The best Linux distros 2017: 8 versions of Linux we recommend

Elementary OS

If you’re after a distro that gets you as far away as possible from the image of a nerdy hacker type bashing away at a terminal interface, Elementary OS is what you need. It’s probably the most attractive distro around, with a style similar to that of macOS. This operating system’s superb desktop environment is known as Pantheon, and is based on Gnome.

The latest version of Elementary OS is called Loki, which as well as being that bit prettier and neater than its predecessor Freya, has its own application installer UI called AppCenter. It’s a delightfully simple way to install apps outside the terminal, which is handy as there aren’t very many preinstalled. 

Elementary OS does, however, come bundled with the Epiphany browser, the Geary email client and a few basic ‘tool’ apps. You may need to add more programs, but this is easy to do using the integrated AppCenter, which contains paid programs designed specifically for the OS such as Quilter for budding writers or Spice-Up for composing presentations. The inconvenience of buying and downloading additional apps is balanced by Elementary OS’ Elegance.

You can get started with Elementary OS here

Arch Linux

If you’re willing to try a slightly less user-friendly distro, Arch Linux is one of the most popular choices around. Arch allows you to customise your build using the terminal to download and install packages, and it’s particularly handy for developers and those with older machines who may not want unnecessary packages taking up space.

Of course, this used to be the way all Linux distros were set up, but there are now much more user-friendly methods available. There’s even such a version of Arch Linux, named Antergos (pictured above). Antergos comes with more drivers, more applications and a load of desktop environments to let you change the look of the system. Its aim is to hold your hand and get you up and running with all the basics right from the initial install, but it’s still Arch Linux underneath.

The hardcore crowd may turn their noses up at packages like Antergos, but when it saves those newer to Linux hours of potentially frustrating fiddling about, we’re all for it.

Antergos’ graphical installer can guide you through the setup process and boot you to the Gnome 3 desktop environment. It can also use the Cinammon, MATE, KDE and Xfce environments if you prefer. Antergos doesn’t come with an office suite but you can install this and other programs via the delightfully named Arch package manager ‘pacman’.

You can get started with Arch Linux here or Antergos here

Tails

Tails is a privacy-oriented Linux distro which has the aim of concealing your location and identity as much as possible. Even Edward Snowden used it. 

The OS routes all its internet traffic through the anonymising Tor network, which is designed to prevent data from being intercepted and analysed. Underneath all the security measures, it’s based on Debian Linux and uses the Gnome desktop so the interface is still clear and user-friendly. 

Tails isn’t for everyone, but this niche OS does give you some peace of mind if you’ve been fretting about all the worrying privacy-trampling legislation being passed these days. 

You can get started with Tails here

Ubuntu Studio

If you want a home music recording studio or a video production workstation without spending the thousands of pounds involved with industry standard software, consider installing Ubuntu Studio. 

This officially recognised flavour of Ubuntu Linux has been designed for audio and video production, as an alternative to paid software such as Pro Tools. Support for audio plug-ins and MIDI input is built in and a virtual patch bay comes preinstalled. 

Ubuntu Studio’s repositories have access to the packages in the main Ubuntu OS as well as a few digital audio sequencers. Its main strength is in audio recording through tools like the JACK Audio Connection Kit.

You can get started with Ubuntu Studio here

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