be overwhelming for a new user. One might be too intimidating for a user to even try, while another might be too simplified, blocking that user from knowing how Linux systems actually function.

I have been using Linux as my primary OS since 2005 and have tried all major (and quite a lot of minor) distributions. I have learned that not every distribution is for everyone. Since I also assist people in migrating to Linux, I have chosen the 5 distros that I recommend to new users based on their level of comfort and desire to learn (or not learn) more about Linux.

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Ubuntu

Whether you are a new user planning to get your first computer, or someone migrating from Windows or Mac OS X, Ubuntu should be your first choice. It’s extremely easy to install and manage; everything just works out of the box. There are hundreds and thousands of applications available for Ubuntu users, which makes it even more appealing. And the Ubuntu community is extremely friendly so if you need any help you will find it online.

Pros:

The most user-friendly Linux distribution.
Availability of hundreds and thousands of applications.
GUI for almost every administrative task, no need to deal with the command line.
Very easy to upgrade from one version to another.

Cons:
Unity takes some getting used to, as it departs from the traditional WIMP (windows, icons, mouse, pointer) interface.
Installation of 3rd party software via PPA is cumbersome.
Lacks customization.
The file manager lacks a lot of basic features.

mint
Linux Mint

Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and uses Cinnamon as the default desktop environment. There is almost no learning curve because it uses the familiar WIMP interface. Linux Mint has taken the great Ubuntu base and created a desktop environment that borrowed the best features from Gnome 2. It’s as easy to install and maintain as Ubuntu.

Pros:
Every application that’s available for Ubuntu would technically work on Linux Mint.
They have forked the file manager so it has more features that the file manager of Ubuntu.
Unlike Ubuntu's Unity, Cinnamon does offer a lot of customization options to personalize your PC.

Cons:
Upgrade to the newer version is not possible. You have to reinstall everything, though they are working on improving it.
Cinnamon is still a work in progress; there are bugs.
Similar to Ubuntu, installing 3rd party software via PPA is not very straightforward.
Mixing Ubuntu repositories may cause problems.

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Kubuntu

Kubuntu is an official flavor of Ubuntu that uses KDE’s Plasma desktop instead of Unity. It is a great distro for those who want the ease of Ubuntu bundled with unlimited customization and features that Plasma desktop offers. If there is one desktop environment that gives the 'Linux' experience, meaning a user can control and tweak every nook and corner of their system, it’s Plasma.

Pros:
Plasma's file manager Dolphin is one of the most advanced and powerful file managers.
Extremely customizable. Extremely feature rich.
Availability of all the applications that are available for Ubuntu.
Easily upgradable from one version to another, just like Ubuntu.

Cons:
Too many customization options makes it a bit challenging for new users.

opensuse soft
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya
openSUSE

OpenSUSE is a perfect OS for those who want great integration of Gnome or KDE with their system. The openSUSE team patches everything to make it work well with the operating system.

OpenSUSE has a gem called YaST (yet another setup tool) that works like a mission control center for the entire operating system. It allows a user to control the entire OS from one place. It’s extremely easy to install and manage. A rolling release version of openSUSE eliminates the need to upgrade your system every six months. OpenSUSE is certainly for a bit more advanced users looking for more control than Ubuntu offers.

Pros:
Contrary to Ubuntu-based systems it’s extremely easy to install 3rd party applications with ‘one-click’ install from software.opensuse.org.
Uses major desktop environments like Gnome and KDE instead of creating their own.
Offers more customization than Ubuntu.

Cons:
Upgrading from one version to another is not smooth; fresh re-install is recommended.
Has fewer applications than Ubuntu.

arch linux
Credit: flickr/dxiri
Arch Linux

Arch Linux is my favorite operating system. It is fully customized from the time of installation. A user installs only the components that they need which creates a very lean and optimized OS. Arch is a rolling release distribution so it always runs the latest software - from kernel to apps.

Virtually all Linux apps are available for Arch Linux - either via the official repos or through AUR (Arch user repositories). Unlike Ubuntu or openSUSE, you don’t have to use the browser to find or install third party applications, everything can be done from the terminal using tools like Yaourt or Packer.

Arch Linux is the best OS for those who want to learn how Linux based systems work, as you configure everything manually. It has one of the most comprehensive Wikis, which can be useful even for non Arch users.

Pros:
A huge repository of software.
Always has the latest packages.
No need to reinstall for upgrades.
Extremely customizable.
Doesn’t patch anything so you get the vanilla experience of the software you install.

Cons:
Hard to install; not suitable for a new Linux user.
Needs more maintenance due to rolling release nature.
Packages from AUR are compiled locally, which can take a lot of time.
Everything has to be configured manually so it needs a bit more work than just installing Kubuntu.
So these are my top 5 Linux distributions, which one do you use?