Different Linux Distributions and Their Uses Explained

Linux uses different versions of the OS called distributions or distros for short. There are hundreds of distributions with only a portion of them being the most used and the most popular. Choosing a distribution can be a little difficult if you aren’t familiar with Linux and what it has to offer. Certain distros are more user friendly and easier to install than others, as well as a few being lightweight distros which are better suited for older computers with slower hardware. Other distributions require significant Linux knowledge in order to use since a few distributions use the terminal and other software more in depthly. Here is a list of the most well know Linux distributions and what they offer.



Debian is one of the oldest Linux distributions around dating back to 1993. Debian is a multi purpose distribution and can be used as a server or a desktop. There are a lot of distributions such as Ubuntu and Mint that are based off of Debian. Debian isn’t complicated to use however the the installation and post installation process requires extra steps such as configuring hardware which can be a little daunting for a beginner. For beginners a distro like Ubuntu is recommended over Debian although if your willing to learn a little Debian isn’t that hard to get the hang of.

Anti X

Anti X is a lightweight distro based off of Debian. Relatively easy to install. Anti X uses iceWM as the desktop environment. Good performance but not so flashy on the interface.

Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a popular distro based off of Debian. Kali Linux is used for security and penetration testing. Debian comes loaded with hundreds of software tools related to security, penetration testing, computer forensics, and reverse engineering. Kali Linux is not a beginner distro and is only recommended to those trying to learn about computer security and penetration testing.


Knoppix is a distribution based off of Debian that runs off of a CD or USB drive. Knoppix isn’t as extensive as Debian since it runs off a media device and uses little memory. Has a decent looking interface.


Slackware is one of the oldest Linux distributions. It is a multi purpose distro only recommended to experienced users. Slackware Uses GNOME, KDE, and XFCE as desktop environments.


Ubuntu is a desktop distro based off of Debian. It is aimed at being very user friendly just like Windows and OSX and is the most popular distro around. Ubuntu is an excellent choice for beginners. GNOME is the desktop environment that is now used, replacing unity.


Lubuntu is a lightweight version of Ubuntu. The application selection isn’t as extensive since it’s a lightweight distro. Lubuntu is a good choice for older computers with slower hardware while also being just as user friendly as Ubuntu.

Linux mint

Linux mint is user friendly desktop distro based off of Ubuntu and Debian. Mint is a very smooth well designed easy to install distro which uses Cinnamon, Mate, and others as a desktop environment. Mint uses a similar display to Windows.

Linux lite

Linux lite is a lightweight distro based off of Ubuntu. Linux lite is easy to use, easy to install, and comes with a good amount of apps. XFCE is the desktop environment that is used. Linux lite is relatively user friendly.


Elementary is a lightweight distro based off of Ubuntu. Elementary uses a clean and elegant user friendly interface making it one of the best looking distros and a great replacement for MAC since it uses a desktop environment very similar to MAC called pantheon. Elementary is easy to install and comes with a large repository for apps.

Zorin OS

Zorin OS is a distro based on Ubuntu. It easy easy to install and is very user friendly like Windows. Zorin OS uses GNOME and LXDE as desktop environments.


Open SUSE is a distro developed by the open SUSE project. Uses GNOME and KDE as desktop environments. Great distro for new users.


Fedora is a community desktop distro based off of redhat. Fedora is one of the first distributions to introduce wavland and systemD. Always uses up the latest up to date software. Fedora is relatively easy to install and uses GNOME and KDE as desktop environments.


Cent OS is a very stable community distro based off of Red Hat. The difference is that it is mainstream unlike Red Hat but it is just as stable. Relatively easy to install and uses GNOME and KDE as desktop environments.

Arch Linux

Arch is a multi purpose rolling distro recommended by experts. Rolling means that the Arch OS updates automatically. Arch uses the latest software. Arch Requires a bit of knowledge to use and maintain. Cinnamon, GNOME, and KDE are used as desktop environments.


Antergos is a more user friendly version of Arch Linux. It comes with more apps and more drivers.


Manjaro is a fairly lightweight distribution based off of Arch Linux that a lot of experts use. Manjaro is Not recommended for beginners unless your trying to jump right into an advanced distro. Manjaro uses Cinnamon, GNOME, and others as the desktop environment. Just like Arch Linux Manjaro is also a rolling distro.


Deepin is a desktop distro that comes from China. Deepin has it’s own QT5 desktop environment and also has it’s own software such as an audio player. Deepin is relatively easy to install.

Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is a Lightweight version of Linux meant to run from a USB drive or CD. It is designed so that it can run without the computer having a hard drive. A CD may be a better choice since a USB stick will eventually loose it’s life. Puppy Linux is very lightweight so it uses very little memory.

So it really depends on what kind of experience you already have with Linux and whether you’re a beginner or not. If you want to jump right into a distro that requires learning to use and maintain then Arch Linux, Manjaro, Debian, or Slackware are good distros to use. If you just want a replacement for whatever reason and are looking for a user friendly distro then Ubuntu, Linux mint, or Elementary are good choices.

Author: Craig Perez

I post about technology and other topics.

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