What Is The Best Linux For Everyday Use?

I'm asked this at least every couple of weeks, and the answer depends on what you need Linux to do.  For almost anyone I run into, some Ubuntu variant is the easiest to learn; I can walk in to their house and have them up and running in a couple of hours.  Here's the skinny…

May 31, 2015

My first response to the question used to be Ubuntu.  Ubuntu used to be the easiest to set up and customize, but that was before Unity.  If you’re wondering what Unity is and what it’s like, think about the shock people get when they’ve been running Windows XP, or Vista or 7, and then switch to Windows 8.  It’s a hot mess.  And GNOME3, another desktop environment, wasn’t much better to me.

But I’m not pooh-poohing Ubuntu entirely; my current “response” is still going to be an Ubuntu variant.  Ubuntu used to come with the GNOME2 desktop environment installed, and this is what I’m used to.  Right now I’m between two Ubuntu variants that can be made to act enough like GNOME2 that I can get some work done.  Either Xubuntu (Ubuntu with the XFCE desktop) or Linux Mint (another variant that comes with the Cinnamon desktop).  They’re both pretty much the same animal with different skins.  Here’s my current layout:

So while these two Linux flavors look radically different than the current Ubuntu, they act about the same under the hood.  Installing software is easy, it’s stable (well, maybe not as stable as some Linux distributions, but I rarely have problems and they’re definetely better than Microsoft products) and they’re easy to use with not much of a learning curve for someone coming off of Windows.  My father can even run this, and I remember one night (in the 90’s) taking an evening to explain the difference between A and C drive in Windows 3.1.

I try not to fix computers much these days for the general public, as it’s usually just an exercise in virus removal; actually, it’s usually a “back up data, wipe the drive, reinstall Windows, stick what data I can back there” process.  Now when someone calls, I give them the option of either trying Linux or giving another local guy I trust a call so that he can fix Windows for them.

If they go the Linux route, I install either Mint or Xubuntu, and I can usually show them how to get around in under an hour.  If I get a call back, it’s usually for something trivial, like “how do I set up email,” or “can you help me figure out such and such.”  I have yet to hear a customer want to go back to Windows. 

So my answer to “what is the best Linux for everyday use” would have to be either Xubuntu or Linux Mint.

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