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With the rise of cloud services, more of us are now encountering Linux at work. People know it’s great for developers and does a good job of keeping the internet up and running — but why would anyone want to use Linux at home?
At best, mentioning you run Linux might make people think you’re a hacker. More than likely, they might think you’re a bit weird. At least that’s how it is in the much of the U.S., where Windows is king and macOS is the only other option most people know exist.
But Linux is a great desktop operating system, and I don’t mean only for power users. I would give my parents a PC running Linux with much more peace of mind than one running Windows. One I know they can figure out without breaking anything or getting into trouble. The other? Not so much.
If you know how to use a smartphone or tablet, then you can use Linux. Here are a few reasons why.
1. What You Need Is in an App Store
On a mobile device, you get all of your software from an app store. The same is true on Linux. You may be surprised to know that Linux operating system have been distributing software this way long before smartphones even hit the scene! Though, back in those days, you would find apps in something that looked like this.
On Linux, software is distributed in bundles called packages. Package managers like the ones pictured above were how you downloaded what you wanted. They required you to know the exact name of a package, which didn’t always match the name of the application itself.
Newer package managers look more like app stores. You can browse or search for apps by name, look at screenshots, and view ratings or reviews. Some highlight useful apps on the home page, so you don’t need to already know what software is good.
You no longer need to select check boxes, mark packages for installation, and tell the manager to apply changes. Now you tap the giant install button and enter your password. Done.
2. The Basics Are Covered
Need to write a paper for school? LibreOffice is reason not to pay for an office suite whether you’re a Linux user or not. There are plenty of apps for managing photos and listening to music. You can continue to use VLC for watching video. Plus Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are as easy to use on Linux as they are on Windows and macOS.
Are you a gamer? Linux doesn’t have the library Windows has, but between GOG, Steam, and Humble Bundle, there is now plenty to play. This doesn’t even consider the free and open source games waiting in your app store, or all the old classic DOS games you can fire up too.
Linux is great for a home office. Simple Scan is the easiest way to scan documents from a printer I’ve ever seen. Apps like Skrooge and GnuCash are great for managing your finances. In addition to LibreOffice, there’s the Calligra Suite and a spattering of other office-related apps. Creatives have image editors and video editors to help them get their content out.
Linux won’t have most of the commercial apps you’re familiar with, but there are alternatives to most everything.
Someone who is already dependent on a Windows-only piece of software may not be able to switch. If you already know a particular OS inside and out, then Linux may be harder for you than it would an absolute newcomer. Because now, Linux is a great way to fall in love with a computer.
3. Updates Are Free and Easy
Updates aren’t a pleasant part of the Windows experience. Sometimes we don’t know what they do. Sometimes the updates kick in at the worst possible time, and you have no choice but to wait. Staying updated is considered a good security practice, yet Windows 10 still has users resisting the update button. And that isn’t even considering the massive expense that used to be upgrading from one version of Windows to another.
Linux users have a different relationship with updates. They’re easy to install, with update managers often providing a description of what’s changing. Even when you’re only told which apps are receiving updates, you still have control over when to download them. These changes are always free, even when switching from one version of an operating system to the next.
Yes, sometimes updates introduce problems. You can never be 100 percent sure that no users will experience bugs. In that situation, a non-technical user will still need help undoing the changes, but they can at least be sure they won’t have to spend money if they need to reinstall the entire OS. Fortunately, it’s rare that something that serious arises, with frustrations like these most likely to occur when upgrading between major versions of Linux.
4. The Interfaces Are Simple
People recognize Windows. Its biggest strength isn’t that it’s easy or intuitive — it’s that it’s familiar. Even if it isn’t recognizable to you, it’s familiar to someone you know.
For newcomers to Windows 10, there’s a lot going on. The start menu is loaded with options. So is the file manager. This is immediately apparent when you compare Windows to a Chromebook.
Unlike Windows and Chrome OS, most distributions of Linux aren’t limited to any one interface. There are many to choose from, and a number of the more modern options offer the simplicity of a Chromebook but the power of a full-featured PC. And don’t worry, you don’t have to worry about knowing which interface to choose. Chances are that your Linux operating system will come with a relatively simple interface like GNOME.
Even if that’s too complicated, just wait until you see Elementary OS.
5. Linux Now Comes Pre-Installed
Most people don’t install operating systems. Say all you want about the marketing dollars that go into Windows and macOS, but neither has that much of an effect on this simple fact — the operating system that comes on their computer is the one people are likely to keep.
Things are starting to change. You can now buy a PC with Linux pre-installed. You won’t find them in big box stores, but you were probably going to buy your next computer online anyway, right?
ZaReason will sell you a desktop or laptop with a Linux operating system of your choice installed. So does Think Penguin. Meanwhile, System76 is even going so far as to sell laptops with its own customized Linux distribution. All you have to do is take the laptop out of the box and start using Linux.
Is Linux Perfect for Everyone?
No, but neither is any other operating system. As good as Linux is, there are certain apps that are only for Windows or macOS. There are ways to get some of them to run under Linux using Wine, but that’s often less than ideal.
Still, this same problem exists when considering a Chromebook or buying an Android tablet instead of a PC. All I’m saying is that Linux has reached a point where you can add it to the list of considerations. It’s no longer just for developers and hackers. Linux has evolved into a pretty great place to be a newbie too.
Do you use Linux? Would you give it to a grandparent, a kid, or someone else new to computers? If not, what would you consider the shortcomings? What are its strengths? Share them with me in the comments below!
Image Credits: Derek Latta/Shutterstock