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What is openSUSE? All you need to know

openSUSE may be overlooked compared to other major Linux distributions, but it has a unique feature set and code base with a rich heritage.

So what makes this Linux distro different from the rest, and why should you give it a try? Let’s find out.

What is openSUSE?

openSUSE is an offshoot of the original SUSE Linux distribution. It is a community distribution unlike SUSE Linux Enterprise.

SUSE is still a major sponsor of openSUSE. The relationship is similar to that of CentOS or Fedora to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The project even uses a gecko in its logo, to show the relationship between openSUSE and SUSE itself.


openSUSE KDE desktop

openSUSE is available in two versions, the stable version Jump and the rolling version Tumbleweed. The latter is similar to Arch Linux as it is more of a “state of the art” distribution with newer software. You can install openSUSE as a traditional Linux system, but it is also available in the Windows Store for use with WSL.

A brief history of openSUSE

SUSE was founded in Germany and originally referred to the company that developed it. The name is a German acronym for “Software and Systems Development”. They were among the first software companies to see the potential of Linux in the business in the early 90s.

The company initially repackaged Slackware Linux and translated the documentation into German, but eventually made its own distro. Novell owned the company for some time before it was divested after Micro Focus acquired Novell.

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With SUSE once again independent, the company now continues to market its enterprise edition and contributes significantly to the openSUSE project.

openSUSE Leap vs. Tumbleweed

If you are considering openSUSE, you might be wondering whether to install the Leap or Tumbleweed version. The latter is a rolling-release distribution, which means that updates are released to the distribution as soon as they are available, rather than to specific versions like Debian or Ubuntu do.

This means that you will have newer software than a standard “long term support” distribution. Many developers need newer versions of drivers and libraries, so they like progressive release distributions.

Most ordinary users will prefer a stable version like Leap, especially those who want to run openSUSE as a server.

Install openSUSE

Installing openSUSE is similar to installing any other Linux distribution – you just need to download the installation image, extract it to your appropriate media, and reboot the machine. This article will consider the Leap version for installation.

To download: openSUSE (Leap | Tumbleweed)

You have the option of accessing the online repositories during installation to install any software of your choice that does not fit on the installation media.

You have a choice of KDE, GNOME, Xfce by default, a “generic desktop” or you can install openSUSE without a server-like desktop. You can even install a very minimal “transaction server” with a read-only root file system.



openSUSE installation process

Once you have chosen your environment, a boot partition, the primary btrfs partition, and a swap partition are displayed. You can accept these defaults or use guided or manual partitions to modify the partition table or enable LVM.

After that, you will set your time zone and configure user accounts. This is all very standard for modern Linux distributions, but openSUSE provides an attractive graphical environment.

Once you restart on the desktop, you’ll find many of the tools you’ll need preinstalled: a file manager, LibreOffice, the Firefox web browser, and even a game of solitaire. It would be possible for someone who has no knowledge of Linux to sit down at openSUSE and be productive right away.

Configuring openSUSE with YaST

openSUSE is unique among Linux distributions for the YaST menu-based configuration tool. It uses both a graphical and textual environment, depending on whether you invoke it from the desktop or from the command line.


OpenSUSE YaST Configuration Tool

You can configure everything from time zone to bootloader from this menu. It centralizes the management of the entire system while other distributions leave configuration to the settings menu of each office or to text-based configuration files. This means that there is a consistent configuration tool across all environments in openSUSE.

It is also possible to export the parameters to other systems, which makes it possible to manage entire fleets of installations. This is not surprising since its parent company, SUSE, targets businesses. This feature is useful for installing entire data centers filled with openSUSE servers.

Manage packages with Zypper

As with other Linux distributions, it is necessary to install software that is not included with the distribution. Like many other distributions, openSUSE has its own package manager to do this.

You can install packages with YaST, but you can also manage packages from the command line with Zypper. It works similarly to APT or DNF on Debian / Ubuntu or Red Hat based systems respectively. openSUSE even uses the latter’s RPM format.

To upgrade your system, use this command:

sudo zypper update

It is also very easy to install a specific package with Zypper.

sudo zypper install packagename

…or package name is the name of the package you want to install.

While these are pretty standard things for modern Linux distributions, openSUSE is unusual in the way they provide packages for other Linux distributions. The openSUSE Open Build Service (OBS) allows users of other Linux distributions, including APT and RPM based distributions, to use packages built by openSUSE.

The idea is that all major distributions will have the same standard base of packages, resolving incompatibilities between them. It remains to be seen whether this idea will be widely accepted in the Linux world, as it would mean that a single distributor effectively dominates Linux packages.

Is OpenSUSE Right For You?

openSUSE makes an excellent desktop or stable server in its Leap version. Developers and power users may want to check out the Tumbleweed version. The openSUSE YaST tool makes configuration easy, no matter what environment you are in. This is a very nifty version of Linux for anyone who wants a company backed system that has been using Linux from the start.

openSUSE: A Faithful Linux Distribution With Cool Features

openSUSE is still one of the leading Linux distributions as it has been around for a long time and is very easy to manage with YaST. This is a good choice for a reliable desktop or server Linux distro and is worth your consideration if you want to get started with Linux or change your distro for some reason.

If you’re looking to stop the distribution leap and settle into your perfect Linux distro, read on to find out how to make the right decision.


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