5 Linux Operating Systems That Offer Bleeding Edge Updates

Austin Luong 07-04-2017

The words ‘bleeding edge’ suggest considerable risk. But a system that’s always improving and updating has its benefits. You might see gains in speed How to Update Linux Kernel for Improved System Performance The Linux kernel is has regular releases, offering new features and improvements that you have to wait for in a new distribution release - unless you manually upgrade the Linux kernel. We show you how. Read More , along with security, for example. If you like that sort of thing (and are willing to take a bit of a risk), here are a few Linux operating systems you might want to try.


1. Debian Sid

The choice might be surprising, considering Debian’s reputation Debian vs. Ubuntu vs. Linux Mint: Which Distribution Should You Use? With so many Linux operating systems to choose from, it can be very difficult for an open source computing newcomer to make their mind up. Fortunately, some Linux flavors are more popular than others... Read More of being the opposite of bleeding edge. And for good reason. The most used of their releases, Debian Stable, tries to refine packaged software, fixing any bugs in the process. While this means that you’ll generally have a nice experience, it’s not exactly up to date.

To do this, Debian makes use of two other branches of software, with different levels of stability. The first is called Testing. The packages inside it are frozen on a schedule, to become the next stable version of Debian. The next is called Sid, or Unstable. As its name suggests, software inside it is always updated.

debian sid

Despite its name, Debian Sid is still quite reliable. The main difference is that much of its stability comes from upstream instead. For example, instead of Sid fixing any bugs with Firefox Chrome vs. Firefox in 2016: Which Browser Is Right For You? I want to explore why people might prefer one over the other, and hopefully those reasons will shed some light on features and aspects that you may not have considered before. Read More , it will rely on Mozilla rolling out these improvements. Contrast this with Testing or Stable, where packages are further refined by the Debian team.

Installing Sid takes a bit of package manager Which Linux Package Manager (and Distro) Is Right for You? A key difference between the main Linux distros is the package manager; the differences are strong enough that it can influence your choice of distro. Let's look at how the various package managers work. Read More know-how. Debian doesn’t really supply an actual install disc for it. Instead, you need to upgrade your currently running system, ideally from Debian Testing, to make the process smoother. That way, you’ll have to update less things than Stable.

If you enjoy the experience Debian provides, but want your whole system to be bleeding edge, Sid is your best choice.

2. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed

If you like how flexible yet user friendly OpenSUSE is 6 Reasons You Should Choose openSUSE and the Geeko There are good reasons openSUSE continues to attract users, and here are some of them. Maybe you will be the next person to fall in love with the Geeko. Read More , but also enjoy the benefits of newer software, Tumbleweed might be for you. This operating system is one of the few types which can truly be considered rolling release What Is a Linux Rolling Release, and Do You Want It? Learn more about why certain Linux distributions have a "rolling release" schedule and what that means for you. Read More , while also being easy to use.


This version of OpenSUSE has some interesting origins. A little while back, there were three versions of the operating system: Stable, Tumbleweed, and Factory How To Use openSUSE Factory, The New Rolling-Release Distribution Now, openSUSE has been automating QA tasks so that systems can test the stability of packages themselves, thus turning Factory into something that has brand new packages and actually has a decent expectation of stability. Read More . The last two merged into Tumbleweed, resulting in its current appearance. The Factory “release” of OpenSUSE is now a development test bed for Tumbleweed.

Unlike Debian Sid, Tumbleweed appears to have more official support. At the very least, there’s a proper installation disc for it compared to Debian Sid. And as noted, there seems to be some sort of testing done on Factory before pushing changes to Tumbleweed. As such, it’s possible that it’s also more stable than the usual bleeding edge releases.

Despite this, the operating system is clearly very up to date, and in some edge cases, even more so than Debian Unstable. For example, while Debian currently uses Libreoffice 5.2, OpenSUSE has the latest 5.3 version How to Install LibreOffice 5.3 on Ubuntu in Seconds LibreOffice just released version 5.3, an exciting update with all sorts of new features and improvements. Here's how to install it on Ubuntu now with one command. Read More .

Another thing this distribution is known for is its excellent support for the Plasma desktop 5 Ways to Experience KDE on Linux KDE is an increasingly popular desktop environment, but are you getting the most out of it? If you think it's time to maximize your KDE experience, consider these five distributions, Read More . Combined with the bleeding edge nature of Tumbleweed, it’s a great way of experiencing the best KDE has to offer. An even more up to date version KDE Neon How to Enjoy the Latest KDE Plasma Releases With KDE Neon Want a pure KDE experience with updates received as quickly as possible? If so, then you really ought to consider KDE neon. Read More , so to speak.

3. Fedora Rawhide

OpenSUSE and Fedora can be described as two sides of the same coin in many ways. They’re supported by competing companies, SUSE and Red Hat respectively. It’s fitting then, that they both have a bleeding edge version of their operating systems.

fedora rawhide

For Fedora, this release is called Rawhide Be On The Bleeding Edge of Linux with Fedora Rawhide Don't wait around to try the latest versions of software – try Fedora Rawhide instead. Read More . It’s designed around testing new software, both for fixing bugs and users who enjoy using the latest and greatest. Packages are continuously updated every day, with new versions of programs rolled out very quickly.

This doesn’t mean that Rawhide is unusable though. One of their goals is to provide software that is currently available — they won’t release programs still in beta What Does "Beta Software" Really Mean? What does it mean for a project to be in beta and should you care? Read More , for example. Basically, if you want to take advantage of new features introduced in newer versions of programs, consider Fedora Rawhide.

Similar to OpenSUSE and its KDE desktop, Fedora is also known for its top-notch GNOME desktop 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 . If you’re a fan of it, Rawhide would be an excellent way of testing the newest things GNOME has to offer. For example, GNOME 3.24 has a built-in alternative to Redshift Redshift Keeps Your Eyes Sharp & Helps You Sleep [Linux] Read More , a tool made to help you sleep better while on the computer at night.

If you’re invested in the GNOME desktop and want to walk on the bleeding edge, Rawhide is a great option.

4. Gentoo Unstable

While Gentoo is indeed rolling release Gentoo: A Linux Distribution Where You Compile Your Own Optimized Software The sheer number of different ways in which Linux can be run is astounding, as there are plenty of choices to go around. While there are plenty of distributions which rely on either the .deb... Read More , by default it’s actually quite stable. It focuses more on flexibility rather than the bleeding edge. This is because most programs are compiled on Gentoo How to Compile & Install TAR GZ & TAR BZ2 Files in Ubuntu Linux Read More rather than downloaded outright. The operating system has a stable and unstable release system, with the latter option disabled by default.

This operating system is definitely not for people unfamiliar with Linux though. A lot of installing Gentoo comes takes a lot of manual work. There is a reason why it’s achieved a reputation for being difficult to use. Along with this, since many programs need compiling, a lot of time can be burnt updating them.

There are certainly benefits to this model however. By compiling most of your software, Gentoo lets you trim your system down further than many operating systems in a more convenient way. You can strip programs of unwanted features, for example. This might also yield potential speed gains.


It’s also easy for Gentoo to mix and match between stable and unstable packages. This means that you can choose what parts of your system you want to be on the bleeding edge. Compare this to Fedora, for example, where mixing Rawhide and stable versions of programs is not recommended.

If you’re willing to take some time to learn and compile your software, Gentoo might be for you. Alternatively, you could try something that makes it easier to install, such as Sabayon Install Gentoo the Easy Way With Sabayon Read More .

5. Arch Linux (and Derivatives)

Similar to Gentoo, Arch Linux Arch Linux: Letting You Build Your Linux System From Scratch For Linux power users, it's highly desirable to be able to completely customize your system. Sometimes, that can be best achieved from the start -- by piecing together the components that you'd like to include... Read More is known for being a little hard to install. The Arch disc image is just a terminal with a few tools to get you started! On the bright side, along with OpenSUSE, it comes bleeding edge by default. Arch strives to keep programs as modern as possible without breaking things. There are some other interesting values which it follows as well.

arch linux

Arch’s philosophy of giving responsibility to the user for managing system administration means that users are required to do a little more to their operating system than other alternatives. For example, on Debian, program services are started up automatically How to Control Linux Start-Up Services and Daemons Linux runs many applications "in the background" that you might not even be aware of. Here's how to take control of them. Read More . In Arch, they need to be enabled manually.

There are two streams of package releases: stable and testing. You can expect the stable programs to be about as updated as any of the other choices above. For those even more adventurous though, the testing repositories await.

Arch Linux is also home to something called the Arch User Repository. Basically, it’s a huge collection of programs that make installing software not inside official Arch sources quick and easy. There are many packages that live on the bleeding edge there.

If you enjoy manual control over your own system, as well as the benefits of new software, Arch is a viable option. Alternately, if you want it without the fuss, you could always go for Arch-based operating systems such as Manjaro Manjaro Linux: Arch For People Who Don't Have Time Read More .

Handle With Care

Of course, there are always risks, using an operating system that by design is always changing. As such, it’s important to take some precautions. It’s good practice to back up your hard disk drive 10 Easy Ways to Restore Your Linux System Windows' System Restore feature is a good way of making and maintaining entire system backups. If only Linux had a similar feature... oh wait, it does - in fact, we've got 10 options to choose... Read More just in case something goes wrong, for example.

What are your experiences with Linux operating systems on the bleeding edge? Do you prefer more stable alternatives? Why or why not?

Explore more about: Arch Linux, Debian, Fedora, Linux, openSUSE.

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  1. David
    April 12, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Why not consider Siduction as an alternative to Debian Sid? Siduction is a curated Sid much as Antergos and Manjaro are to Arch. All the benefits remain but the risks are generally nullified.

  2. Ed Borasky
    April 8, 2017 at 3:18 am

    I've tried all of these but I keep coming back to Fedora ... I switch to the alpha of the next release as soon as it will run my workload.

    But all of these bleeding edge distribution have a crushing disadvantage for most users ... an utter lack of third party software. If you want to run third party packages you're pretty much stuck with Ubuntu LTS. Otherwise you're doing unpaid QA testing for someone richer than you are.

  3. Jonathan Dlouhy
    April 7, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    I've been using Arch for a number of years and very rarely had any trouble with it. If problems do crop up then it is either mentioned on the home page or covered in the user forums. It requires initially more hands-on care but once one gets used to it it's very easy to manage, not to mention the always up to date packages.

    • Ken
      April 7, 2017 at 11:50 pm

      Agreed. I use arch derivative, manjaro, and it's stable, quick as and their kde desktop is beautiful.
      However, openSUSE tumbleweed is the fastest booting distribution out of the box (on my asking desktop)

      • Jonathan Dlouhy
        April 7, 2017 at 11:57 pm

        That may well be true, but you can't use the Nvidia blob with Tumbleweed and have to rebuild the driver for each kernel update. That's one of the reasons I haven't tried it. But I do like OpenSUSE in the standard form quite a bit.

  4. Ferdinand Thommes
    April 7, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    When it comes to Debian Sid, siduction is a good choice. You get Sid plus good support and very up-to-date kernels. You can choose from desktop environments like Plasma, Gnome, Cinnamon, Mate, LXDE, LXQt, Xfce, plus one with plain Xorg plus Fluxbox and one without X.

  5. Ryan
    April 7, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Antergos would be a better "new Arch user" distro IMO since it isn't as different from Arch as Manjaro is. You get the easy install but still basically vanilla Arch as it essentially? just adds an extra repo. Just my teo cents, great article :)