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5 Best Linux Distributions for Programmers and Developers

Linux is an open-source and flexible operating system that’s an ideal choice for programmers and developers. As Linux comes with no copyright or other restrictions, you can modify the source code, add your own features, and configure the kernel according to your needs.

It’s also less prone to viruses and malware and uses system resources in an efficient and optimized way.As anyone can add their own tweaks to the Linux kernel, there are hundreds of Linux distributions available to anyone for use.

In this article, we have collected the best linux distributions for programmers and developers.

1. Fedora:

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As Red Hat is the principal sponsor of the Fedora project, many of its new features later get adopted by Red Hat Enterprise Linux, too. Fedora supports a plethora of hardware such as PCs, printers, and scanners from different vendors. So, if you choose Fedora you will have little to no problems with hardware compatibility.

Fedora currently has three editions: Fedora Workstation for personal use, Fedora Server for data centers and Fedora Atomic for LDK (Linux-Docker-Kubernetes) stacks used in cloud computing.

Getting started with Fedora:

Fedora has 6-month release cycles and each release is supported for 13 months. You can install Fedora Workstation using Fedora Media Writer (here’s a step-by-step tutorial by Fedora Magazine). You can download Fedora Server as an ISO image and Fedora Atomic as an Atomic Host Image. Fedora has an active discussion forum where you can ask any Fedora-related question.

pros:

  • pre-installed desktop apps such as LibreOffice and Firefox.
  • easy installation process (desktop version).
  • RPM package manager with easy-to-build packages .
  • powerful firewall

cons:

  • It supposedly is a testing ground for Red Hat’s other projects
  • Does not come fully configured

2. Ubuntu

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Ubuntu is a highly popular Linux distribution developed and maintained by Canonical. The Ubuntu operating system was first released in 2004 and new versions are released twice in each year: April and October.

Ubuntu is frequently used in server administration and cloud applications. Ubuntu is an ideal platform for development in high-level programming languages such as Go, Python, Ruby, and Node.js. Besides, it’s also the reference platform for Kubernetes on all major public cloud platforms.

Getting started with Ubuntu:

Ubuntu has an incredibly huge ecosystem where you can find everything you need, from tutorials to videos to documentation to discussion forums. You can download two versions of the OS: Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server. If you are willing to upgrade the OS regularly, choose the latest release. If you need long term support, rather go for the latest LTS (long term support) release.

pros:

  • lightweight as both standalone OS and virtual machine
  • pre-configured security (low privileges by default, sudo tool, buffer overflow protection, etc.)
  • dpkg package management system with apt as a front-end
  • several free desktop applications available at the Snap Store

cons:

  • Is harder to learn and manage than Windows or MacOS.
  • There is a little hardware support for Ubuntu OS.

3. Debian

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Debian is probably the most well-known Linux distro that is also an excellent choice for programming. It’s been around since 1993, so it’s a quite stable and secure operating system. Debian also serves as the basis of many other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu and Kali Linux

Getting started with Debian:

Debian has a huge open-source community around it and you can also find many tutorials that can help you get started. You can install the Debian operating system in many different ways, for instance with installation images, CDs, DVDs, and USB sticks. You can also download a couple of free Debian handbooks in different languages and browse the Debian Wiki that contains all the important info.

pros:

cons:

  • Debian is a pain to install
  • Debian Stable tends to have rather old software

4. Arch Linux

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Arch Linux is the most well-known rolling Linux distribution, loved by fans of sleek software architecture. Following the rolling release model, the distro receives new features and updates as soon as they are ready for production. So, you don’t have to install new releases and your OS is always up to date.

To use Arch Linux, you have to build your operating system by yourself. The default OS is quite basic so that you can add only the packages you really want to use. As the installation process is quite complex, Arch Linux is only recommended for experienced programmers who have ample knowledge of Linux. 

Getting started with Arch Linux:

You can install Arch Linux using ISO images you can download from the official website. During the installation, you need to configure everything manually but the ArchWiki has a good installation guide. The ArchWiki also serves as documentation, available in several different languages. Arch Linux has several mailing lists, IRC channels, discussion forums, and a great Arch Linux Women community, too.

pros:

cons:

  • Installation is a Hectic Process
  • Some Updates Can Break Your System

5. Manjaro Linux

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Manjaro Linux is an Arch-based Linux distro that adds a graphical installer and a couple of user-friendly features to Arch Linux. It’s an ideal choice if you want to get access to Arch Linux’s advanced features but with a more straightforward installation and management workflow.

As Manjaro is based on Arch Linux, it also uses rolling release cycles. You can download Manjaro with different desktops such as XFCE, KDE, Gnome, and others. In addition, it comes with pre-installed graphical and desktop applications, plus codecs that enable you to play multimedia files right from your desktop.

Getting started with Manjaro Linux:

Manjaro has three flagship editions, featuring three Linux desktops: Manjaro XFCE, Manjaro KDE, and Manjaro Gnome. Besides the flagship editions, you can choose from multiple community editions as well. You can install Manjaro from a DVD or USB stick, or run it as a virtual machine. You can find the docs in the Manjaro Wiki and ask for help in the Manjaro Forums.

pros:

  • both CLI and graphical installers
  • Manjaro Hardware Detection (MHWD) that auto-installs new hardware
  • rolling release update model
  • Support for multiple kernels

cons:

  • Weekly manual updates
  • Very slow development for 32-bit hardwares
  • You can’t change the default theme in certain applications

Wrapping Up

In this article, we have collected the top choices of best linux distributions for programmers and developers. Ubuntu, Fedora, and Manjaro Linux are excellent solutions both for novice and experienced developers. However, Debian and Arch Linux are mainly recommended for programmers with a solid knowledge of Linux.

There you have it people, my pick on the best linux distributions for programmers and developers. Do share your views about these distros with us. Also, share some tips that we programmers might find helpful in the comments below.

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