There are hundreds of Linux distributions. A lot of them are adapted for specific use such as robotics, mathematics, etc.
Does this mean that there are also specific Linux distributions for programming?
Yes and no When Linux was originally created, it was primarily used by programmers at the time.
Technically, you can choose one of the best Linux distros available for programming.
However, in this article, I thought to consider a few factors such as reliability, stability, software availability, ease of installation and user experience, and listing some of my personal favorites for programmers and developers who use Linux.
So, no matter if you just want to use a code editor, create a virtual machine, deploy containerized apps or anything relevant – you’ll find the listed distros useful.
Best linux distribution for programming
You do not have to stress too much to choose one of the following. If the distro is actively maintained, there is a decent community that helps keep packages up to date, and is reliable, you should be good to go.
To help you save some time, I will not filter some options in a particular order of rankings.
Ubuntu is considered as best Linux distros distributions for beginners. But it is also an excellent choice for the advanced power user or developer. Ubuntu is suitable for everyone.
It is easy to use and you will also find most of the tools / packages available in the default repository. They also have snap packaging that makes it easy to install programming tools.
You should stick to its LTS release to get reliable software updates for years. Note that Ubuntu has many official flavors available based on different desktop environments.
OpenSUSE is optimized for developers and system administrators to help manage systems with in-built functionalities, the use of included containerization techniques, and a bunch of useful features for programmers, developers, and sysadmins.
It has a great community, a solid development area and a completely professional attitude.
A regular OpenSUSE release is maintained for many years and thus provides stability.
If you want a rolling-release bicycle, they also offer the Opensly Tumbleweed version — a bleeding-edge distro for developers who want everything as quickly as possible.
Fedora has a 9-month release cycle. This is great for developers who cannot afford to stay with the older version for too long.
You get two variants, one for your workstation and the other for the server. Similar to OpenSUSE, Fedora aims to help developers or programmers do the work.
If you want to use open source tools, you will find almost everything you need to use just one click away. It also features a GNOME box to help you build virtual machines easily. I have also included a quick article to help you update Fedora on the case.
It is also worth noting that you can deploy containerized applications with its built-in Open Container Initiative (OCI) image support.
4. Pop! _OS
Pop! _OS is based on Ubuntu – however, the overall experience feels solid and smooth on the real deal.
Of course, this is subjective, but if you are curious, you are subjective pop to learn more! Can compare _OS vs Ubuntu.
Software repositories are maintained with developers in mind. Therefore, you will have more tools available by default and most of them should be up-to-date as well. The GNOME experience and delivery workflow has also been tweaked for coders / developers.
Therefore, you should give it before making the best decision for yourself!
The elementary OS is yet another Ubuntu-based Linux distribution. This is actually one of the best Linux distros out there – however, if you’re looking for a developer who gets a few things even while having a great user interface (macOS-ish), this is your May like.
It also has its own app store where you can choose to pay for a free app with some cool features like picture-in-picture mode.
Not just limited to looks and features – it is also sufficient and useful for developers.
Talking about Arc, why not try something simple and yet based on Arc?
If you are someone who does not appreciate a lot of steps (or troubleshooting) to get things set up, then you might be better off with Manjaro
Manjaro is fast and also supports various desktop environments to suit your needs. You will also get enough reserves for developers. I’m not sure – the Manjaro community is quite active to help users when needed, not just the overall platform, but the overall work you do.
Okay, so setting it up will require a fair amount of time and patience on your part. but it’s worth it.
Arch Linux only comes with the Linux kernel and package manager, Pacman. You also do not get a graphical interface. You build on the basis of choosing the components according to your choice. The result is a highly personalized operating system that includes everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Arc Linux is known for bleeding edge, date repository. The operating system itself is completely reliable. Rare issues related to creep stability when you install unsupported packages from the Arc user repository (which can be avoided by being cautious when dealing with AUR). This also affects only the software in question and not the OS itself.
Every debug information and instruction is well documented in Arc Wiki which is honestly the best documented of any Linux distro. So any issue you may face can be easily repaired by following the very beginner-friendly instructions provided in the Arc Wiki.
Arch is the way to build a personal operating system with Linux – but if it is not something you want to invest your time on, you can also try the next option.
Debian is undeniably one of the best (given the fact that Ubuntu is based on Debian)..
You should have every important tool / package available for Debian to use for your work. Pop! Debian may not be a beautiful OS compared to _OS. But, you can customize it according to your needs.
No matter whether you are a beginner or an expert developer, Debian has a decent learning curve for everyone that helps you get the most out of it.
Raspbian is yet another useful distro based on Debian for developers / programmers who use Raspberry Pi for their projects.
It contains the necessary software for programmers like Python, Java, Scratch. Try it!
Nitrux is an interesting addition to this list, while being based on Ubuntu (but not at all).
Overall, it offers some unique tools such as ZNX for managing your distribution and MauiKit (UI framework to help you develop applications with cross-platform support).
It may not be suitable for every user (or developer) – however, it is actually a unique Linux distribution that you can see. You can learn more about Nitrox in our interview article with its founder.
These would be my choice as the best distro for programmers and developers. This is totally fine if you like something more than what is mentioned in this article – as long as it helps you work, it’s all good.