The Top 10 Ubuntu Alternatives

These Linux distributions for something different

Even if you are a Linux neophyte, there's little doubt you've not heard of Ubuntu. Ubuntu started a revolution in 2004 to make an easy to use Linux based operating system that was both hardware compliant, easy to use and a real alternative to Windows.

Time does not stand still however and there are hundreds of other Linux distributions available and in this list, we are going to let you know about 10 of the very best Ubuntu alternatives.

Why would you want to use any other Linux distribution? Ubuntu is the best isn't it? 

The truth is that what one person sees as great another person sees as not working the way they want it to. Maybe the Ubuntu user interface is confusing for you or maybe you want to be able to customize the desktop more than Unity allows you to.

Sometimes you are left in a position whereby something like Ubuntu is just too slow on the hardware that you have available to you. Maybe you want a Linux distribution where you can get really hands-on and get to the nuts and bolts of what is going on.

Whatever your reason for not using Ubuntu this list will help you find the right alternative.

This guide provides a number of different options. There will be lightweight options which can run on older hardware, modern distributions with familiar interfaces, Mac Style interfaces, highly customizable distributions and distributions that are not derivative of Ubuntu at all.

01
of 10

Linux Mint

Linux Mint Desktop

 

 

What We Like
  • Based on Ubuntu LTS release for support up to 5 years.

  • Cinnamon desktop will feel familiar to Windows users.

  • Comes with everything you need "batteries included."

What We Don't Like
  • Some things can fall behind with long term support

Traditionally, a common reason people switched from Ubuntu was the Unity desktop environment. Now, Ubuntu uses a custom tailored version of the GNOME desktop, which isn't all that traditional either, especially since it's been designed to resemble Unity. For people who would prefer a more traditional user interface with a panel at the bottom and a menu much like the Windows 7 menu, Linux Mint's Cinnamon desktop offers welcome refuge.

Linux Mint basically gives you the power of Ubuntu but with that simple user interface. But don't mistake simple to mean not powerful. The Cinnamon desktop boasts a stylish look and feels and the ability to customize many aspects of the desktop.

Linux Mint is derived from Ubuntu and shares the same code base. The main Linux Mint distribution is based on the long-term support release of Ubuntu meaning you have all the goodness of Ubuntu but with an alternative look and feel.

Linux Mint has also rebranded and forked a number of key applications so that they can add their own touch to them.

There is a full set of applications for everyday use including the LibreOffice suite, the Banshee audio player, Firefox web browser and the Thunderbird email client.

Who Is Linux Mint For?

People who like the stability of Ubuntu yet want a more traditional user interface.

Also Try

Linux Mint has a number of different flavors including 2 lightweight versions utilizing the MATE and XFCE desktop environments. Using these environments you can use Linux Mint on older computers and they are both highly customizable.

02
of 10

Zorin OS

Zorin OS Desktop

 

 

What We Like
  • Based on Ubuntu LTS release for 5 years of support

  • Zorin is easy to install, easy to use, and has a great set of applications

  • Focused on simple user experience

What We Don't Like
  • Zorin specific support isn't as easy to come by.

Zorin OS is also based on the Ubuntu LTS release which means you get all the best features of Ubuntu with a unique look and feel.

Zorin uses a customized version of the GNOME desktop. This provides a good middle ground between the modern features of the Unity desktop and the traditional features of the Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop.

You can customize many of the desktop features using a built in Zorin look changer.

Zorin has everything the average person needs to get you started including the Chromium web browser (non-branded Chrome browser), GIMP image editor, LibreOffice office suite, Rhythmbox audio player, and PlayOnLinux with WINE.

The latest version of Zorin is great. Previously it was very stylish but a little bit buggy. The bugs have been completely ironed out and Zorin is every bit as good as Linux Mint.

Who Is Zorin For?

Zorin is a great alternative to Ubuntu and Linux Mint. It blends a great user interface with the best software that is currently available for Linux.

The inclusion of PlayOnLinux and WINE means you have the ability to install and use Windows applications.

Also Try

If you like the idea of Zorin OS, but maybe not its specific style, you should check out Elementary OS, a little further down this list. It's also based on Ubuntu LTS, but it has its own unique set of utilities and tools, including its own desktop environment.

03
of 10

Fedora

Fedora Linux Desktop
What We Like
  • Super easy install.

  • Very well supported by third parties.

  • Get the absolute latest software.

What We Don't Like
  • Software selection is limited without third party repositories.

  • Can experience stability issues close to a new release.

For a long time, Fedora and Ubuntu were the top two Linux distributions on desktops. They both provided the most polished and reliable experience. Along the way, though, Fedora changed direction toward a more business oriented approach. That doesn't mean Fedora isn't still a great desktop, and you can get running with it just as easily as the latest Ubuntu release.

Officially, Fedora is something of a test bed for the latest technologies coming to Redhat Enterprise Linux(RHEL). When the open source giant develops a new feature, it'll arrive on Fedora years before RHEL or CentOS. As a result, Fedora moves at a speedy pace, with new releases arriving just about every six months. Fedora also pushes new versions of software along the way, meaning you'll usually have the latest and greatest.

With Fedora, you get an interesting balance. Most so called "bleeding edge" distributions, like Arch Linux, require a decent amount of technical know-how to use effectively. That's not the case with Fedora. It uses a simple graphical installer, just like Ubuntu. When you get your Fedora system running, you'll benefit form access to the latest multimedia software, and even access to the latest drivers and gaming software. With Fedora, you'll get access to all the toys the cool kids have, without the hassle of configuring every aspect of your computer manually.

Who is Fedora For?

Fedora excels in the hands of developers and system administrators. That's he audience it's intended for, but anyone that's willing to learn a little bit about their computer and how it works will have a great experience with Fedora.

Also Try

If you'd like something similar to Fedora that's more stable and moves at a slower pace, give CentOS a try. CentOS is the community version of RHEL. It's essentially the same distribution without the Redhat branding.

CentOS is geared more toward business users that need absolute rock-solid stability. Because of that, it's extremely popular on servers. As a desktop, CentOS is rock solid, and it'll stay out of your way and let you get straight to work.

04
of 10

openSUSE

openSUSE Linux Desktop
What We Like
  • Fantastic KDE Plasma desktop support.

  • One of the longest running and most reliable distributions.

  • Multiple releases to choose.

What We Don't Like
  • Community isn't as large as Ubuntu's.

  • Not as much third party support as Ubuntu, Fedora, or Debian.

openSUSE has been around a long time, longer than Ubuntu in fact.

There are currently two versions of openSUSE available:

  • Tumbleweed
  • Leap

Tumbleweed is a rolling release distribution meaning that once it is installed you will never have to install another version (somewhat similar to the model that Windows 10 is now going down).

The Leap version of openSUSE follows the traditional model whereby you have to install the latest version when it is released by downloading and installing it. Generally, a release occurs once every 6 months.

openSUSE is not based on Debian or Ubuntu in any way and in fact, is more aligned to Red Hat in terms of package management. It isn't a Red Hat distribution, though. It's entirely independent, and it's primary selling point is stability.

openSUSE boasts a perfectly tuned KDE Plasma desktop that strikes a fantastic balance between modern features and classic design. Plasma comes complete with its own ecosystem and utilities for everything you could hope fore, including Android connectivity.

Along with Plasma, you'll get other popular open source applications, like Firefox and LibreOffice. OpenSUSE boasts a massive package repository, so there shouldn't be much you can't find and install.

As with CentOS and Fedora, multimedia codecs aren't installed by default however there is a good guide available for finding everything you need. 

The installer for openSUSE is a bit hit and miss making it the sort of distribution you install as a standalone distribution as opposed to a dual boot solution.

Who is openSUSE for?

openSUSE is for anybody who wants a stable, fully-featured, modern Linux desktop operating system and who wants a viable alternative to Ubuntu.

Also Try

Consider Mageia. Mageia is easier to install, utilizes the Plasma desktop environment as well.

Mageia comes with a large number of applications pre-installed including GIMP, LibreOffice, Firefox and a complete toolbox from Plasma.

Visit https://www.mageia.org/en-gb/ for the Mageia website.

05
of 10

Debian

Debian Desktop
What We Like
  • One of the oldest and most highly respected distributions.

  • Massive software library with loads of applications.

  • Excellent third party support.

  • Rock solid stability.

What We Don't Like
  • Stable releases move slowly, leaving you with outdated software.

  • Community tends to be more technical.

Here's how you know Debian is the grandfather of Linux: Ubuntu is actually based on Debian.

The way to install Debian is via a network installer. The benefit of using this installer is that you choose the features of the operating system as you install it.

For instance, you can choose to have a suite of desktop applications or have a bare bones operating system.

You can choose the desktop environment that is installed. If you want GNOME then you can have GNOME (this is the default by the way). If you prefer KDE then KDE it is.

Therein lies the reason why you would choose Debian over other versions of Linux.

You choose what you want and you can customize the whole distribution from the moment you start installing it.

The Debian tools are very easy to use yet very powerful. One would argue some of the installation steps go too far for the average person but for somebody looking to do something that is out of the ordinary it is perfect.

If you choose to install the default set of standard applications then you will get the usual suspects of Firefox, LibreOffice and Rhythmbox.

Who is Debian For?

Debian is for people who want to build the system the way they want it from the ground up.

You also get to choose which version you want to use from the ultra-stable version, the testing version or the modern but maybe less reliable unstable version.

Also Try

Debian is the parent to Ubuntu and grandparent to a number of other distributions on this list. So, they share many tools, features, and components. That said, there's one more to add that's based directly on Debian, MX Linux.

MX Linux is fairly new, when it comes to Linux distributions, but it's really taken off in popularity. MX Linux is based on Debian's stable branch and uses the XFCE desktop. So it doesn't fall behind, the MX Linux developers have included the Debian backports repositories and some additional software, like the latest Firefox release. The overall result is a semi-rolling release system that takes the stability of Debian and adds some newer applications to provide a more functional desktop experience.

06
of 10

Manjaro

Manjaro Desktop
What We Like
  • Easy to install and use.

  • Benefits from the large Arch Linux community.

  • Fast moving with the latest applications.

  • Giant software selection.

What We Don't Like
  • Rarely, it can inherit Arch's instability.

  • Comes with a little more than you might need.

Manjaro Linux is definitely one of the best Linux distributions available and we can't recommend it highly enough.

If you follow the Linux news, forums and chat rooms long enough you will hear two words again and again, "Arch Linux".

Arch Linux is a rolling release distribution which is incredibly powerful. Arch Linux, however, isn't for the shrinking violet. You need to have some nifty Linux skills, the willingness to learn and patience.

Your reward for using Arch Linux is that you can get a highly customizable system the way you want it that is both modern, performs really well and looks great.

So let's skip all the hard stuff and install Manjaro instead. Manjaro takes all the best bits of Arch and makes it available to the normal person.

Manjaro is very easy to install and comes with all the applications you would expect.

Manjaro is stable yet highly responsive and performs brilliantly. This is a truly viable alternative to Ubuntu that isn't based on Ubuntu.

Who Is Manjaro For?

Manjaro is a modern Linux desktop operating system which is arguably suitable for everyone.

If you have ever wanted to use Arch Linux yet not been brave enough to give it a go then this is a great way to dip your feet into the water.

Also Try

The obvious alternative is Arch Linux. You should try Arch Linux if you are a Linux enthusiast with time on your hands and a willingness to learn something new.

The end result will be a modern desktop operating system of your own design. You will also learn a lot on the way.

Visit https://www.archlinux.org/ to get Arch.

Another alternative is Antergos. Antergos like Manjaro is based on Arch Linux and provides another entry for the average person.

Visit https://antergos.com/ to get Antergox.

07
of 10

Peppermint

Peppermint Linux Desktop
What We Like
  • Easy to install and use.

  • Works well with older hardware.

  • Has a great tool for integrating web pages into the desktop

What We Don't Like
  • There aren't many applications installed by default.

  • Might be too minimal for some people.

Peppermint OS is another Linux distribution based on Ubuntu's Long Term Support release.

It is not in any way anything to do with Linux Mint except for the obvious inclusion of the word mint in its name.

Peppermint is great for both modern and older hardware. It utilizes a mixture of the XFCE and LXDE desktop environment.

What you get is a Linux distribution that performs very well yet has all the features of a modern operating system.

The best feature of Peppermint, however, is its ability to turn web applications such as Facebook, Gmail and indeed any other website into a desktop application.

Peppermint does a great job of blending the best of the cloud with the best of desktop Linux.

It is easy to install as it uses the Ubuntu installer and comes with just enough tools to get you started.

The ICE tool is the key feature as this is the utility that you use to turn your favorite websites into desktop applications.

Who is Peppermint For?

Peppermint is for everyone, whether you are using an older computer or a more modern one.

It is especially useful for people who mainly use the internet when using their computer as it integrates the web into the desktop.

Also Try

Why not also try Chromixium. Chromixium is a clone of the Chrome operating system used on Chromebooks made available as a Linux desktop operating system.

Visit https://www.chromixium.org/ for the website.

08
of 10

Solus

Solus Budgie desktop
What We Like
  • Rolling release.

  • Super polished and simple experience.

  • Budgie desktop environment.

  • Completely independent.

What We Don't Like
  • No server release, in case you need one.

  • Some unique configurations can be confusing.

Maybe you arrived on this list looking for something different, really different. In that case, give Solus a look. Unlike so many Linux distributions, which are based on Ubuntu, Debian, or Fedora(Redhat technically is), Solus was independently created from the ground up. It's a completely fresh start that seriously pays off.

Solus was designed for the desktop and only the desktop. There is no server version of Solus. It simply wasn't made for that. Instead of getting a generalized Linux distribution, like you would with most others, you get something that's tailored for the desktop in every way possible. It's streamlined in a way that's efficient and actually makes sense.

The Solus developers worked extremely hard to create a unique ecosystem around their distribution, including its own desktop environment, Budgie. Budgie started out as a variation of GNOME, but it's grown into one of the most popular desktop environments in the Linux world. Budgie is simple, elegant, and modern. The design is still classic enough that'll feel like second nature to use, even the first time.

Solus also has its own package manager, complete with a graphical app store. The application library started out small, but it's grown to include nearly every piece of software you could hope for. Solus is also a rolling-release distribution, meaning you'll get continual updates as they're available. There's never a need to upgrade to a new Solus release. This system also means that your system will always stay fresh.

Who is Solus For?

Solus would be an ideal fit for just about anyone. It's a general purpose desktop distribution that's simple enough for even the least technical users. Like any other Linux distribution, though, more experienced users can dig around under the hood.

Also Try

Interestingly enough, the closest thing to Solus is also on this list, and it's Manjaro. Manjaro is also a rolling release distribution that gives you a complete and polished desktop out of the box.

Unlike Solus, Manjaro is based on another distribution, Arch Linux. The Arch ecosystem is a huge asset, and that's probably the main reason you'd want to consider Manjaro over Solus.

09
of 10

Elementary OS

Elementary Linux Desktop
What We Like
  • Pantheon desktop looks great.

  • Easy to install.

  • Benefits from Ubuntu's large software library.

What We Don't Like
  • Not really meant for looking under the hood.

  • Lags a little behind, because of the LTS base.

Elementary OS is one of those Linux distributions that just looks beautiful.

Every aspect of the Elementary user interface has been designed to pixel precision. For those people who like the look and feel of an OS designed by Apple, this is for you.

Elementary is based on Ubuntu, but the applications have been carefully chosen to match the style of the distribution.

The desktop environment is actually fairly lightweight so the performance is very good.

Who is Elementary For?

Elementary is for people who like a beautiful and elegant looking desktop.

In honesty, it lacks the features of some distributions and there is definitely a style over substance feel about it.

Also Try

Solus and Zorin are both often compared to Elementary OS. They're both also on this list, so if that's any indication, the philosophy behind these distributions seems to work.

10
of 10

Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux Desktop
What We Like
  • Ultra lightweight.

  • Works on very old hardware.

  • Can be run from a USB drive.

What We Don't Like
  • It can be tricky to install and some of the tools are a little rough around the edges.

Puppy Linux is a personal favorite Linux distribution. It doesn't, however, fit into a category we've covered.

Puppy Linux is designed to run from a USB drive as opposed to being fully installed to the hard drive.

For that reason, Puppy is incredibly lightweight and the download image is very small.

The actual process of setting up the Puppy USB isn't as straight-forward as installing some distributions and performing common tasks such as connecting tot he internet is sometimes hit and miss.

For this reason, Puppy comes with dozens of applications and utilities and many of them overlap it terms of what they do.

One nice touch is that the programs are named in a charismatic way. For instance, there is Barry's Simple Network Setup and Joe's Window Manager.

There are many different versions of Puppy available as the developers provided a great method for people to create their own version.

Puppy also has a Slackware or Ubuntu version which makes it possible to use software from the repositories of either system.

Who is Puppy For?

Puppy is useful as a USB drive version of Linux that you can take anywhere.

Also Try

There are a couple of Puppy alternatives to try such as Simplicity Linux which is a Ubuntu based version of Puppy. 

You can also try MacPUP which is a Puppy-based distribution with a Mac look and feel.

Knoppix is another Linux distribution designed to run from a USB drive but it is not related to Puppy in any way.

Summary

We have listed 10 core distributions that are viable alternatives to Ubuntu as well as a number of other alternatives.

There are however hundreds of Linux distributions available and it is definitely worth researching until you find the one that suits you.

We know we have missed some from the list which are equally as credible. For example, there is Bodhi Linux, Linux Lite and PCLinuxOS.