Top 20 Best Linux Distros for Developers, Programming, Web

Top 20 Best Linux Distros for Developers, Programming, Web. Linux is an ideal platform for developers thanks to its powerful open source capabilities, libraries, frameworks, and robust stability. While it is not the operating system of choice for most desktop users, it is the preferred choice for the majority of programmers and developers. Linux has several special features that help developers to develop applications with less hassle. Using Linux, you can build apps with a wide range of programming languages it supports such as C++, Python, Java and JavaScript.

Additionally, some versions of Linux come with specialized software packages. These packages allow developers to create interfaces and GUI components. You can access the source code of any software you install on Linux and fix issues or design custom solutions.

Shall we start with Top 20 Best Linux Distros for Developers, Programming, Web

Top 20 Best Linux Distros for Developers, Programming, Web

1. Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a complete Linux distro based on Debian. There are multiple desktop environments such as Xfce, GNOME, LXDE, LXQT, mate, KDE, cinnamon, budgie, and Deepin. Ubuntu has three different editions; Core, Desktop and server versions.

One reason why Ubuntu is a great Linux distro for programming is its support for various emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence, deep learning and machine learning. Additionally, Ubuntu also provides support for new editions of open source software.

Another reason why Ubuntu is great for developers is its support for AI through GPUs. For instance, NVIDIA leverages CUDA on Linux to maximize the capabilities of their newest graphics cards. Add graphics cards to Ubuntu through external Thunderbolt adapters or by using the PCI slots on motherboards. 

Also great for programming as it provides access to certified Hardware. Canonical, the commercial publisher of Ubuntu, collaborates with various hardware partners across the globe that provide Ubuntu with pre tested and pre loaded features. Meaning, developers have multiple PC configuration options they  use with Ubuntu.

Pros of Ubuntu

  • Provides a very consistent OS experience across its platforms.
  • New version released every 2 years with the same software packages access.
  • Unique and appealing user interface.
  • Upgrade hardware without any limits.
  • Minimal hardware and system requirements.
  • Offers massive support with very expansive community on several platforms.
  • Very customizable and runs without installing.

Cons of Ubuntu

  • Limited functionality due to limited choice of application
  • Has fewer games as most game developers prefer Windows and Mac
  • Although it is open source, Canonical seems to be shifting from its open source philosophy to commercial

2. Manjaro

Manjaro is a variant of Arch Linux that allows you to experience the capabilities of Arch without going through the struggle associated with its installation. The distro uses the Calamares installer which simplifies the installation process and allows you to create a swap partition with hibernation support. Manjaro is a rolling release distro, which means current users don’t have to reinstall unless their current install is broken.

Platform contains a Kvantum theme engine that guarantees Qt5 applications are in sync with the rest of the desktop.  Manjaro uses Octopi and Pacman as default package managers. This enables developers to install IDEs like Qt creator, Netbeans, or KDevelop and libraries such as boost, Libnoise and matplotlib.

Additionally, Manjaro ships with a variety of useful and popular apps including VLC, Steam and  HP Device Manager. The distro has switched from the conventional terminal window, and using the Ctrl-Alt-T shortcut now opens a drop down terminal. Perfect for users with multi display setups. 

Pros of Manjaro

  • Stable and high performance OS that enables developers to run resource intensive processes and apps.
  • Good hardware support to use Manjaro Linux on their development machine of choice without compatibility issues.
  • Collection of software that makes it easy for developers to install the tools and applications.

Cons of Manjaro

  • Dependency management system has issues.
  • Some unconventional shortcuts present.

3. Debian

Debian is one of the oldest yet most stable Linux distros. The basis of most popular Linux distros including Ubuntu and has three different branches that add to its status as a programming distro. 

All Debian programs must adhere to the Debian Free Software Guidelines before they are included in the Stable Debian branch. This reduces the chances of system instability making Debian ideal for developers. The other two branches give you access to new software that is yet to be tested. This provides developers with the newest updates will affect their code.

The Debian website contains comprehensive documentation, including the basics of generating a script and compiling. Also it provides info on how to enable other Linux distros to compile your scripts using Autoconf. Additionally, Debian has expansive open source software repositories. These make it easier for developers to find and install your favourite development tools and libraries.

Pros of Debian

  • Compatible with the majority of architecture including 64-bit x86-64, 32-bit i386 of Intel, 64-bit power ISA and PowerPC architectures. 
  • Desktop and server edition, ideal for specific server and desktop use cases.
  • Wide variety of open source and proprietary software available on this OS.
  • Long development period that ensures that the new editions are stable and secure.

Cons of Debian

  • Not user friendly for inexperienced developers.
  • NO support for PPAs.
  • Debian is sometimes slow in releasing apps that are already available in other Linux OSs.

4. Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is developer friendly OS with different editions based on Ubuntu and Slackware. One of the lightest Linux distros that runs entirely on RAM-very fast and responsive. Despite its size, Puppy provides you with excellent out of the box functionality.

Puppy ships with applications and tools you use to perform most desktop functions. For instance, there are multiple ways to install applications on Puppy, with the easiest one involving SFS (SquashFS)

The Puppy Linux OS also has a devx SFS file that contains multiple development tools used for programming. 

Pros of Puppy Linux

  • Ideal for developers with old hardware as it consumes few resources.
  • Has an expansive, resourceful documentation to guide users.
  • Available directly from bootable media making it ideal for developers who want to take their OS on the go.
  • Extremely responsive due to its small footprint.

Cons of Puppy Linux

  • Does not ship with a lot of software, and those available may not meet your expectation.
  • Not all machines and peripherals work with Puppy Linux.

5. OpenSUSE

OpenSUSE is a popular Linux distro for system administrators, developers, as well as ordinary desktop users. This flexible OS ships in two variants and has an intuitive package installer known as YaST. The tool also functions as a control center that you use to manage the different aspects of your operating system.

Alternatively, use OpenSUSE without installing additional packages. Most of the critical development tools are available out of the box- Vim, OBS, RPM, and Cmake. 

The website has an excellent filtering system. Conveniently find packages for your particular OpenSUSE install and other Linux distributions as well. This distro has two versions: Leap and Tumbleweed

Pros of OpenSUSE

  • Highly stable that allows you to install a lot of the best Linux desktop environments on a single OpenSUSE installation.
  • YaST control center gives you total control over your OpenSUSE installation.
  • The SUSE community contributors significantly to the Linux Kernel and provides great support for different hardware.
  • Highly extensible when using the Open Build Service.

Cons of OpenSUSE

  • Slow on startup.
  • The Tumbleweed version has poor support for Nvidia.
  • Most software packages are not always the latest versions.

6. CentOS

CentOS is an open source Linux distro for web development. Based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). However, CentOS is ideal for individual users while RHEL is more suitable for large organizations. Although, CentOS does not provide the same level of functionality as RHEL, it is very customizable. Basically, modify it to a point where it becomes almost identical to the commercial distribution.

There are two different versions: CentOS Stream and CentOS Linux. CentOS Stream is a rolling release distro that features some distro specific modifications. On the other hand, CentOS Linux is a stable release that tries to recreate RHEL with freely available resources.

Just like Fedora CentOS uses the YUM package manager. YUM is technically a command line tool that users modify with a graphical user interface as well as other tools. The OS also has a repository that contains a host of useful resources such as the Red Hat Developer Toolset.

Pros of CentOS

  • A lot of utilities and resources that are also present in its commercial counterpart RHEL.
  • Intuitive package manager known as YUM.
  • Ideal for developers as development packages are readily available with high compatibility.
  • This OS functions well for high availability clustering.

Cons of CentOS

  • Lacks a large user community.
  • The desktop version lacks an intuitive interface.

7. Pop!_OS

Pop!_OS is a fairly new Linux distro best suited for developers, STEM researchers, and creative professionals, although regular users try it too. The OS is great for gaming as it comes with out of the box support for modern AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.

There is advanced window and workspace management, disk encryption, keyboard shortcuts, power management profiles, and other useful utilities. Unlike most Linux distros, Pop!_OS is not a community driven project. Instead, the distro is exclusively developed and maintained by System76. 

Pros of Pop!_OS

  • Flexible graphics option that allows users to switch between graphic chips.
  • Upgrades and re-installs packages automatically.
  • Allows you to encrypt the hard disk during installation.
  • Very modern and beautiful look with practical window tiling.

Cons of Pop!_OS

  • The parallel installation of the OS on Windows is not very beginner friendly.
  • The OS experiences from random system crashes.

8. Fedora

Fedora is a Linux distro for programming based on RHEL. Great OS for developers who prefer the bleeding edge of Linux. The distro’s developer portal and repository contain loads of development resources including Eclipse, and a fully featured IDE that supports various languages such as C++, Python, PHP, and Ruby. The operating system updates at least once a year, the software is open source with active community.

Just like most Linux distributions, Fedora has multiple variants that serve different areas of specialization. There is an IoT version, a server version, as well a version for developers known as Fedora Workstation. Fedora Workstation comes with a very modern user interface, supports Open Container Initiative (OCI), supports GNOME Boxes, and more. Other Fedora versions like CoreOS and Silverblue also have an impressive set of development tools.

Pros of Fedora

  • Very reliable and ideal for experienced developers.
  • Very fast offline boot process which takes less than a minute to run Fedora on the GNOME login screen.
  • The Fedora Project is a leader in virtualization technologies.
  • Very intuitive and easy to use environment, that does not require much time or skill to use.

Cons of Fedora

  • Does not have a Standard Model for multi file objects.
  • Lengthy setup process.

9. Arch Linux

Arch Linux is a minimalistic OS that focuses on simplicity and ease of use. The base variant of Arch Linux only contains the kernel and the Pacman package manager.

No window manager, graphical interface, or other utilities, but you download what you need manually from the repository. The bare bones structure of the OS may seem daunting to new users, but Arch Linux has a very friendly community and detailed user guides.

Pros of Arch Linux

  • Highly customizable and allows developers to take the DIY approach.
  • Uses a rolling release model that allows you to continuously upgrade software without reinstalling the OS.
  • Large library of software packages related to Arch Linux.
  • Improves your understanding of Linux by giving you a genuine Linux experience.

Cons of Arch Linux

  • Small community with few users.
  • The DIY approach is not very beginner friendly.

10. Raspberry Pi OS

Raspberry Pi OS, also known as Raspbian, is Linux distro that was created by its developers for use with the popular eponymous mini computers. Isn’t ideal for ordinary desktop users, however, it is a critical tool if you are a programmer working on Raspberry Pi projects.

Raspberry Pi now supports 64-bit architecture, enabling you to make the most out of your memory. Additionally, the OS has lots of features including new applications, support for all the popular programming languages, a screen magnifier, and more. The newest version implements a Vulkan driver, which greatly improves the mini computer’s capabilities.

Pros of Raspberry Pi OS

  • Beginner friendly with excellent support.
  • Does not consume a lot of power and lightweight.
  • Easily install the system on an SD card with the downloadable installer.

Cons of Raspberry Pi OS

  • Designed to specific Raspberry PI Hardware.
  • Not suitable for developers working on large projects.

11. Sabayon

Sabayon is a Funtoo based (before 2020 a Gentoo-based) distro that is functional out of the box. Wide range ready to use applications and several variants that feature the GNOME, KDE, and Xfce environments.

Unlike most Linux Distros that use binary software packaging systems, Sabayon uses the Portage package system. Portage is source code based, meaning that to install a program in portage, you’ll have to compile the package’s code on your machine. You also have the option to “edit” the source through USE flags customization.

Pros of Sabayon

  • Huge collection of pre installed applications for developers to work on projects without any software installation.
  • Very attractive and user friendly UI.
  • Requires very little configuration to run.
  • Inherently stable as it uses Funtoo as its basis.

Cons of Sabayon

  • Has a lengthy setup process.
  • Not beginner friendly.

12. Zorin OS

Zorin is a Windows like Linux distribution that has a menu/layout that resembles the Start menu/Taskbar on Windows 10 and 11. 

Comes out of the box with the most important apps while also allowing you to install Windows software. And unlike some Linux distros, Zorin offers a separate Lite edition that uses the XFCE desktop environment. The Lite edition has minimal resource requirements which makes it useful for developers who are using legacy hardware. In addition, Zorin also offers an education edition for schools, students, and trainers.

Pros of Zorin

  • Multiple editions that focus on specific use cases.
  • Beginner friendly and ideal for users migrating from Windows.
  • Attractive and intuitive interface, which makes it a perfect fit for any modern system,
  • Supports a vast collection of software and is compatible with the majority of hardware configurations.

Cons of Zorin

  • Does not run smoothly in the VirtualBox environment.
  • Very slow response times, and some actions might fail to take effect together.

13. Elementary OS

Elementary OS is a Linux distro suitable for developers. This OS uses its applications, user interface, and desktop environment known as Pantheon. When you run an application in Elementary OS, it looks and functions similarly to the one you were running before. This is because the project adheres to design guidelines for all its software.

Great selection of default apps that are designed and maintained by the Elementary team. Upon installation, you get a text editor, file manager, mail client, and more. While most distros focus on the technology that props the desktop, elementary is constantly modifying the desktop itself. The team has created its Flatpak integration, given the login screen a facelift, and created a very straight forward onboarding experience.

Pros of Elementary OS

  • Very unique identity that makes it very recognizable.
  • Easy to learn and use.
  • Clutter free desktop environment eliminates distractions which in turn enables developers to focus on their tasks.
  • Does not consume a lot of system resources.

Cons of Elementary OS

  • Not ideal for developers whose workflows require the use of heavy applications.
  • The development team takes some time to resolve bugs and other errors.

14. Solus

Solus is unique as it sits on top of its distro instead of using another Linux distro as a reference. Uses a unique desktop environment called Budgie, which is fast, beautiful, and easy to use. This OS has a Windows like UI design that includes an application pinning feature and a notifications panel on the right. Uses the Pardus Linux pisi management system which enables users to enjoy Mac features in Linux.

Pros of Solus

  • Uses the rolling release model which allows users to access the latest software and upgrades.
  • Community of developers and contributors who are constantly working to improve the distro.
  • Suitable for first time Linux users.
  • One of the fastest distros available.

Cons of Solus

  • Specific programs that are not available in its repositories require manual installation which is often tedious.
  • Small user community and software repository.  

15. SystemRescue

SystemRescue is an Arch based Linux distro that you boot from a CD ROM or USB flash drive. Main function is the recovery of systems and data after a crash. However, it does provide you with a convenient way to perform administration tasks on a device such as generating and editing hard disk partitions.

Useful system utilities such as Partimage, GNU Parted, and FSTools. Basic tools like editors, network tools, and midnight commander. SystemRescue’s kernel supports most modern file systems, including ReiserFS, XFS, VFAT, NTFS, JFS, ext3, ext4, and network file systems like NFS and Samba.

Pros of SystemRescue

  • Comes with a SystemRescue manual and step by step guides.
  • Integrates a standard VESA graphics driver to avoid graphics card problems.
  • Developers use it to access and repair broken systems.
  • Use it for failed Windows installations and corrupt hard drives.
  • Task manager that informs users about running processes and system utilization.

Cons of System Rescue

  • Most of the tools are not easy to use.
  • Was not designed by its developers to be a permanent OS.

16. Drauger

Further in our list of Top 20 Best Linux Distros for Developers, Programming, Web we have Drauger OS.  An Ubuntu based Linux distro for programming, famous for its minimal resource consumption. As a way of reducing hardware consumption, Drauger ships with XFCE as its custom desktop environment. The arrangement of the panels offers users a GNOME like experience. Several features that are useful for game development including support for Vulkan and a custom kernel.

Pros of Drauger

  • Comes with a bleeding edge kernel.
  • Uses the Papirus icon set.
  • Contains utilities that allow users to modify their desktop to their liking.
  • Its parent OS is Ubuntu which means users get to enjoy all the benefits of Ubuntu’s repositories, libraries, and hardware support.

Cons of Drauger

  • Has issues with Nvidia integration.
  • Not suitable for activities outside gaming.

17. Android-x86

Android-x86 is the unofficial version of the Google Android operating system for AMD x86 and Intel processors. This OS provides users with an authentic android experience on a desktop. Android-x86. Additionally, it offers users a complete solution for android on most x86 platforms and is a great choice for developers who want to test and develop their software on a PC.

Pros of Android x86

  • Running AOSP on x86 increases the longevity of your devices.
  • Very flexible and even allows users to dual boot Windows and Android-x86.
  • The fact that it uses a Linux kernel improves system security, scalability, and performance.
  • Easy to use as most people are familiar with android.

Cons of Android x86

  • Requires a lot of work before it becomes business ready.
  • Installing it requires a lot of planning and effort.

18. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is a derivative of Ubuntu, which itself is a popular choice for development environments. This means that Mint gives developers access to a huge variety of software and development tools. Relatively lightweight distro that needs few resources to run. Beneficial for programmers who need to run several development environments or who are working on resource intensive projects.

Pros of Linux Mint

  • Elegant and offers a great computing experience.
  • Works fine on older computers.
  • Provides developers with a huge set of tools for most programming languages.
  • Very easy to use and beginner friendly.

Cons of Linux Mint

  • Not very up to date with recent technologies.
  • Does not support Personal Package Archive (PPA).

19. NuTyX Linux

NuTyX is a French Linux distro built from Linux From Scratch and Beyond Linux From Scratch. The OS contains a custom package manager known as cards. This package management system allows developers to install single binary packages or groups of binary packages such as desktop packages. It also enables users to compile source packages from “ports”.

Pros of NuTyX Linux

  • Install NuTyX from within most Linux distros.
  • The CARDS package management system is very intuitive and even lets users perform the all-in-one installation for different software.
  • Provides users with KDE, GNOME, MATE, Lxde, Xfce, and Openbox GUIs.
  • Pretty lightweight compared to Ubuntu and Fedora.

Cons of NuTyX Linux

  • Feels old and clunky, especially during the initial install.
  • This OS does not have a lot of documentation available.

20. Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a Linux distro that sits on top of Debian. Mainly focuses on penetration testing and other digital forensic approaches and is maintained by Offensive Security Ltd.

Kali Linux has a large development team and a community of collaborators. Popular with security developers as it has more than 500 penetration testing tools. These include Aircrack-ng, Wireshark, Nmap, Metasploit, sqlmap, Burp Suite, Armitage, and more.

Pros of Kali Linux

  • More than 600 penetration testing utilities.
  • Adheres to the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, which lets users access libraries, binaries, and support files.
  • Multi language support. 
  • Free for use.

Cons of Kali Linux

  • Some software tools prone to malfunction.
  • Not suitable for users who are new to Linux or are new to programming.

Thank you for reading Top 20 Best Linux Distros for Developers, Programming, Web. We shall conclude this article now. 

Top 20 Best Linux Distros for Developers, Programming, Web Conclusion

The above options are ideal, if you are looking for a programmer friendly Linux distro. There are several factors to consider when choosing a linux distro, such as popularity, community support, quality of the software, and technical needs. Furthermore, Ubuntu is often considered the go to choice due to its popularity and comprehensive software package repository, while Fedora offers great stability, regular updates, and terrific support options along with helpful community resources.

Further development oriented distros like Manjaro and ArchLinux provide unparalleled customization options. They are ideal for experienced developers who want complete control over their developer environment. With these tips in mind, you should be able to make the perfect choice easily.

Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

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