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School is almost back in session! For Linux users, there are two top-notch distributions out there specifically aimed towards education: Edubuntu and UberStudent.

While you could easily take a look at both of them to see which one’s better for you, we bet you don’t have a lot of time as you’re busy getting ready for the new school year. So instead, we’ll compare them for you. After reading this, you’ll be able to easily pick the distribution that best suits your needs.

Downloading and Installing

Getting and installing both Edubuntu and UberStudent is easy. Simply get the ISO for Edubuntu or for UberStudent, and write it to a 4GB or larger flash drive Linux Live USB Creator: Easily Boot Linux From Your Flash Drive Linux Live USB Creator: Easily Boot Linux From Your Flash Drive Read More . Then, plug it into your computer and boot into it (you may have to change your BIOS settings How To Change The Boot Order On Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) How To Change The Boot Order On Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) What happens when you start up your PC? In most cases (and putting it very simply), after the power switch has controlled the flow of electricity to the motherboard and the fans have started up,... Read More ). After that, you can choose to try it out or go ahead and install it to your system.

Comparison Metrics

Since both distributions are based on Ubuntu, that takes away a lot of behind-the-scene differences. Instead, we can focus purely on what’s important, which includes:

  • what programs are preinstalled and if any other special features are included
  • how everything is organized
  • how it looks.

So, let’s get right to it.

Installed Programs

Both distributions provide a good array of educational programs right out of the box. And it shows in the download sizes, as UberStudent and Edubuntu are 2.8 GB and 3.1 GB, respectively. Scrolling through them all, I’ve noticed that Edubuntu has a bigger collection of educational programs preinstalled than UberStudent. In fact, UberStudent even uses links to some web apps as if they’re actual programs. I suppose that can be useful for some people, but I personally consider that as a bad thing rather than a good thing.

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linux_edu_edubuntu_apps_organization
Importantly, there are a handful of programs that are on Edubuntu that UberStudent doesn’t have, such as KAlgebra, Kazium, KGeography, and Marble. Instead, UberStudent has a smaller collection of applications but it does include some useful items when it comes to writing papers that Edubuntu does not have. So ultimately, Edubuntu includes more programs that are information-heavy, while UberStudent includes more tools that can aid students in their studies but doesn’t directly give them any sort of information.

linux_edu_uberstudent_apps_organization
I generally find Edubuntu’s array of applications to be larger and more diverse, and it’ll be most useful for math and science folks. UberStudent is still a good choice if you’re less science-oriented and know you’ll be writing a lot of papers. This functionality in UberStudent is primarily provided by Zotero Take The Stress Out Of Referencing With Zotero Take The Stress Out Of Referencing With Zotero Essays are dry. They're time consuming. They're dull. And the worst part of it? Referencing. Thankfully, there's an app out there making referencing less frustrating. Read More , which also includes a Zotero integration extension in Firefox that communicates with LibreOffice. You can replicate the same experience on Edubuntu. Of course, you can always install additional programs on either distribution, but in this comparison we have to take into account how many programs it includes from the start and how useful that is.

Winner: Edubuntu

Organization

Of course, all of those applications won’t do anything if you can’t find them, and people who are new to Linux will quite possibly not know what all of those applications are called. Having a good menu structure that makes finding relevant applications easy is essential, and UberStudent does a much better job at this.

It’s not necessarily Edubuntu’s fault, as it just uses Ubuntu’s Unity desktop as its default, but Unity itself is flawed by design in this respect and not an ideal solution. Unity can only narrow down by major categories (such as Educational, Math & Science, and Games), while UberStudent can offer finer levels of organization.

Winner: UberStudent

Looks and Design

linux_edu_uberstudent_looks
UberStudent uses the Xfce desktop which makes the entire distribution use less system resources, but it uses a rather strange skin that makes it look a little weird. Specifically, the window control buttons all have different colors, which just makes the distribution feel more childish rather than an educational tool.

linux_edu_edubuntu_looks
Edubuntu, on the other hand, stays with the Unity desktop environment along with Ubuntu’s default theme. Therefore, it looks cleaner and more mature. Plus, proficiency with Linux is increasingly becoming a desired skill, and Ubuntu is the top Linux distribution that people work with. Becoming familiar with the Ubuntu user interface can help more later on in life than UberStudent’s user interface.

Winner: Edubuntu

Conclusion

After these three rounds, Edubuntu leads UberStudent 2-1 and is therefore the winner of this comparison. While it might be a little difficult to sift through all the included applications, it’s a very nice-looking distro that comes with a load of applications preinstalled. However, UberStudent isn’t really that bad either, as it makes finding relevant applications easier and also includes a decent amount of software from the get go.

If you think that UberStudent may fit your needs better, whether you value the better organization, prefer its look and design over Edubuntu’s, or need it due to its lighter load on system resources, it’s still a great choice. Picking either one will put you in the right direction. However, for the purposes of this comparison, Edubuntu is the winner.

What educational Linux tools do you like or use regularly? Have you got any tips for college students as they head into the school year with Linux? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Conrad
    January 29, 2015 at 6:12 am

    While late coming to your review I appreciate the time and effort put into it. As someone looking into these distros it would be helpful to know what the system requirements are for each, 32bit and 64 bit for each etc. Many of us aren't able to use the latest greatest computer hardware and finding distros that aren't resource heavy makes a world of difference. Again, apprecviate the article and wishing you the best! :-)

  2. Booker Moore
    August 21, 2014 at 4:29 am

    The many tools (which is much more than just Zotero!), and the amount and type of help available in UberStudent (such as CherryTree Example, which is literally an entire semester of academic work organized in CherryTree), are applicable to 100% of students in tertiary education. Edubuntu is primarily applicable to the 16% who major in natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_318.20.asp).

    UberStudent does not assume your major but provides an app installer with programs by category just for that. By the way, when you install them, they expand in to those amazingly well organized menus, revealing additional menu sub-categories.

    Enough said.

  3. Bben46
    August 20, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Nearly everyone now calls these 'distro repositories' app stores now - free as well as for pay. Blame the cell phone industry for this. BTW, I don't like the term app - as to me that implies some simple little program that does something small and not a full program. But times and language change.

  4. Bben
    August 20, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Is there really any need to have a distro supposedly tailored to college students? With a lot of included apps that they may not even need? Wouldn't it be far better to have a special app store just for those apps that students need? That way they can customize their own with just the apps they actually need this semester - no Art History app automatically installed when your primary focus is Physics, chemistry and Math. And no Physics app if you are primarily an Art student.

    Unfortunately, my experience with Linux app stores is they are difficult to navigate and seem to shove certain apps (paid advertising?) in your face on the front page, then if you don't know the exact name of an app you want - you have to figure out what group that store decided it went into and page, page, page to find it if you are lucky. Do calculator apps go in educational or in desktop apps? Why not both?

    • dragonmouth
      August 20, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      "Linux app store" implies apps for sale. The philosophy of Linux is that the vast majority of applications are available for free, as in you don't pay for them.

      It is the first time I have ever hear of "Linux app stores." Are you referring to distro repositories or smartphone/tablet apps? I use Synaptic Package Manager to manage my software. It presents the list of available software without any rankings or recommendations, either from users or developers. Synaptic does not concentrate on looking pretty like MintUpdate or Ubuntu Software Manager but on being useful and functional.

      "Do calculator apps go in educational or in desktop apps?"
      Why not do a search on "calculator"? Or does Software Manager or Software Update not allow searching the package definitions? Synaptic does. :-)

    • Danny S
      August 31, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Some people prefer to have the tools they want ready-to-go immediately with little extra effort. But in your case, it's best just to install the normal distribution and add apps from there. You can look up apps that are included in Edubuntu or UberStudent as a source of inspiration.

  5. Imaduddin Sawal
    August 20, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Excellent article Danny ! Especially for students like me , hope there will be more like this in the future .
    I had a question . A week has passed since I installed Linux on my PC along with Windows 7 (Dual-boot) . So I've yet not got enough things about the command line and all the other geeky stuff ( although planning to do so soon ) . So I wanted to know that can I use them ? I mean aren't they difficult to use ? And how should I go about installing them ( with Ubuntu already installed )?
    Thanks !

    • Danny S
      August 31, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      All command line utilities you'll commonly need are already installed, so you shouldn't have to do more than open a terminal and enter in commands. Of course, do some research before you start doing that so you won't accidentally mess up your system. The terminal is a powerful tool, but not a fool-proof tool.

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