Linux distributions come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In a literal sense. From tiny ones that weigh just over 100 MB and can be transported in USB discs to 4GB behemoths that perform well when loaded on SSDs.
In addition to the top distros that are intended to cater to a broad range of users and can be customised to individual needs, there are a plethora of niche distros that are made for a specific reason.
Are you transitioning from Windows? There is a distribution that can help with the transfer. Is it possible that a Windows upgrade fucked up your boot loader? There’s a distro that will help you patch things quickly. If you want to get an ancient machine back to life? If you need to attach discs to a NAS? Do you want to run a firewall that will protect your whole network? Are you putting together a little home office?
Whatever your needs are, the diverse open source ecosystem has a distro for you.
If you’re just getting started with Linux, Nitrux is a good place to start. The distro builds on several of the most robust and well-known open-source projects, such as Ubuntu and the KDE Plasma desktop, to develop a distro that caters to the sensibilities of new Linux users.
Instead of creating a custom workspace experience from scratch, Nitrux makes use of KDE Plasma’s famous malleability, as well as some revamped modules, to ease the workflow for new users. It provides a couple of desktop formats to help users make the most use of the available computer real estate.
Nitrux has also customised certain management software to make activities like firewall and backup more user-friendly for new users. It comes with a slew of tools for a variety of desktop activities.
The distro has an engaging community with which you can connect on any of the major social networks. The lack of a dedicated documentation site, on the other hand, is a letdown. Nitrux is only available for 64-bit processors, but it can also boot on older machines with the Legacy BIOS as well as newer EFI machines.
- Use of AppImages
- Documentation via blogs
- Some kind of rolling release model
- It has its own nomad firewall with the ability to use profiles, quickly enable and disable the firewall, easily set incoming and outgoing rules, a view which applications are listening on which ports, and easily add and remove rules.
- Its Nomad desktop runs the most recent KDE plasma.
Nitrux is a full operating system that includes all of the necessary apps and services for daily use, such as office applications, PDF readers, image editors, music and video players, and so on. It also includes non-KDE or Qt applications such as Chromium and LibreOffice, which work together to provide a pleasant user experience.
2. Zorin OS
The Zorin OS project started in 2008 with the aim of making Linux more user-friendly. Its creators aimed to make Linux more approachable to everyday users, and they accomplished this by incorporating familiarity into the user interface.
The distribution is aimed at first-time Linux users who are used to the ways of popular proprietary operating systems such as Windows and macOS. It accomplishes this by its custom Zorin Appearance programme, which modifies Zorin’s Gnome desktop environment to imitate Windows in both shape and function.
Zorin is sold in a variety of editions. Three of these, Core, Lite, and Education, are available for free download. Zorin is based on Ubuntu, and the Core edition is the basic version, which features all of the applications you’d expect to see on a normal desktop.
If you have an older model, you can use the Lite version, which is optimised for low-performance computers. The Education version, as the name implies, is intended for learning and includes all of the most common open-source educational applications and utilities.
- Layout switcher
- Usable out-of-the-box
- Tailored documentation
- Zorin OS is a powerful and secure operating system that was created to replace Windows and macOS.
- In many ways, it resembles Windows OS, such as having a taskbar at the bottom, a system menu on the left side, and tray icons on the bottom right side.
- Zorin OS 12 is the most recent release from the Zorin group’s stables, and it is based on the well-known Debian Ubuntu.
A powerful desktop that you are already familiar with. Because Zorin OS is designed to be simple, you won’t need to learn anything to get started. The Zorin Appearance app allows you to customise your desktop to look like the environment you’re used to, whether it’s Windows, macOS, or Linux. Rock-solid and dependable.
Pop! OS is built and maintained by hardware manufacturer System76, and it is also available as a free download in addition to being shipped on its own hardware. The distribution has a number of intriguing features that make it an appealing choice, especially for gamers.
The distribution is based on the Ubuntu LTS update and has its own Gnome-based user interface called Pop Shell.
Although there are many other gaming distros for Linux, what distinguishes Pop! OS is that it has all of the required plumbing for gamers. For example, the creators ensure that hybrid graphics run smoothly on the platform.
If you have a hybrid graphics card, the distro will give you the choice in the context menu to play games on the GPU. You’ll also be able to switch between battery-saving and high-powered graphics with ease.
Pop! OS is available in two editions. Aside from the standard version, there is one that is specially built for users of Nvidia hardware and includes the proprietary driver for the hardware.
- Hybrid graphics
- Special image for Nvidia users
- Keyboard navigation
- The distro now puts automatic window tiling alongside a powerful, keyboard-driven way of working front and centre.
- New app windows seamlessly slot into the available space, ensuring that your productivity is not disrupted — you focus on working, while the OS manages windows.
- The keyboard is the primary means of interacting with the UI. To that end, a slew of new keyboard shortcuts have been added, the majority of which make use of the super key.
Kodachi is intended for someone who values their privacy and requires a safe, anti-forensic, and anonymous distribution. The most recent version of the distribution is based on Xubuntu 18.04.5 and employs a customised Xfce desktop.
Kodachi comes with a slew of protection and privacy-enhancing applications, as well as a slew of standard apps, allowing you to use the distro as your everyday driver. Its custom desktop is designed to not confuse first-time users by providing access to all applications while remaining intuitive.
To maintain anonymity, the distro routes all Internet connections via a VPN before sending them to the Tor network. If you know what you’re doing, you can easily modify the settings to communicate through your own VPN service.
- It can be used as a daily driver
- Connects through VPN
- Panic room selection of tool
- Kodachi provides complete anonymity through the use of a VPN, the TOR Network, and even DNS encryption. When you boot up the operating system, it changes your MAC address and launches the VPN and TOR Network Services.
- If something goes wrong while browsing the web, there is a “Panic Room” folder specially designed for emergency situations where you can wipe the Hard Disk, RAM, and completely destroy Kodachi.
- Kodachi comes with tools that support both symmetric and asymmetric encryption, allowing you to secure your files both online and offline.
When compared to competing operating systems, Kodachi OS is very user-friendly and requires no prior knowledge to use. You don’t need to be an IT expert to use Kodachi; all software, firewalls, VPNs, and TOR are pre-configured and placed in folders for your convenience. It will take a noob about an hour or less to become completely comfortable with the Operating System environment. Kodachi also includes a set of general-purpose apps such as Virtualbox, Bleachbit, Audacity, Filezilla, and System Monitor, which increase its accessibility and ease of use for a typical user.
If you run into an error on either a Linux or a Windows system, odds are you can use Rescatux to get yourself out of a jam.
Rescatux includes all of the required and helpful software for troubleshooting non-booting Linux and Windows instals. The distribution makes use of the lightweight LXDE laptop, making it available even on low-powered computers.
When the distro boots up, Rescapp, a custom helper software, is launched automatically. The app is simple to use and allows even inexperienced users to fix errors.
Recap has a number of buttons organised into groups such as Boot, Grub, Filesystem, and Password. You may use these to perform basic maintenance tasks on both Linux and Windows installations, such as restoring bootloaders, repairing filesystems, repairing partition tables, and resetting passwords.
The buttons within each category have descriptive labels that indicate their purpose. They will pull up the necessary documents and clarify the precise steps the distro will take to resolve the problem when clicked.
To save time, experienced users can bypass Rescapp and activate the rescue tools directly from the command-line interface. In addition, the Rescatux project hosts a plethora of manuals and educational videos to assist beginner users.
- Custom rescapp utility
- Designed for inexperienced users
- Lots of documentation
- Chat: Open the chat window to ask for assistance directly in the Rescatux channel.
- Share log: After running an option, you can share its log (the action registry that it has performed) with others in the chat so that they can assist you more effectively. Even better, you can assist in debugging and fixing Rescatux bugs on the fly.
- Share the following log on the forum: Prepares a forum post-like text for you to copy and paste into your favourite forum. [CODE] symbols are used to neatly insert logs into it.
Rescatux is yet another GNU/Linux distribution aimed at rescuing other operating systems. It operates in live mode and provides a comprehensive set of tools for addressing a wide range of issues in Linux and even Windows. The simplicity of Rescatux distinguishes it from the many similarly oriented rescue systems. Instead of providing a set of tools to assist you in repairing your “broken” system, it immediately launches Rescapp, which is a window with categorised buttons to address a specific problem.
6. Parrot Security
Parrot Security is an excellent penetration testing and risk evaluation distribution that can do much better than any of its more well-known competitors, such as Kali Linux.
You will build a permanent partition to store your modifications if you boot Parrot from a USB disc. The developers have thought of everything, including allowing you to encrypt this permanent partition for optimal security.
The distribution includes a wide number of resources that are tightly organised inside a sorted menu. This organises the techniques based on their intended use, such as Information Gathering, Vulnerability Analysis, Password Attacks, Digital Forensics, among others.
Surprisingly, Parrot aspires to be useful for ordinary computer users who need a safe and privacy-focused distro, such as hackers and journalists.
- Chock full of tools
- Categorised menus
- Encrypted persistence
- Parrot Security comes with tools that can be used to encrypt files, folders, and drives with passwords or private keys to keep them safe and out of the hands of hackers.
- Parrot Security OS includes not only tools for ethical hacking and penetration testing, but also a plethora of powerful language compilers, interpreters, and IDEs.
- Parrot Security OS includes not only tools for ethical hacking and penetration testing, but also a slew of powerful language compilers, interpreters, and integrated development environments (IDEs).
Parrot Security comes with tools that can be used to encrypt files, folders, and drives with passwords or private keys to keep them safe and out of the hands of hackers. TrueCrypt and Zulu Mount GPA are examples of tools that support both symmetric and asymmetric encryption algorithms.
7. Open Media Vault
Open Media Vault (OMV) is a Debian-based distribution that aims to transform an old unused device (or even a Raspberry Pi) into network-attached storage (NAS) solution.
The distribution is simple to update and maintain thanks to its user-friendly browser-based management GUI. OMV can be used to link several discs into different layers of software RAID or simply as basic storage silos that can be accessed over the network using any of the popular network protocols such as SSH, SMB/CIFS, FTP, Rsync, and so on.
The best part is that you can expand the functionality of your OMV NAS server by downloading and activating different plugins.
- Intuitive to administer
- A useful set of plugins
- Lots of documentation
- Web-based administration based on Debian Linux
- Debian package management allows for simple system updates.
- DNS-SD service announcement
Openmediavault is primarily intended for use in small or home offices, but it is not limited to those settings. It is a simple and easy-to-use out-of-the-box solution that allows anyone to install and manage a Network Attached Storage without any additional knowledge.
Although almost every Linux distribution can be carried and used from a USB drive, Porteus is one of the few that has been developed especially for this use case.
The distribution is available in many editions, each with a separate desktop environment, and the majority of them weigh about 300 MB. They are also intended for use with portable, rewritable media such as USB drives and SD cards. The distribution boots quickly and has permanent storage enabled by itself.
The main drawback is that the project isn’t revised on a daily basis. Although the most recent stable update was in 2018, it is still fully functional, and the developers are hard at work on the next big upgrade.
- Fast bootup
- Multiple desktops
- Persistent sessions
- Porteus is a small (under 300MB) portable Linux distribution based on Slackware Linux and heavily modified Linux-live scripts. It is designed in a modular manner, which means that programmes (or collections of programmes) can be installed and removed simply by double-clicking on module files.
- Porteus is available for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures, with a variety of desktops to choose from.
Porteus is simple to use, and because it runs from a CD or flash drive, there is no need to partition your hard drive or change your current Windows or Linux setup. Try it out! After you’ve burned Porteus to a CD or installed it on a flash drive, restart your computer and change your BIOS settings to boot from the desired device (CDROM or flash drive).
Arch Linux is one of the most adaptable distros with a rolling release model. It also has one of the most complicated and time-consuming installation procedures. Manjaro has all of the benefits of Arch in a distro that is simple to instal and use right away.
The distribution is available in a variety of official and community-supported flavours, each with its own desktop environment. Both models have all of the standard web applications as well as some personalised apps to help with different administrative tasks.
The distribution is complemented by extensive documentation and a very committed and supportive user community.
- Several editions
- Customised installer
- Ready to use
- Manjaro is based on Arch, you have access to all of the amazing features associated with Arch, beginning with access to cutting-edge software. Manjaro, on the other hand, provides a heavily modified Arch with a slew of bells and whistles that they added themselves.
- Manjaro does not support only X86 architecture, but also ARM architecture.
- Manjaro can be installed on a PineBook Pro, Raspberry Pi, Rock Pi 4, and other single-board computers.
Manjaro is a Linux distribution that is free and open-source, based on the Arch Linux operating system. Manjaro prioritises usability and accessibility, and the system is designed to work “straight out of the box” with a variety of pre-installed software. It uses Pacman as its package manager and has a rolling release update model.
10. Puppy Linux
Puppy Linux is one of our favourite distros for resurrecting outdated computers and returning them to use. The project is actually a set of distros, each of which is built on a separate underlying distro. One is based on Ubuntu, and the other is based on Slackware.
Despite its small scale, Puppy is unrivalled in terms of out-of-the-box features, and there is an app for almost any job that can be performed on a desktop.
It’s not surprising, then, that Puppy avoids standard applications in favour of lightweight alternatives. The most recognisable features are the use of Joe’s window manager and the fox-filer file manager, which give it a distinct look.
- Multiple installation mechanisms
- Wide collection of apps
- Binary compatibility
- Small and portable, it can be powered by a USB drive, CD, SD card, or other types of media.
- It is entirely running on RAM.
- A graphical user interfaces with window management.
Puppy Linux is an operating system and a family of lightweight Linux distributions with an emphasis on simplicity and a small memory footprint. The entire system can be run from random-access memory, with current versions typically taking up about 600 MB (64-bit) or 300 MB (32-bit), allowing the boot medium to be removed after the operating system has been started.