Linux offers more than just desktop operating systems; you’ll find a version configured for almost any use, including programming.
Because Linux distributions are open-source, functional, and packed with tools, Linux offers a thriving environment for developers and programmers. Furthermore, Linux maintains compatibility with virtually any programming language.
Here are the best Linux distros for programmers.
Ubuntu ranks among the most popular for everyone from beginners to seasoned Linux pros. For developers and programmers, Ubuntu LTS, or long-term service, provides additional stability.
Because Ubuntu offers Snap packages for simple, straight-forward installation, it’s a fantastic distribution channel. Additionally, Ubuntu uses the .deb package manager which witnessed widespread adoption.
Moreover, Ubuntu remains compatible with many software options for programmers. Its massive user base means there’s a bevy of support. With a smattering of Ubuntu derivatives including Lubuntu, Xubuntu, and Kubuntu, it’s a top choice for programmers. Ubuntu is an OS which keeps users coming back.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Hugely popular, excellent support, stability, and ease of use.
From Linux PC manufacturer System76 comes Pop!_OS, a Linux operating system tailored to developers, programmers, and makers. Benjamin Flanagin, lead developer at Vague Entertainment reports that he happily uses Pop!_OS because it’s the most stable GNOME 3 distro he’s encountered. Dominick also approves of Pop!_OS for its shared characteristics with Ubuntu.
As such, System76’s Pop!_OS is one of the best Linux distros for programmers. Although Pop!_OS sports a lovely look, we found that it’s best for System76 hardware users or those who simply enjoy its aesthetics. Additionally, we ranked Pop!_OS as one of the best Linux distributions on the market overall, not just for programming.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Fantastic stability, GNOME 3, similar to Ubuntu.
Since most Linux OSes spawned from Debian, it’s a fantastic OS for programmers. In fact, the ultra-popular Ubuntu is based on Debian. You’ll benefit from a super stable distribution with .deb package management compatibility. Its testing branch features up to date software. Debian’s repositories are top-notch, there’s a thriving community, and you can use
apt-get as well as
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Solid user base, very stable, foundation for many popular Linux operating systems.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is a Linux operating system developed by tech giant Red Hat. CentOS is a neat RHEL alternative. Most commercial RHEL software runs with ease on CentOS and you’ll find YUM package management. Plus, CentOS boasts an impressive repository, as well as Red Hat Software Collections (RHSCL) for dynamic languages and open-source databases.
As such, CentOS offers the ideal space for programmers focused on enterprise development and programming in general. Aside from programming, CentOS presents a solid server operating system as well.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Great for use in enterprise environments, a well as development of enterprise apps.
Similarly, Fedora is another community edition variant of RHEL. Benefits include updated packages, plus automatic configuration. With Fedora, there’s a six-month release cycle, and upgrades are painless. As FossBytes reports, even Linux creator Linus Torvalds opts for Fedora over the likes of Ubuntu or Debian.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Like CentOS, this is a great choice for enterprise applications.
6. Kali Linux
If you’ve ever watched USA’s hit series Mr. Robot, you’re likely familiar with Kali Linux. A Debian-based Linux operating system, Kali Linux hones in on the security niche. Since Kali targets penetration testing, it’s packed with security testing tools. For instance, you’ll find John the Ripper, a password cracker, pen testing suite Aircrack-ng, and web app security scanner OWASP ZAP.
Thus, Kali Linux is a top choice for programmers, particularly those focused on security. Further, Kali Linux runs well on the Raspberry Pi. Since programming resources are popular for the Pi, Kali is an awesome Raspbian alternative.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Lots of utilities for penetration testing, web app security, and more. Debian-based and incredibly stable.
Download: Kali Linux
7. Arch Linux
For a lightweight yet robust OS, try Arch Linux. It’s one of the best Linux operating systems for programmers with an adaptable and customizable foundation.
With Arch Linux, you can build customized packages and truly dig into the core operating system. Since it’s a minimalist distro, Arch comes with simply the Linux kernel and a package manager, Pacman. Unlike OSes such as Debian and Ubuntu, Arch lacks a graphical user interface (GUI) initially.
Considering its complex installation, Arch is recommended for advanced Linux users. Moreover, it’s suggested if you’re willing to slog through the ultimately rewarding but admittedly lengthy roll-your-own distro process. For an easier way to install Arch Linux, try Antergos.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Lightweight, customizable, and features a bleeding edge repository.
Download: Arch Linux
Like Arch, Gentoo provides a means to take complete control of your computer. Again, there’s simply the package manager and a Linux kernel. Thus, virtually every element of the OS installation is up to you.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Highly-flexible, completely customizable.
As a Linux operating system, NuTyX is highly-flexible. It affords complete control to the user, adopting the Linux from scratch mentality. NuTyX ships with a package manager and kernel, which lets users create a customized experience, from choosing a desktop environment to applications and more. It’s best suited for programmers that demand a tailored distro, armed with the patience to complete the involved installation process.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Linux from scratch methodology, very customizable.
Though Ubuntu and Debian derivatives tend to dominate, OpenSUSE is a solid alternative. Notably, it’s superb for development and programming. There’s a LTS release, as well as Tumbleweed, a bleeding-edge iteration.
OpenSUSE yields an enterprise environment with an excellent package manager in YaST. It’s stable and provides plenty of software installers on its website. OpenSUSE includes both fixed and rolling release options, tons of desktop environments, and intuitive app installation making it one of the best Linux distros for programmers.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: Stable, up to date packages, and the ultra-powerful YaST package manager.
11. elementary OS
Although Linux operating systems including Ubuntu are pretty user-friendly, elementary OS takes ease of use to a whole new level. The fairly recent Linux OS sports an understandable vision with its own desktop environment in Pantheon. Further, elementary includes its own GUI and apps. It’s super easy to learn. Because of its simplicity, Elementary OS is a best bet for programmers new to the Linux space.
Like many Linux desktop distros, elementary boasts a library of awesome default apps. Upon first boot, you’ll find goodies such as a mail app, photos app, and music app. If you enjoy elementary, you might appreciate ChaletOS and Manjaro as well, for their similar philosophy.
Why it’s one of the best Linux distros for programmers: User-friendly, incredibly stable.
Download: Elementary OS
The Best Linux Operating Systems for Programmers
Linux distros provide a superb environment for programming and development. Because Linux supports almost any programming language imaginable, it’s ideal for developers. Moreover, its plethora of tools makes Linux perfect for programming.
While some programmers prefer straight-forward yet robust Linux distros such as Ubuntu or Elementary, others require advanced Linux operating systems like Arch or Gentoo. Plus, you’ll find specialized OSes such as Kali Linux and even free enterprise-class Linux distros including Fedora and CentOS.