8 Things That Keep You Coming Back to Ubuntu

Bertel King 08-12-2016

Ubuntu 16.10 is here… and it isn’t all that different from 16.04. For that matter, the most recent long-term support release wasn’t all that different from the last one. You could return to Ubuntu now after having last used 12.04 and find an experience that is largely the same. For a long time now, the Ubuntu desktop has been more in maintenance mode than under active development.


With so many exciting developments occurring in the Linux world, ranging from new features in GNOME Shell to the release of Plasma 5 and the cool stuff going on with Elementary OS, why do you stick with Ubuntu? I may have an idea.

1. People Know What You’re Talking About

There’s two kinds of mainstream. Ubuntu may be a funny word to people who think Windows and PC are two ways to refer to the same thing, but your nerd friends know what it is. They’ve come across it on a tech blog, saw some artist mention it on DeviantArt, and may have even played around with it over summer break, or after work.

When you pull out your laptop around them, there’s little confusion. Your peers may think you’re a little quirky or bold for making the switch, but you don’t have to waste time explaining what’s on your screen. They recognize the name. They’ve seen screenshots. It’s fine. It’s not like you’re running openSUSE, Gentoo, or some other made up name.

2. There’s Excellent Software Support

When you’re browsing the web as a Windows user, you don’t give much thought to whether an application is available for your computer. Unless you’ve stumbled into Mac land, the answer is yes. Most developers make software for Windows, since that’s what most people run on their PCs.

In the Linux world, the story is different. We regularly have to do without commercial software that’s offered on Windows or Mac. And because there are countless distros to pick from The Best Linux Operating Distros The best Linux distros are hard to find. Unless you read our list of the best Linux operating systems for gaming, Raspberry Pi, and more. Read More , knowing that a program supports Linux doesn’t necessarily mean that you can run it.


But if you run Ubuntu, you’re probably in the clear. Ubuntu is the Windows of the Linux landscape, with developers sometimes only releasing software in the DEB format How to Install Software on Linux: Package Formats Explained You've switched to Linux, and want to install some software. But package managers differ depending on your distro. So which apps can you download and install? It's all in the acronyms. Read More .

3. Ubuntu Is Easy to Troubleshoot

What do you do when you have a computer problem? You could ask someone you know, but as a Linux user, you’re more likely to turn to the web. The thing is, what do you search for? With Linux being so fractured, who knows where to start?

This is where Ubuntu’s popularity is a big help. With so many users, there’s a good chance someone else has already encountered the same issue. You can enter “Ubuntu” as one of your search terms and expect to get results. Given the relative popularity of Ubuntu, articles on the subject are more likely to pop up. Then there are the dedicated forums. You may even find something on YouTube.

Even if you use another distro, searching for a fix that works under Ubuntu may be the quickest nudge in the right direction.


4. More Computers Have Ubuntu Pre-Installed

Most people don’t install their own operating system. They don’t have any idea what one even is! The idea of them knowing what to do with a Linux ISO is ludicrous, even if you give it to them already burned to a flash drive.

That’s why it’s a big deal that you can buy computers that come with Linux. Ubuntu makes this easier than most other distributions. If you have a non-technical friend who wants to run Ubuntu, point them to System76. The website gives Ubuntu the gold star treatment. Instead of a hobbyist distro, Ubuntu looks more like a consumer-ready product.

Sure, you can buy laptops running other distros 5 Awesome Linux Laptops You Can Buy Right Now Think Linux is hard to use? Many laptop makers offer Linux laptops that don't suffer from any driver or software faults. Read More . ZaReason and Think Penguin will both pre-install whichever one you like. But you can get Ubuntu from a manufacturer as well-known as Dell without going through a third party. That tells regular folks that it’s okay.

5. You Like Unity

Ubuntu used to ship a largely vanilla version of the GNOME desktop environment GNOME Explained: A Look at One of Linux's Most Popular Desktops You're interested in Linux, and you've come across "GNOME", an acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment. GNOME is one of the most popular open source interfaces, but what does that mean? Read More . That changed in 2010 and 2011, when Canonical started shipping its own user interface instead. It’s called Unity, and these days it’s synonymous with Ubuntu.


The Unity interface is different from most other Linux interfaces. It’s minimalist and not very customizable, with the latter being a major sticking point for many long-time Ubuntu users. This keeps things simple for newcomers who aren’t as interested in tweaking their desktop.

Unity keeps the focus on applications, whose icons line the left side of the screen. This is a familiar concept to people moving over from macOS or Windows 10. At the same time, the look is unique to Ubuntu, which is a distinguishing characteristic that helps Canonical make inroads with companies that make and sell PCs.

6. You Can’t Function Without the HUD

You can accomplish a lot in Ubuntu by hitting the meta (Windows) key and typing. This lets you launch apps and search for files. But that’s just the beginning.

Ubuntu’s Heads-Up Display goes beyond launching programs. By tapping the Alt key, you can search through the various options in the current application’s menubar. That means you can tweak many settings by pressing Alt and typing Preferences. Or you can close the active window by pressing Alt and typing Close.


GNOME Shell and KDE both offer their own ways of launching apps or running commands, but neither comes with something quite like Ubuntu’s HUD out of the box.

7. Ubuntu Is on Phones and Tablets

These days it’s passé to only target one platform. Microsoft, Apple, and Google aren’t content to make the operating system on your PC. They want you running their OSes on your phones and tablets too.

Most Linux distros don’t have the finances and staff necessary to compete on this level. Many open source developers don’t even see a point. But with the industry moving in this direction, many users are approaching computing with new expectations.

Canonical is actively working to expand Ubuntu from PCs to mobile devices. Ubuntu Touch has been in development for years, and while I can’t yet buy a product here in the US, Ubuntu phones are on sale in other parts of the world Should You Get an Ubuntu Touch Phone or Tablet? But is the Ubuntu Touch platform a truly successful mobile iteration of Linux's most well-known distribution? Can it compete with Android and iOS? We're going to take a look. Read More . Canonical has also released an Ubuntu-powered tablet.

None of these gadgets have been big commercial successes, but they exist, and they’re the closest we can get these days to running traditional Linux on a mobile device.

8. You Want Your Phone to Be Your PC

Today’s smartphones are more powerful than yesterday’s PCs. Tomorrow’s smartphones might end up being our PCs.

With the right phone or tablet, you can do this with Windows 10. Microsoft calls this “Continuum” Continuum: Switch Between Windows 10 Desktop & Tablet Mode Windows 10 recognizes your hardware and instantly chooses the best display mode. When you connect your Windows 10 Mobile to a larger screen, you'll get a PC-like experience. That's the smoothness of Continuum. Read More .

What do we have in the Linux world? Canonical has long worked towards this vision, which it calls “Convergence”. The ability to run a full desktop environment from your Ubuntu Phone is a built-in part of the experience. This may not be commonplace yet, but here’s the thing — you can do it today How to Turn Ubuntu Phone Into a Desktop PC With Convergence Newcomer to the mobile space, Ubuntu Phone, has its own mobile-to-desktop software. If your device is compatible, and running the OTA-11 update (or later), you can turn your phone into a PC. Read More .

What Keeps You Coming Back to Ubuntu?

Let’s be honest: Ubuntu isn’t perfect. As Canonical has taken on developing more of its own software and maintaining patches, Ubuntu has picked up more than a few bugs and quirks here or there. You could say that Elementary OS is prettier, Linux Mint is better for first-time Linux users, and even Fedora is pretty easy to figure out these days. openSUSE doesn’t pick favorites when it comes to desktop environments, while Arch Linux gives you complete freedom and newer software.

But there’s a reason you and millions of other people continue turning to Ubuntu. If you have a reason I didn’t hit above, add it to the list via the comments below!

Image Credits: Digital Storm/Shutterstock

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  1. Amin
    December 21, 2016 at 10:27 am

    And reasons not to use UBUNTU:

    1- It's not rolling release. which means every 6 month if you want to have the most updated softwares on your pc, you must install a totally new distro, and configure it from the beggining. because upgrading tp new versions is buggy and lots of trash files remains on your system.
    But in rolling release distroes, like Manjaro (an Arch based) you don't need to do this stuff. You just hit the update, and viola, you have the most recent stable tecknology on your system.

    2- Ubuntu and it's friends (mint, elementary...) are abviously slower than distroes like Manjaro, Antergos and the Archlinux itself.

    3- You can't find anything better than Arch wiki, its community forum, and AUR. You will find everything you want.

    4- There are definitely better distroes than ubuntu. I believe that linux mint is much much better than his mother

    Don't make ubuntu the King! it's big just because of Cannonical spending money on this project.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      January 13, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      All valid points. So, are you an Arch user?

  2. Paul Paul
    December 14, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    For the life of me, I still can't figure out why Unity made the list. It was the introduction of Unity that caused me to place Ubuntu into the trash bin. Does anyone really like that ridiculous column of icons? If I want a toy, I pick up my tablet.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      December 14, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      It's true. Some people love it. One reader in the comments says they would run it if performance were not an issue on their machine (though that alone is one reason many people *don't* like Unity).

  3. Michael T
    December 9, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    One extra factor: The lower-resource versions of Ubuntu (My favorite, Lubuntu - also Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc). The advantages of Ubuntu without the Unity desktop.

    • luke
      December 12, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      lubuntu user here too 16.04, first step into Linux and i found it excellent as a distro for first time users, plus the fact that when idle it would use about 200MB of RAM compared with 1.4GB on windows 10. Honestly, i think linux has hit the spot with their low resource distros, you can run any computer made in the last 10 years on it quite comfortably as with access to usual services such as internet, office, terminal, IDE's etc.

  4. Priswell
    December 9, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I really don't like the Unity interface. I like Ubuntu because it's easy to buy a computer with it preinstalled.

    From there I can install the Desktop UI I prefer. I also like that there are many distributions connected to Ubuntu that I can use. For example, if I'm renovating an older computer for a friend, I install Linux Mint. It offers a somewhat familiar interface for newbies, same commands at the command line for me, essentially the same software store, makes it easy to help when they get stuck.

    • jymm
      December 11, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      I agree with you, I don't like the Unity desktop either, and I have tried it. I installed Ubuntu Mate which is now an official flavor of Ubuntu. One of the best things about Ubuntu is the many choices of desktops. I dual boot Ubuntu with Debian, and although they are very alike both have their advantages and disadvantages. I like Ubuntu's PPA's for software installation and Ubuntu's forums are much friendlier than the Debian forum, which I find quite rude to new users and people that don't want to become Linux experts, but just want their OS to work.

  5. spyjoshx
    December 8, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    With most of these reasons, you are referring to the Ubuntu base. Most of these things work on derivatives like (X, L, K...)ubuntu and mint and elementaryOS. While the UI isn't exactly the same, all of those run DEBs perfectly well. In fact, most of the fixes on the Ubuntu forums work perfectly fine on my machine running Xubuntu. I totally get the part about Unity though. If performance weren't an issue on my machine, I would use Unity as well!
    Also, in response to your comment about linux on mobile devices("they’re the closest we can get these days to running traditional Linux on a mobile device."), there are apps on google play which allow you to install a true desktop Distro on you're device. Granted, these don't work very WELL, but they are the closest thing to traditional linux on your device.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      December 8, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      That's true, there are ways to MacGyver a Linux desktop onto Android. Another less than ideal option would be using your device to access your Linux PC remotely. I guess I should say that these Ubuntu devices are currently the closest thing to running traditional Linux on a mobile device... out of the box.

      • spyjoshx
        December 9, 2016 at 2:11 am

        Quite true!

        It's always quite nice to see the occasional Linux article on MUO. I just wish there were more if them... Keep up the good work sir!