There’s still a perception that Linux is difficult to use and is only for Geeks. This seems rather silly, since most casual users, the folks who use their computers only for surfing, email and word processing, would have little to no learning curve at all using many Linux distros these days. In fact, even with some of the more “advanced” distros, your grandma wouldn’t have any trouble sitting right down and doing whatever it is she does when she’s on the computer.
We mean, what’s really advanced about an advanced distro? Firefox and Chrome are the same, whether you’re in Linux or Windows, as is Thunderbird–and even grandma can usually make the jump from from Word to LibreOffice with little to no difficulty. When you get right down to it, the “advanced” part of a “not user-friendly” Linux usually has to do with either installation or configuration, and when did grandma ever do either? If your grandma’s like ours, she calls you up to get you to come over even to do a simple little configuration trick with her Windows machine.
But let’s get back to the Linux distros that have built a reputation for being user friendly.
The first distro we remember as being advertised for newbies was Mandrake, which had a really easy to use graphical installer and also allowed most system configurations to be done right from the GUI, with no need to open up a dreaded terminal and use that most scary of computer tools–the command line(by the time Mandrake came on the scene, people were so scared of the command line you’d have thought there’d never been such a thing as MS DOS).
These days there are a lot of “user friendly” distros–all with a little different take on what constitutes friendliness. There have grown to be so many of them, in fact, that they’re starting to take drastic measures to differentiate themselves, to stand out from the crowd.
Mint tries to be the Ubuntu you remember before Unity came along and destroyed everything. Mageia tries to be the Mandrake from your childhood, before you knew anything about French bankruptcy law. Fedora wants you to remember the days when you could buy Red Hat shrink wrapped at your local big box store and openSUSE wants you to forget that Novelle ever existed. Then there’s Chrome OS, which just want’s you to click on ads, and Ubuntu, which thinks it would be swell to be the new Microsoft.
The weird thing is, they’re all different. A few years back, the biggest difference in mainstream distros had to do with configuration options and graphics. Other than that they were mostly the same, different variations of the same theme running either KDE or GNOME.
It’s a whole ‘nother ball game now. We’ve got Unity, MATE, Cinnamon all trying to appeal to users GNOME abandoned. Of course, there’s still KDE and a slew of lightweight desktops, most of which were not designed with grandma in mind. Oh, then there’s Chrome, which definitely want’s to be grandma’s new laptop.
So what do you tell somebody who’s finally ready to end their codependent relationship with Redmond? What distro do you recommend for someone who’s ready to get their feet wet?
If after taking our poll you’d like to explain why you’d recommend such-and-such distro to a new Linux user–feel free to leave a comment below.