You’re using Ubuntu, but you want your desktop experience to be a little more… eye catching. While you could always add a new desktop background, or switch desktops completely, you also have the option of switching to a completely different distro.
We’ve compiled this list of five utterly stunning Ubuntu alternatives for you to watch demos of, and perhaps download and install on your Linux computer.
Why Not Just Use Ubuntu?
Quite simply, there is more to Linux than Ubuntu. This may surprise you, it may not; here at MakeUseOf.com we generally focus on Ubuntu for desktop and laptops, and Raspbian (based on Debian) for the Raspberry Pi, and occasional looks at Kodi, OpenElec and other media center distros.
In reality, hundreds of Linux distros are in daily use; DistroWatch.com features a top 100 list of the current most-downloaded distros, where Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora hold the top 5 spots.
Now, if you’re new to Linux, Ubuntu is a very good place to start off. But if you feel like refreshing things while remaining in the Linux environment and making use of the command line tricks you have learned, then spreading your wings and trying a new distro is a good idea.
Of course, you could choose any old distro, but why not do a little bit of research and find one with a stunning GUI to impress your family and friends, and show them that Linux isn’t all about command lines and Unity?
Employing Pantheon desktop, Elementary OS Freya 0.3 has an OS X-inspired GUI. Inspired might not be the right word, actually; if you’ve recently switched from OS X to Linux, then the GUI on Freya might just make you feel right at home.
Features include the lightweight Midori browser, which is HTML5 compatible, players for photos, music and video and a file explorer with three ways to find what you’re looking for, grid, categories and search.
Elementary OS Freya 0.3 is donationware.
We often dedicated pages to Ubuntu on MUO as it has a popular position as the best OS for switchers from Windows. But is this deserved? Perhaps once upon a time it was, but these days Zoris OS can be considered far more Windows-like.
As well as stated support for Wine and PlayOnLinux, Zorin – which is based on Ubuntu – has a very useful Look Changer tool that enables you to customize the look and feel of the desktop environment. You can use this to either style something a little unique, or make the OS resemble Windows 7, XP, 2000, Ubuntu Unity, Mac OS X, or GNOME 2.
Free and premium versions are available.
Several editions of Makulu are released, but we recommend XFCE, not least because of the features it packs it. Windows switchers in particular can forget about adding the usual office/Steam (which runs on Linux)/Wine software as all of these are included in the install (with WPS on offer as the Microsoft Office 2003-esque office experience).
Also supported are Netflix and Popcorn Time, and Makulu 9 XFCE includes a firewall and an antivirus tool (potentially useful if you’re running Windows software!). The GUI is particularly handsome, and with the Variety Wallpaper changer active you can gain complete control over the images that decorate your desktop.
Formerly Pear Linux, this French-programmed distro (based on Ubuntu) is no longer maintained, but you should be able to gain all of the standard day-to-day desktop use from this.
As you can see in the accompanying video, Pear OS takes design elements from iOS and OS X (from the logo all the way to the desktop) including a Mac OS X-style dock and also offers a virtual desktop switcher and everything from menu layouts and fonts to the shade of grey used resemble OS X, arguably more than with Elementary OS.
If you don’t subscribe to the idea that OS X represents a visual high watermark for GUI design, then much of this may leave you cold, but if you want a Mac-like experience without the Mac-like price, then Pear OS is an option without having to resort to building a Hackintosh. Beware, however, that there will be no future updates.
Built from scratch and featuring the Budgie Desktop, Solus (previously evolve OS) is a sweet-looking OS which takes inspiration from Android’s material design and adds to it.
The focus with Solus is productivity; it is an OS that “gets out of your way” to let you get on and do what you need to do without notifications and nags to change, edit and fix things. What’s also interesting about Solus is that the developers seem to have a focused idea of what they’re trying to achieve, and release the OS without the distraction of multiple releases for servers, mobile phones, etc. This alone makes it worth your while to take a look, with the shiny GUI a pleasant bonus.
So, Are These the Most Gorgeous Distros?
What do you think? Which stylish Linux distros would you recommend for lovers of visually pleasing operating systems? Or would you simply install a different desktop? Tell us in the comments.