The Top Five Linux Dis­tri­bu­tions of 2013

It’s that time of the year when mak­ing lists is fash­ion­able. Here is one such list in which the top five Linux dis­tros of last year are fea­tured.

OpenSource For You - - FOR U & ME - By: Su­fyan bin Uzayr The au­thor is a Linux en­thu­si­ast and ed­i­tor of an e-jour­nal named Brave New World (www.brave­new­world.in). A writer for sev­eral print and on­line pub­li­ca­tions, he has also au­thored a book called “Su­fism: A Brief His­tory”. His pri­mary ar

The beauty of open source lies in the di­verse ar­ray of choices that one can make when select­ing soft­ware or a par­tic­u­lar tool. Un­like most other pro­pri­etary or closed source soft­ware, open source so­lu­tions do not tie you down to a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct or en­tity. In­stead, you are en­cour­aged to take your pick from the mul­ti­tude of of­fer­ings avail­able, and then de­cide which one works best for you.

Sim­i­larly, when it comes to Linux dis­tri­bu­tions as well, you do not have to limit your­self to any par­tic­u­lar one and give up on all oth­ers. As a Linux en­thu­si­ast my­self, I of­ten tend to switch dis­tros just to try out some­thing new, even though I of­ten find my­self com­ing back to Linux Mint and openSUSE. That said, to each his own, and hence al­most ev­ery Linux dis­tri­bu­tion, big or small, has its own share of loyal fol­low­ers.

In this ar­ti­cle, I shall at­tempt to enu­mer­ate five of the best Linux dis­tros of 2013. Once again, select­ing a par­tic­u­lar Linux dis­tri­bu­tion is a mat­ter of in­di­vid­ual pref­er­ence, but I have tried to con­sider the dis­tros’ rel­a­tive pop­u­lar­ity and ease of use while rank­ing them (yet, par­don the bias please, for I am openly in favour of Linux Mint and openSUSE, above all oth­ers).

A note on the list

It is ob­vi­ously not an easy task to sin­gle out five par­tic­u­lar dis­tros. There were many wor­thy names that had to be left out. For in­stance, the first ‘hon­ourable men­tion’ should right­fully go to De­bian, which serves as the par­ent dis­tro for both Ubuntu and Linux Mint. How­ever, con­sid­er­ing the fact that both Ubuntu and Linux Mint have sur­passed De­bian in terms of their user base, it only made sense to favour them over De­bian.

Apart from De­bian, there were cer­tain other dis­tros too that had to be omit­ted, sim­ply be­cause the oth­ers de­served their rank­ings more—Slack­ware, Gen­too Linux, Mageia, Sabayon and Arch Linux—all per­sonal favourites of mine, but sadly, they couldn’t make it to the top five.

Fi­nally, con­sid­er­ing the fact that this is more of a list about gen­eral­pur­pose Linux dis­tros, those dis­tri­bu­tions that serve a spe­cific need were not con­sid­ered. For this very rea­son, you will not find Cen­tOS on this page ( it is more of an en­ter­prise OS than a gen­eral­us­age dis­tro), nor ArtistX ( meant for artists and cre­ative heads), Red Hat En­ter­prise Linux ( again, for en­ter­prises), or Puppy Linux.

1. Ubuntu (and vari­ants)

You just can­not talk about Linux dis­tri­bu­tions without men­tion­ing Ubuntu in the same breath. In fact, in terms of pop­u­lar­ity, Ubuntu beats al­most all Linux dis­tros.

Based on De­bian,

Ubuntu is an ex­tremely pop­u­lar and user- friendly op­er­at­ing sys­tem that comes with an aes­thet­i­cally im­pres­sive in­ter­face and is backed by a large com­mu­nity of fel­low Ubuntu users world­wide. With over 20 mil­lion users, Ubuntu has a right­ful claim as the world’s most loved free op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

In fact, Ubuntu is much more than just a Linux dis­tro. It is grad­u­ally evolv­ing and ven­tur­ing into newer mar­kets and niches, such as so­lu­tions for smart­phones and tablets, among many oth­ers. Quite ob­vi­ously, if there is one Linux dis­tro that de­serves to be ranked above the rest, it has to be Ubuntu!

Ubuntu comes with its own desk­top en­vi­ron­ment, which is called Unity. How­ever, there are other vari­ants avail­able as well, such as Kubuntu for KDE and Xubuntu for XFCE. Web­site: www.ubuntu.com

2. Linux Mint

Linux Mint stands on the shoul­ders of giants be­cause it is based on Ubuntu, which in turn is based on De­bian. To be fair, Linux Mint ba­si­cally be­gan as a project to fix or amend cer­tain us­abil­ity is­sues in Ubuntu, but over a short pe­riod of time, it gained a good mo­men­tum and ac­cord­ing to DistroWatch, it cur­rently stands right be­hind Ubuntu in terms of users (and pos­si­bly is abreast with Fe­dora and/or openSUSE).

Con­sid­er­ing the fact that Linux Mint traces its an­ces­try back to De­bian and Ubuntu, it makes good use of the of­fi­cial repos­i­to­ries and up­date chan­nels, pro­vid­ing its users with a plethora of up­dated soft­ware and tools to choose from.

Linux Mint na­tively comes with a remixed desk­top en­vi­ron­ment of its own, com­monly called Cin­na­mon. KDE, GNOME, LXDE and other ver­sions are avail­able as well. How­ever, the USP of Linux Mint is that it was one of the ear­li­est dis­tros to of­fer cer­tain key el­e­ments out of the box (such as mul­ti­me­dia codecs), which helped this dis­tro at­tract new au­di­ences and build a strong com­mu­nity. Web­site: www.lin­uxmint.com

3. Fe­dora

Mov­ing on from the .DEB fam­ily to the .RPM fam­ily, we have Fe­dora that is ranked third on our list.

Fe­dora is of­ten termed as the testing ground for Red Hat En­ter­prise Linux. That said, Fe­dora’s dis­tinc­tion is that it is one of the most cut­ting-edge Linux dis­tros meant for gen­eral us­age. It is based on a rough six-month re­lease cy­cle and ow­ing to this ter­rific up­date fre­quency, Fe­dora of­ten ends up in­cor­po­rat­ing and mak­ing use of newer soft­ware and up­dated tools way be­fore any other dis­tro.

Fe­dora is also one of the premier and flag­ship dis­tri­bu­tions that ship with GNOME (of course, other desk­top en­vi­ron­ments can also be in­stalled). Web­site: http://www.fe­do­rapro­ject.org/

4. openSUSE

openSUSE is a gen­eral-pur­pose Linux dis­tri­bu­tion that of­fers a good va­ri­ety of op­tions when it comes to select­ing your desk­top en­vi­ron­ment and other specifics. How­ever, right from its in­cep­tion, openSUSE has not en­joyed much neu­tral­ity from the Linux com­mu­nity for some rea­son or the other. Ap­par­ently, openSUSE is ei­ther pas­sion­ately loved or ex­tremely hated by Linux users.

Gen­er­ally, openSUSE fol­lows an eight-month re­lease cy­cle. Be­sides, it also serves as the base for SUSE Linux En­ter­prise. All in all, openSUSE is a highly pol­ished and ver­sa­tile Linux dis­tri­bu­tion that you should surely give a spin, if you have not done so al­ready.

Web­site: http://www.opensuse.org/

5. PCLin­uxOS

PCLin­uxOS is prob­a­bly a ques­tion­able en­try to wind up this list (ahead of the likes of Gen­too and Slack­ware), but the fact that it is one of the most pop­u­lar among all the dis­tros that trace their lin­eage to Man­drake Linux earns it the #5 spot.

PCLin­uxOS at­tempts to com­bine dif­fer­ent and di­verse tech­nolo­gies in or­der to create a wor­thy com­put­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for lovers of open source. It is one of those few dis­tri­bu­tions that can be used by both new­bies and ad­vanced users alike. Plus, even though it is an in­de­pen­dent project in its own right, PCLin­uxOS main­tains many el­e­ments from Man­drake Linux.

While PCLin­uxOS is def­i­nitely a Linux dis­tro wor­thy of re­spect and ap­pre­ci­a­tion, its com­mu­nity and user base is not as large as that of Ubuntu or Fe­dora. Be­yond that, though, it def­i­nitely packs a punch and pro­vides all the func­tion­al­ity that is re­quired from a full-fledged Linux dis­tri­bu­tion. Web­site: http://www.pclin­uxos.com/ With that, we come to the end of this roundup of the top five Linux dis­tros. Once again, con­sid­er­ing the fact that open source is about ap­pre­ci­at­ing and ac­knowl­edg­ing the power of free­dom, what are your picks when it comes to the top five Linux dis­tri­bu­tions? Does your list seem to over­lap with mine or not at all? Do write in and share your thoughts!

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