5 rock-solid Linux distros for developers

Developers want power, flexibility, stability, and ease, and these Linux distributions have it all

Developers love things their way and no other way. To that end, Linux stands to be the ultimate developer’s desktop environment. Linux is endlessly customizable, and it provides easy access to nearly all the software a developer might need. But a good Linux for developers must have other key attributes—like a comfortable work environment, good documentation, and useful features that a developer can benefit from generally.

Here we look at five major Linux distributions from the developer’s point of view and how they shape up to meet a developer’s needs. All of these are major, mainline projects, with years if not decades of user support and development behind them. There’s little risk in making any of them the basis for one’s development environment.

That said, each of these distros—Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, CentOS, and OpenSuse—has different strengths and weaknesses, and each balances the needs for flexibility, ease, and stability in its own way. Depending on the balance you seek, you will undoubtedly be drawn to some more than others.

Ubuntu and its derivative Linux Mint both deliver a high level of polish and signature conveniences to users. Fedora stays current with each release, although the pace of release cycles may be too fast for those who want a set-and-forget experience. CentOS seems best for those who intend to develop specifically for RHEL, but it should also appeal to developers who want as little change from version to version as possible. Finally, OpenSuse Leap will woo plenty of developers with its smart setup, subvolumes, and the powerful tool set it provides for file system management.  

Ubuntu Desktop 16.04 LTS

A small cadre of Linux distributions hold sway as the most common and most reliable choices for users. Ubuntu Desktop is easily one of the most popular, and it's certainly one of the most highly regarded and most polished. The level of professionalism associated with Ubuntu, especially with its LTS (Long Term Support) editions, places it as one of the go-to distros for developers. It’s hard to go wrong with Ubuntu.

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