Linux Kernel

What is a Linux distribution?

Many people are still unfamiliar with the subject of “Linux”, although it directly or indirectly powers most computers, servers and many other devices. The use of Linux has grown tremendously over the past decade, but desktop computing (Linux distributions) is an area where it still needs to improve.

At the time of writing, the Linux desktop market is 2.5%, which is not surprising given that the market is dominated by Windows and macOS. One of the reasons the Linux desktop is not so popular is that people don’t know what it is or if it exists in the first place. If you are one of them, let’s take a look at what a Linux distro is in this article.

Linux on computer: what is a Linux distribution?

The Linux distribution is an operating system that consists of different layers stacked on top of each other. Starting from the lowest layer, we have the Linux kernel, GNU tools and libraries, software, window system, window manager. At the highest level, we have the office environment. It is an alternative to popular operating systems like Windows and macOS.

manjaro linux - best linux distributions for programming

In simpler terms, one of my favorite analogies for explaining the Linux distribution is – Think of all the layers as the layers on a chocolate cake. The base, as they say, is the heart of a pastry (Noyau), followed by a bunch of other layers with chocolate filled in the middle of each layer (Libraries and Tools). These essential little things impact the performance of the distribution and help improve the user experience (Taste).

Next is the software that adds functionality to the operating system (software), followed by the “icing on the cake” (pun intended), a desktop environment.

what is the desktop environment in linux

Choosing a Linux distribution

Now that you know what a Linux distro is, let’s take a look at your options for choosing a good Linux distro. However, this is a tricky part and can confuse many newbies who are just starting their Linux journey. There are tons of Linux distros out there, but we’ve listed some of the best in our “Best Linux Distributions” series (Distros = Short for Distributions), so be sure to check them out.

what is a linux distribution

For the most part, you don’t have to worry about complex internal jargon like libraries and tools, but one thing you need to be careful of when choosing a Linux distribution is the desktop environment. A DE is basically made up of user interface elements that users can interact with. That said, just as there are many Linux distributions out there, there are also many desktop environments. Some of the most popular are GNOME, KDE, MATE, Xfce, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to check out our list of the best desktop environments.

Now there is a lot more to Linux distros than meets the eye, but since this is a “Short Bytes” series, we intend to keep it under the limit. However, you can check out our many Linux tutorials and explanations if this article piqued your interest in Linux.

What do you think of the Linux desktop? Let us know your opinions in the comments section below.

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