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Best Linux Distro for Programming

Looking for the best Linux distro for programming? Here's a list of 7 to choose from.

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After using Linux for 5+ years, one thing that I can assure you is that you can do programming on any Linux distro. But when you are getting started, a strong platform that makes things easy for you is important.

And in this tutorial, I will be sharing my top favourite Linux distros that will require the least steps to set up a programming setup.

This way, you will be able to put more focus on learning programming than configuring the programming environment.

Top 6 Linux distros for programming

While creating the list of the best distros for programming, ease of configuring the development environment was the prime focus.

But ease of configuring the development environment alone won’t get the job done, this is why I carefully chose distros which has a large community, easy-to-understand documentation, availability of all the development-related packages and stability (if used carefully)

Here’s a brief introduction to the best Linux distribution for programming:

  1. Ubuntu: The most popular distro, offering a user-friendly experience, vast community support, and compatibility with a wide range of development tools.
  2. Pop!_OS: A polished, productivity-focused distro tailored for developers with features like automatic tiling, easy access to tools, and strong hardware support.
  3. Fedora: Backed by Red Hat, provides cutting-edge tech, a developer portal, and a strong community while balancing stability and the latest features.
  4. Manjaro: A beginner-friendly Arch-based distro with a rolling release model for the latest tools and access to the Arch User Repository’s extensive packages.
  5. Debian: Known for stability, security, and strict adherence to free software principles, providing a reliable platform for production software development.
  6. openSUSE: Available in stable and rolling versions, offers flexibility for different dev needs, with powerful tools like YaST for easy environment customization.
  7. Rocky Linux: A community-driven, enterprise-grade distro providing a stable, secure, and consistent environment for development, ideal for production systems.

Now, let’s address each one in a detailed manner.

1. Ubuntu


Most users will start their Linux journey through Ubuntu, as it gives you space to grow. You will find direct support for packages for Ubuntu, such as installing Chrome on Ubuntu is quite simpler than other distros.

Furthermore, Ubuntu has an extensive community and forums are great for getting help with coding issues, debugging, and optimizing development workflows.

The best part is the official support for popular cloud platforms like AWS and Azure, facilitating cloud-based development and deployment.

If you’re an advanced developer, you can find compatibility with a broad spectrum of software, libraries, and frameworks, ensuring developers can work with their preferred tools.

2. Pop!_OS

pop os

Developed by System76, Pop!_OS is a polished, productivity-focused distribution tailored for developers. It provides a clean and intuitive GNOME-based desktop environment with customizations to enhance productivity, such as automatic window tiling.

Also, it has built-in support for TensorFlow and CUDA, making it an excellent choice for machine learning and AI development.

Pop!_OS has out-of-the-box support for NVIDIA, which is a big plus when you’re using Linux. The best part is you switch between integrated and discrete GPUs easily.

Pop!_OS is based on Ubuntu, yet it feels far superior as it does not ship with snaps (like Ubuntu does). Snap packages are developed by Canonical (parent company of Ubuntu) which is known for being super slow and Ubuntu is known to force their users to install snap packages instead of deb.

3. Fedora


Fedora is a community-driven distribution sponsored by Red Hat, known for its focus on innovation and cutting-edge technologies.

With Fedora, you can expect the latest versions of development tools, libraries, and frameworks, allowing developers to work with the newest technologies.

What sets Fedora apart from other Linux distros is a dedicated developer portal with resources, guides, and tools specifically tailored for developers.

Unlike other distros which either give you a rolling release compromising stability or an LTS (Long Term Support) compromising new packages, Fedora follows a regular release every six months, striking a balance between stability and access to the latest features.

In terms of security, you get SELinux, a robust security feature that helps developers build secure applications by default.

Fedora serves as the foundation for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), making it an ideal platform for developing applications targeted at RHEL-based systems.

4. Manjaro


Manjaro is a beginner-friendly Arch-based distribution that combines the power of Arch Linux with a focus on usability and accessibility.

The best part of using any Arch-based distro is you get access to the latest versions of development tools and libraries.

Apart from getting the most recent packages, you get access to the Arch User Repository (AUR), which contains a vast collection of user-contributed packages, including development tools and libraries.

To make package management easier, there’s a user-friendly package manager (pamac) that simplifies installing and managing packages from both official repositories and the AUR.

Once you get the hang of Manjaro, you can switch to Arch Linux to get more control.

5. Debian


Debian is known for its stability. Because of its stability, Ubuntu uses Debian as a base. In simple terms, Debian serves as a rock-solid foundation for development, prioritizing stability and security over the latest features.

There’s a Debian Social Contract, which guarantees that the distribution will always remain free and open-source, aligning with the principles of many developers.

Debian follows a rigorous testing process that ensures packages are thoroughly vetted before inclusion in the stable release, resulting in a reliable platform for production software development.

While Debian has multiple branches like unstable and testing, the most popular edition is the LTS version, ensuring security for 5 years.

Another good part is that Debian supports a wide range of architectures including x86, ARM, and PowerPC, making it suitable for developing applications targeting various platforms.

6. openSUSE


openSUSE is a versatile distribution that comes in two flavours: Leap (regular release) and Tumbleweed (rolling release).

It offers flexibility for developers with different needs, whether they prefer a stable environment (Leap) or access to the latest packages (Tumbleweed).

The most highlighted part of openSUSE is the YaST (Yet another Setup Tool) system management utility, which provides a powerful and user-friendly interface for configuring the development environment.

You also get Open Build Service (OBS), a platform for building and distributing packages across multiple distributions and architectures, simplifying package management for developers.

openSUSE also includes Snapper, a powerful snapshot tool that enables developers to easily roll back system changes, facilitating experimentation and testing.

Furthermore, it also offers integration with the SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) platform, allowing developers to create applications that can seamlessly run on both openSUSE and SLE.

7. Rocky Linux

Rocky Linux

Rocky Linux is a community-driven, enterprise-grade distribution that aims to provide a stable, secure, and consistent environment for development.

It is binary compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), making it an ideal platform for developing applications targeted at RHEL-based systems.

It focuses on stability and security, with regular updates and long-term support, providing a reliable foundation for production software development.

Furthermore, a strong emphasis on community involvement and transparency, ensures that the distribution remains free and open-source.

In addition to that, they offer documentation and community resources, enabling developers to quickly find solutions to common issues and best practices for development on Rocky Linux.

Which one should you use?

If you are asking me which Linux distro you should use, then I’d highly recommend going with Pop!_OS or Linux Mint, which are based on Ubuntu. With Ubuntu base, you get all the benefits of Ubuntu + ease of use, which is lacking on Ubuntu.

But if you’re a seasoned user, then you should experiment. Fire multiple VMs with different distros and see what goes well with your needs.

Let me know which distro you’re currently using to code.

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A tech journalist whose life revolves around networks.

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