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What is the best Linux distro for beginners?

The focus of this Roundup is to identify a distribution that’s best suited for newbies. We are looking for a distribution that’s easy to use, while still offering users a chance to learn and enjoy themselves horsing around. This, we feel, is key for any distribution looking to retain and attract novice users. 

By a quirk of fate, and admittedly deliberate deviousness in selecting the KDE edition of Manjaro, our selection of distributions have provided us with five different desktop environments. Each of these comes with their own pros and cons, and are an important factor for newbies when deciding on a new distribution.

But you can’t look at any one element, such as the desktop environment to gauge the usefulness of a distribution. The complete distribution is greater than the sum of its parts.

(Image credit: Deepin Technology)

deepin 8

The distribution is incredibly fast and responsive. Its best feature is its home-grown desktop and the myriad applications for everyday use. You can type deepin into the launcher for a list of all the custom applications. Run the Introduction tool for a video introduction to the distribution. You can also make some cosmetic changes to the desktop, such as enable/disable window effects, switch the desktop mode from the default Fashionable to Efficient, etc. These changes can also be accomplished from the settings manager.

The absence of a live environment, which can help new users try it without hassles is unfortunate. Also disappointing is the lack of focus on hosting quality documentation on topics other than the desktop environment and the home-grown applications. 

The project was originally based on Ubuntu but has shifted to Debian as its base now. This means that the project features thoroughly tested applications to provide a stable and robust desktop experience.

(Image credit: Elementary)

Elementary 8

Like deepin, Elementary’s claim to fame is its custom desktop environment, called Pantheon, and an assortment of desktop applications to go with it. The distribution favours as pay-what-you-want model, letting you decide what amount, if any, you wish to pay for the distribution. It similarly lets you pay an amount for many of the applications available in the App Center.

The distribution also features a curious selection of default applications, such as Epiphany browser. The selection is a further attempt by the distribution to provide a fast and lightweight distribution. Based on Ubuntu, its quite easy to flesh out the distribution with additional, and more popular applications.

You don’t have to launch the App Center to search for an application. Click Applications on the top-left of the desktop and start typing. All matching results will be displayed, and if no matches are found, the distribution recommends searching for the specified keyword in the App Center.

(Image credit: Manjaro)

Manjaro 10

Manjaro is based on Arch Linux - one of the most beloved rolling-release distributions. Like its parent, Manjaro is incredibly malleable and easy to extend. It’s also one of the most thoroughly documented distribution and you’re unlikely to ever want for help you should run into trouble with it.

You’re greeted with a helpful Welcome screen when you boot into Manjaro. It provides quick links to different avenues of help such as the forum, wiki, etc. You can also change the language of the Welcome screen using the button on the top-left.

With its focus on usability and the rolling nature, which means you never have to perform a fresh installation, but can keep the system updated by regularly installing updates as they roll in, the distribution offers plenty to please advanced users, as well as beginners looking for an intuitive distribution to get started with.

(Image credit: Solus)

Solus 9

Solus is a rolling-release distribution just like Manjaro. All available applications undergo testing by the developers before the distributions offer them to the end users. This ensures that users don’t accidentally break their installation by installing an untested bleeding-edge application. Whereas Manjaro features a backup and restore utility Timeshift, Solus doesn’t ship with a backup utility out of the box. But you can easily install one using the Software Center.

Like deepin and Elementary, it too features a custom desktop environment. Budgie doesn’t support creating icons on the desktop by default. You can change this by launching the Budgie Desktop Settings utility which lets you configure various elements of the desktop, as well as the Raven sidebar. You can also add additional panel at the top of the screen, with its own array of widgets such as Caffeine. If enabled, the Caffeine widget ensures that your system is not suspended or locked for the specified duration.

(Image credit: Zorin)

Zorin 8

If you’re dissatisfied with the default desktop layout on Zorin, you can easily change it using the Zorin Appearance utility. It provides three different layouts. You can also use this utility to tweak the location of the panel, as well as add other elements to it, such as date, etc.

Like all the other distributions, Zorin can play a wide assortment of audio and video files out of the box.  Also on offer is Zorin Connect, a custom utility to connect with your Android devices to transfer files, sync notifications, etc.

Our past experience with Zorin have always been positive and we’ve been impressed with its speed and performance. This is why the latest release is slightly disappointing. On many occasions, the desktop presents inexplicable jarring artefacts. For instance, when you move between the different categories on the launcher, sometimes the content doesn’t change as it should. Moving the mouse over the display area, results in the changes being displayed. Think scratch card and you’ll get our meaning.

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