2015 was a very important year for Linux, both in the enterprise as well as in the consumer space. As a Linux user since 2005, I can see that the operating system has come a long way in the past 10 years. And, 2016 is going to be even more exciting. In this article, I have picked some of the best distros that will shine in 2016.
Best Comeback Distro: openSUSE
SUSE, the company behind openSUSE, is the oldest Linux company; it was formed just a year after Linus Torvalds announced Linux. The company actually predates Linux king Red Hat. SUSE is also the sponsor of the community-based distro openSUSE.
In 2015, openSUSE teams decided to come closer to SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) so that users could have a distribution that shares its DNA with the enterprise server -- similar to CentOS and Ubuntu. Thus, openSUSE became openSUSE Leap, a distribution that’s directly based on SLE SP (service pack) 1.
The two distros will share the code base to benefit each other -- SUSE will take what’s good in openSUSE and vice versa. With this move, openSUSE is also ditching the regular release cycle, and a new version will be released in sync with SLE. That means each version will have a much longer life cycle.
As a result of this move, openSUSE has become a very important distribution because potential SLE users can now use openSUSE Leap. That’s not all, however; openSUSE also announced the release of Tumbleweed, a pure rolling-release version. So, now, users can use either the super-stable openSUSE Leap or the always up-to-date openSUSE Tumbleweed.
No other distro has made such an impressive comeback in my memory.
Most Customizable Distro: Arch Linux
Arch Linux is the best rolling-release distribution out there. Period. Ok, I could be biased because I am an Arch Linux user. However, the reason behind my claim is that Arch excels in many other areas, too, and that’s why I use it as my main operating system.
• Arch Linux is a great distro for those who want to learn everything about Linux. Because you have to install everything manually, you learn all the bits and pieces of a Linux-based operating system.
• Arch is the most customizable distribution. There is no “Arch” flavor of any DE. All you get is a foundation and you can build whatever distro want, on top of it. For good or for worse, unlike openSUSE or Ubuntu there is no extra patching or integration. You get what upstream developers created. Period.
• Arch Linux is also one of the best rolling releases. It’s always updated. Users always run the latest packages, and they can also run pre-released software through unstable repositories.
• Arch is also known for having excellent documentation. Arch Wiki is my to-go resource for everything Linux related.
• What I like the most about Arch is that is offers almost every package and software that’s available for “any” Linux distribution, thanks to the Arch User Repository, aka AUR.
Best-Looking Distro: elementary OS
Different Linux distributions have different focus areas -- in most cases, these are technical differences. In many Linux distributions. the look and feel is an afterthought -- a side project at the mercy of the specific desktop environment.
elementary OS is trying to change all that. Here, design is at the forefront, and the reason is quite obvious. The distro is being developed by designers who have made their name in the Linux world by creating beautiful icons.
elementary OS is quite strict about the holistic look and feel. The developers have created their own components, including the desktop environment. Additionally, they choose only those applications that fit into the design paradigm. One can find heavy influence of Mac OS X on elementary OS.
Best Newcomer: Solus
Solus operating system has garnered quite a lot of attention lately. It’s a decent-looking operating system that has been created from scratch. It’s not a derivative of Debian or Ubuntu. It comes with the Budgie desktop environment, which was built from scratch but aims to integrate with Gnome. Solus has the same minimalistic approach as Google’s Chrome OS.
I have not played with Solus much, but it does look promising. Solus is actually not a “new” OS. It has been around for a while in different forms and names. But the entire project was revived back in 2015 under this new name.