Here’s where I state my own personal preferences. I’m willing to listen to discussions on why I should try something else — be nice. Don’t start with “This is why you’re wrong.”
Best Distros for Beginners
It is never wrong to suggest Linux Mint to a new user. I prefer the MATE desktop, but the Cinnamon and XFCE desktops look and work very much the same, because the Mint team rocks. Other great places to start would be to pick your favorite flavor of Ubuntu. Elsewhere in the Ubuntu world you might look at Bodhi, especially for memory-challenged computers, and Zorin or Zorin Lite. If you are coming from the Mac world, which I never did, you might like elementary OS or even Pearl OS. Everything listed here uses the same application files and you can get help from the largest group of users. If you want to get closer to Debian, try LMDE 4, or MX Linux (XFCE) or Q4OS (Plasma).
If you want to try non-Debian distros, I would suggest:
OpenMandriva Lx 4.1
and if you want a thrill and have patience,
I have little preference. I frequently choose MATE or Plasma. I’m least fond of Gnome and XFCE, and LXQt shows promise but has a long way to go yet. For a touch of excitement or novelty, I love Moksha/Enlightenment, and you can’t go too wrong with Budgie.
If you just gotta be free, you can’t beat LibreOffice, but don’t expect 100% compatibility with Microsoft. If you’re really tied into the Microsoft Office world, you might want to just keep using the online version of Office; however, if you’re willing to try a competitor, Softmaker Office is great (on Windows you can also purchase this as Ashampoo Office, often at large discounts). I used this for years as a professional editor, with zero issues, and I still pay for it and use it. The spreadsheet program is a bit less than 100% compatible, although it’s usually fairly simple to translate formulae. And there is literally no spreadsheet out there that can use Microsoft macros except Microsoft itself.
I’m not a fan at all of WPS, formerly Kingston Office, as that is part of the Chinese software market and rumors are not good (note that I’m opposed to (a) software stolen from other sources and (b) secret back doors and spying, not Chinese people).
I prefer Firefox. It is open source, and has the best security available. They have made a few mistakes over the years but always seem to correct course. I try to stay away from anything chromium-based, but you may have work that requires it and other things you use may work better in it. Keep an eye out if you pick a chromium browser, as even the ones with a focus on security have a scandal or two in their past, present, or future. If you don’t like either Firefox or chromium-based browsers, that leaves you with two main choices (and they are almost obscure by comparison): Midori, and Web (formerly Gnome Epiphany, and it still shows up as that in a lot of repositories).
After you’ve picked your distro and installed it, be sure to sign up for that distro’s user forum. Often you will find the link already installed in the default browser. If you need more help, join LinuxQuestions.org. Read ItsFOSS.com’s excellent articles. Pick a podcast or three and listen to them, and join their user groups on Telegram or Discord or wherever. (I recommend mintCast and Distrohoppers’ Digest, because I’m a co-host on them, but I also listen to several podcasts from Jupiter Broadcasting, Destination Linux Network, and Ubuntu Podcast, among others.)
You want to install your new OS the easiest way possible. Look for Calamares Installer. Next best is Ubiquity, used in most Ubuntu-based distros. If you’re new to Linux, stay away from Fedora and openSUSE installers. I shouldn’t need to tell you to forget about building a system using Arch, Gentoo, or LFS.
To make things easier, especially if you’re into multibooting different Linux distros, find a good set of instructions and set up a USB stick using Ventoy. Here is an excellent video on installing Ventoy from Leo Chavez! Basically, you download the tar.gz file, unzip it, extract it to its own directory, open a terminal and change to that directory, and run a simple shell script, which will install Ventoy to your stick. After that, you can copy as many distro ISO files to the stick as will fit on it, and you don’t have to extract them.
I don’t have to tell you there’s a lot of software out there for Linux. What would you like me to talk about next? My bottom line is, Always Favor FOSS – unless it just can’t do the job or isn’t what fits your use case. Expect more blogs soon.