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Why these four?

OS-College’s Website has videos and Web pages about office suites and a few other applications that work equally on Windows, Mac, and Linux distributions (distros). Its social media pages and other media also focus on these applications.

However, it also publishes information about several Linux distros because one of its purposes is to help people interested in using Linux on their personal computers get started. Visitors to the Website and social media platforms will find videos, articles, and posts about Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Zorin, and Manjaro.

These operating systems currently are installed on millions of laptops and desktops worldwide. They are some of the most popular.

There are other choices, however. Many Linux users would not put these four at the top of their lists. There are other distros that occupy the hard drives of millions of personal computers. In fact there are well over 100 official distros from which to choose.

Why focus on these four, then? Why does OS-College give them all the attention and ignore the others?

The quick answer is that these are the ones this writer uses on a regular basis, so they are the ones most familiar to him. Currently, he is the only person working for OS-College, and therefore his interests greatly influence the Website’s contents.There are also more objective reasons too.

One of the key reasons is that at least one of these operating systems works well on just about any laptop or desktop computer made in the past 15 years. These operating systems also come preinstalled on many computers. (See the table of manufacturers that ship computers with Linux.)

Another reason is they have certain capabilities out-of-the-box or certain features and software that others don’t have when they are first installed. Some applications also work better on them.

Sections of this article:




computers made for Linux

Several of the manufacturers above have more options than these four operating systems. Not every model has the noted operating system available. Think Penguin mentions that it will ship computers with the distro of the customer’s choice if they don’t want one in their lists, so it has question marks for Zorin and Manjaro. Ubuntu may work on several Pine64 devices, but unlike Manjaro, it doesn’t come preinstalled on any of them or has a version designed specifically for them. This is why a question mark is in the Ubuntu column for Pine64.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu receives more attention than other distros. It has played a role in the shaping of and creation of other distros. Also it has driven many users to switch from Windows and Mac OS.

The operating system interface is fairly attractive and overall easy to use. It looks like a cross between Mac OS and Android. It has a dock that gives users quick access to their favorite applications, similar to the one in Mac. Click Show All apps and rows and columns of thumbnail images for applications appear, similar to how Android lays out application icons.

Users can easily view different open windows by clicking Activities in the top, left of the screen and move different open windows to different workspaces. This makes Ubuntu flexible. It can fit different users’ workflow needs. It is the preferred operating systems for many developers, data scientists, engineers, and creative professionals.

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, and its supporting community have put a lot of work into designing it and marketing it. The marketing efforts have made it the most popular Linux distro. The popularity makes it easy for those new to Linux to use it.

One way that it is user-friendly is there is a certified list of computers built in the past 10 years. Those with computers on the list will know Ubuntu will work on that system. Other Linux distros may work well on these laptops and desktops, but the list documents how well Ubuntu works on them. This may help many new users feel more comfortable trying Ubuntu than other distros.

Due to its popularity some applications are designed for Ubuntu, and while they may work fairly well on other distros, they have additional features and capabilities when they are installed on Ubuntu.

For example, Insync, an application that syncs documents on Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive with desktops, has an additional feature that are not available on most other Ubuntu-based Linux distros. (It is available on Linux Mint, though.)

When Insync is installed on Ubuntu and it is connected with a Google or Microsoft account, a syncing indicator is placed in the menubar that shows the progress of the syncing. It is also an icon that will launch the Insync application, so the user can see all of her documents and folders that are synced.

In most other Ubuntu-based systems, the icon is not an indicator, but simply a button to launch the Insync application.

Ubuntu is also the choice system for two major manufacturers who ship computers with Linux preinstalled. Dell and Lenovo make several higher-end laptops with Ubuntu preinstalled, like Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition and Lenovo ThinkPad T14 with Linux.

There are also smaller manufacturers that only ship computers with Linux. Many of them, like Slimbook, have Ubuntu as one of several operating systems that can be installed before a computer is shipped. Other small manufacturers are like Dell and Lenovo. Ubuntu is the only option, or they only offer Ubuntu and one other option. System76 and Juno Computers are examples of these.

The hardware mentioned in the two previous paragraphs have Intel processors or AMD ones. Most Linux distros run on these them. A few of the distros also work on ARM processors. The latest version of Ubuntu is one of the operating systems that works on ARM processors.

A version Desktop 20.10 is built to run on Raspberry Pi 4 and the newly released keyboard computer Raspberry Pi 400. This means users can run Ubuntu on computers that cost less than $100.

Ubuntu’s availability on new computers and its certification list is what makes it the choice operating system for many first time Linux users. Many of the users simply find it a great tool to surf the Web with, write letters, and play games. Ubuntu also runs well on high-end computers, so it is the choice of many programmers, engineers, and creative professionals, as well.

Click here to learn more about Ubuntu.

Linux Mint



The operating system that looks a lot like Windows 7 and 10 has also become one of the most popular distros, though it doesn’t come preinstalled on as many systems as Ubuntu. It also doesn’t run on ARM processors.

Linux Mint, however, has features and capabilities out-of-the-box that Ubuntu users need to install and set up after they have installed the operating system.

One of these features in Linux Mint is codecs, software that allows multimedia software to play DVDs and other protected media. It is the only distro, at least the only popular one, that users can play their favorite Hollywood movies with out-of-the-box. For other distros, codecs need to be installed after the operating system is installed.

The operating system works great on many older computers that have internal DVD drives. Linux Mint has included this for years.

An applications that comes with the new version of Linux Mint, 20.04 is Warpinator, a file transfer application that allows users to transfer files among computers running Linux Mint on a local network. Ubuntu and other distro users would need to install a similar application.

Linux Mint gives users three different user interface choices: Cinnamon, MATE, and XFCE. They are similar to the traditional Windows interface. They also are standard user interfaces on other distros.

The user interfaces have a menu, similar to the Start menu in Windows, that is accessed by clicking an icon in the bottom, left of the screen. One feature they have that helps new users is they organize software into categories. LibreOffice is in the Office category; FireFox is in the Internet category, for example.

Other distros have interfaces that place software into categories, as well, but in Linux Mint all three of the interfaces do this.

All three interfaces can run on computers with 1 GB or RAM and a dual core processor, They can work well on computers that are 15 years old, as well as newer ones. They all come with the same applications. There are not any games preinstalled.

Linux Mint is one of the best distro to install on old computers and revitalize them. It also is what Windows users will be most comfortable with. Cinnamon is the user interface that looks most like Windows. It is the most popular of the three.

Click here to learn more about Linux Mint.

Zorin

Zorin is actually a group of several different operating systems, or editions, designed for slightly different purposes. All of them are based on Ubuntu source code, and three of the editions give users a choice of the user interface.

They allow users to switch user interfaces with a few clicks. Most other Linux distros don’t have multiple user interfaces when they are first installed. They have to be installed later, and a user will need to logout to switch to a different one after it has been installed.

The editions are:

  1. Core

  2. Lite

  3. Education

  4. Ultimate

Zorin also comes preinstalled with more graphic design and video-editing applications than the most distros. Education and Ultimate also have more games preinstalled than many distros.

Core

This edition comes with the basics. It has LibreOffice, Firefox, a handful of games, Gimp, and a few other basic applications. It also has a Windows-like user interface and one similar to Android. It is easy to switch between the two with a few clicks.

Like Ubuntu and Linux Mint, Core is free of charge. It doesn’t have nearly as many applications as the Ultimate edition. However, the operating system includes more applications than Ubuntu and Linux Mint. These include Gimp and a video editor.

Core is designed for users switching from Windows or who want something that looks like windows, and they don’t want an operating system with a lot of applications preinstalled. They want to build up the systems with software of their choosing.

Click here to learn more about Core.

Lite

The Lite edition is for computers that are 15 years old or newer. It comes in both 64-bit and 32-bit versions, and the user interface is the Windows-like Xfce, which is one of the less resource-hungry user interfaces available to Linux distros. The interface is a lot like the ones for Linux Mint MATE and Xfce, but with its 32-bit support, it can work on more computers than Linux Mint.

It comes with the same five basic games preinstalled that come preinstalled in Core, but some of its applications are different than those included in Core. Lite comes with applications that work on both the 32 and 64-bit versions.

This edition is missing Zorin Connect, an application for connecting the desktop to Android devices, that is included in all the other editions. It also cannot be installed through the software store.

This edition is probably best for older computers. It may be the best Linux distro for 32-bit systems. Those with newer systems will most likely prefer one of the other editions.

Click here to learn more about Lite.

Education

As the name states it is designed for students and schools. It has the same user interfaces as the Core and Lite editions. Most of the applications and games are educational software. Many of the graphics and sound and video applications are the same as the ones in the Ultimate edition, that needs to be purchased.

Education also has several applications for programming and science students.

It is a good operating system for students, but it may also be an excellent operating system for graphic designers and videographers who don’t want to purchase the Ultimate edition, which is covered in the next section.

Click here to learn more about Education.

Ultimate

Ultimate is a smorgasbord of open-source applications for graphics and audio and sound. The installation includes several video editors and recorders, like Kdenlive and OBS, as well as several applications for recording audio, such as Audocity and Ardour5. It also includes 20 games. All the applications included in the Core edition come with Ultimate.

The collection of games and applications are useful for those who are new to Linux and open-source applications, particularly to those who do creative work. The operating system gives them several applications in different categories to try. It also may be a good choice for those who are new to graphic design, creating videos, or other types of creative work.

In addition to having more preinstalled applications, Ultimate also has more user interfaces. It has the Windows and Android user interfaces that come with Core and the Lite user interface, but it also has three more: Mac OS, Gnome, and one that is like Ubuntu’s interface. Users have the ability to switch among the different user interfaces with a few clicks, like they can in the Core and Education editions.

For the additional applications and interfaces, Zorin charges $39 (those who access the Zorin Website from other countries will see the price in a different currency). Users can install it on as many computers as they want.

Click here to learn more about Ultimate.

There are quite a few editions from which to choose. All of them are easy to use and can be installed on many different computers. Zorin, like Linux Mint, currently can only be installed on computers with Intel/AMD processors. Users who have several computers, ranging from older to newer, and who want one up-to-date operating system running on all of them, may find Zorin is the choice for them.

OS-College will focus mainly on Lite and Ultimate but some of the applications in the others also will be covered.

Lite will most likely work well on computers that Linux Mint is slow on. It also gives users a few games to play

Ultimate gives users experience with a variety of user interfaces and it gives them numerous applications without having to install them. It also has the user interfaces that Core, Education, and Lite have, so someone running any of these editions will find OS-College’s tutorials useful.

Manjaro

Manjaro is a fairly popular distro. Several manufacturers in the above table offer it as one of the operating systems that come preinstalled on a computer. Like Linux Mint and Zorin, it has several user interfaces. It also can run well on a variety of computers, even systems that are not Intel-based.



interface choices:


ARM processors:

  1. I3

  2. KDE Plasma

  3. Sway

  4. XFCE


Official release for Intel/AMD:

  1. Architect

  2. Gnome

  3. KDE Plasma

  4. Xfce

Unlike the other operating systems in this article, it is based on Arch Linux, rather than Ubuntu and Debian. It is also a semi-rolling release distro. This means it gives the user updates to the latest versions of applications installed through its software center a few weeks after they are released, rather than on fixed cycles.

Manjaro, for this reason is not as new-user friendly as the other operating systems in this article. It is much easier to break a rolling-release than an operating system on a fixed cycle. However, many Linux users, as they become more advanced in their capabilities, prefer rolling releases.

The reason this writer uses Manjaro and it is included in this article is that currently it has an advantage over many other Linux distros. It has been modified to work well on new, inexpensive hardware.

Like the latest version of Ubuntu, it has a version that can run on Raspberry Pi 4.

Users can choose from several different user interfaces. Pictured above is KDE Plasma, running on a Pinebook Pro. KDE and Xfce are available on Manjaro for both Intel/AMD computers, as well as those with ARM processors. Click here, then choose from the Editions menu at the top of the Manjaro Website.

In addition to the Raspberry Pi 4, there are several other ARM platforms that Manjaro runs on, including Pinebook Pro, a laptop that costs about $200.

Users who are interested in a new, inexpensive laptop for basic tasks, like word processing and surfing the Web, will find that Manjaro is the easiest to use on a Pinebook Pro.

Currently, Manjaro is the operating system being shipped with the PinePhone.

KDE Plasma and Xfce are user interfaces that are options on the official operating systems, as well as ARM processors. OS-College focuses on these two interfaces and the versions of the operating system because they are user interfaces for both types of operating systems.

Click here to learn more about Manjaro.

Conclusion

OS-College focuses on these three operating systems because they work well on many computers built in the past 15 years. They also fit the needs of a wide variety of users, particularly those new to desktop Linux. Those starting out with Linux, should try one of them.

Users may stay with one of these throughout their lives, or they may move on to try other distros, not covered here, and prefer them. These four, however, are a great starting point, and they also serve many experienced Linux users well too.

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