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Best Linux Distro for Programming: Top 6 Ranked [2023]

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Best Linux Distro for Programing

The Linux kernel is an open-source foundation for many other operating systems because anyone can use, modify, or sell derivatives of it.

A Linux distribution consists of the Linux kernel and various tools that operate on top of it, giving users access to a wide range of functions. Namely, a Linux distro helps you save time by compiling code into one operating system for easy installation. 

Many employers still need talented programmers that know how to work with Linux — no wonder organizations keep releasing certification programs on Linux! But which is the best Linux distro for programming?

Today, we’ll dive deeper into how Linux distros help programmers, the pros and cons, and tips on choosing the best one for your needs. 

Here’s a quick list of the Linux distros we’ll compare: 

  • Ubuntu
  • Manjaro
  • Arch Linux
  • openSUSE
  • Fedora
  • Kali Linx

What is Linux?

Like Windows and macOS, Linux is an operating system. Meaning? It helps balance a system’s hardware and software interactions and connections. Many programmers and companies like using Linux because it’s open source. 

For example, The New York Stock Exchange runs on a Liunx OS. 

Each Linux kernel involves the work of over 1,000 people from at least 100 different organizations. The kernel, a tiny component of a Linux distribution, has seen over 3,200 people from 200 firms contribute just in the last two years alone.

What is Linux Distribution?

A Linux distribution is an operating system comprising various components from different programmers and projects. Every Linux distribution contains the following: 

  • The Linux kernel
  • Interface (graphical or text-based) and Linux commands
  • Package management system
  • Installer
  • X server
  • Upgrade models
  • Supplemental software
  • Pre-installed applications

Of course, different distros have varying appearances, behaviors, and levels of performance despite sharing the same Linux kernel. 

What Makes a Good Linux Distro for Programming?

Here are some general features that make a Linux distro good for programming: 

  • Popular: The best Linux distros for programming should be widely used — this makes it easier for developers and programmers to identify and rectify issues quickly. 
  • Stable and secure: Solid Linux distros for programming must allow programmers to collaborate without jeopardizing security through unauthorized access. Furthermore, they should have enough power to control various server instances without sacrificing performance. 
  • Regular updates: A programming Linux distro should offer frequent updates to keep users up-to-speed on new features

How to Choose the Best Linux OS for Programming?

Still, you might need more specific criteria to determine the best Linux distros for programming in your unique scenario. Let's go over some top distros depending on use cases.

  • Software engineering: If you want to create servers, choose Debian, Ubuntu, or RedHat/CentOS. These distributions' stability and power make them popular choices for software engineering. 
  • Hardware tools: Gentoo, Slackware, and Linux from Scratch are ideal for hardware tools, including driver building and embedding distributions. 
  • Beginners: Ubuntu has a user-friendly interface and regular updates, making it ideal for beginners. Linux Mint is also suitable. 
  • Raspberry Pi: The dedicated Linux distro Rasbian is ideal for programmers using Raspberry Pi. 

Still need more specifics? Don’t worry, we’ll help you determine the best Linux for programming. Read on for deeper insights into each distro. 

Best Linux Distro for Programming: Review

We’ll explore each distro’s history, uses, pros and cons, and system requirements. 

1. Ubuntu - Best For Beginners

South-African and British entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth founded Canonical in 2004 and released beginner-friendly Ubuntu, whose Linux kernel had one command-line interface and no applications. 

Ubuntu added a repository, a site that stores downloadable and installable software. 

On Linux, you can acquire the same program, but you'll have to download the source code, assemble it yourself, and then install it. Other bases exist, including fedora and arch. Ubuntu and Linux mint, a distribution based on Ubuntu, is regarded as the simplest and most user-friendly version of Linux among the several Linux variants available. 

The desktop environments available include GNOME, Xfce, LXQT, LXDE, KDE, budgie, mate, cinnamon, and deepin. In addition to Ubuntu, which comes with a modified version of Gnome, you can also get Kubuntu or Lubuntu. Kubunti uses the KDE desktop environment, while lubuntu uses the LXQT desktop. Finally, you can also use Xubuntu, which uses XFCE.


  • Lots of variations for compatibility, including Ubuntu Server Addition, Ubuntu Studio, Edubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and JeOS.
  • Left-side launcher allows easy program launching
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Keyboard shortcuts allow easy locating of apps and files
  • Excellent audio, video, and photographic lens integration on the desktop


  • Traditional, older technology
  • Less stable than other operating systems and sensitive to hardware flaws.
  • Incompatible with modern video games (requires emulators that diminish graphics quality)
  • Incompatible with MP3 files 
  • Requires self-installation 
  • No driver support.
  • Challenging for users used to Windows or macOS

System Requirements

  • CPU: 1 gigahertz or better
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte or more
  • Disk: a minimum of 2.5 gigabytes

Rating: 8/10

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2. Manjaro - Best for Intermediate Programmers

Manjaro is essentially a more user-friendly version of Arch Linux. It’s easy to operate, requiring limited effort to install. 

This distro includes Pamac and Octopi by default in Manjaro, allowing software installation with a graphical user interface. Our take? Manjaro is the best Linux distro for developers because of its many customizable tools. Some also say it’s the best Linux for programmers at an intermediate level, specifically. 

Installing proprietary drivers with Manjaro isn’t too difficult because it quickly detects the hardware. Manjaro is for everyone, including regular users looking to get things done or developers looking for a productive environment. 


  • Based on Arch Linux, one of the oldest and top-rated Linux distributions
  • Easy, single installation with rolling updates
  • Compatible with Nvidia Optimus technology.
  • Pre-installed Steam
  • Has GUI to manage kernels.
  • Repositories that offer extra built packages


  • Not a server-oriented operating system
  • Not a specialist OS like Kali or RHEL

System Requirements

  • 2GB RAM
  • 30 GB of Hard disk space
  • Minimum of 2 GHz processor
  • HD graphics card and monitor
  • A stable internet connection

Rating: 9/10

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3. Arch Linux - Best For Advanced Programmers

Most well-known Linux distros provide a graphical or curse-based installer, while Arch simply provides the following collection of scripts:

  • wifi-menu command for connecting to wifi
  • (c)fdisk 
  • (c)gdisk for partitioning
  • SSH daemon for remote installation (great for installing from another computer with the ArchWiki open)
  •  contents of the arch-install-scripts package

Its installer disc contains tools to assist with system installation, such as pacstrap, genfstab, and arch-chroot.

Pacstrap adds a basic system hierarchy to the specified mount point and installed packages. Genfstab creates a fstab based on the currently mounted volumes under the specified root mount (takes care of mounting proc, dev, and others on the new system so you can continue configuring).


  • Rolling releases promise the most up-to-date stable software. 
  • Easy maintenance and excellent stability
  • Comprehensive instructions for each application, including a summary, installation, configuration, and troubleshooting
  • Simple configuration, without any strange wizards that cause system malfunction 
  • Accessible third-party user package repository


  • Slow installation with many steps
  • No add-ons included, though a manual suggests software

System Requirements

  • At least 1GB of RAM and 20GB of free hard-drive space
  • An internet connection
  • A blank DVD and the hardware and software necessary to burn it
  • Alternatively, a USB drive with at least 2GB of free space

Rating: 8.5/10

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4. openSUSE - Best for System Admins

Novell developed openSUSE after acquiring SuSE Linux AG in 2003. OpenSUSE supports GNOME and KDE desktop environments, offering reliable support to sysadmins and developers. 


  • User determines their own server or desktop appearance 
  • Impressive amount of code available for each release) 
  • Autonomy for system admins that don’t care to follow the release's delivery plan
  • Easy to download recent releases from upstream 
  • Online-Build-Service has numerous "add-ons" for various niche themes
  • Easy to modify and distribute modifications without a ton of bandwidth 
  • Ability to build any hardware and for any distro using SUSE's OBS


  • Limited documentation nowadays
  • Some people adhere to very severe EU and non-GPL regulations.
  • Slow on dated hardware

System Requirements

  • Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or higher or any AMD64 or Intel64 processor recommended
  • Main memory: 2 GB recommended
  • Hard disk: 40 GB or more recommended

Rating: 9.5/10

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5. Fedora - Best for Server Programmers

Fedora is a widely popular distro that has many Spins and Editions available, including the desktop workstation edition, IoT edition, and of course, the server edition. Fedora is a common suggestion for newcomers who want to try something other than Debian- and Ubuntu-based distributions. 

It resembles RHEL and CentOS, two of the most widely used server distributions. People frequently use Fedora as their primary operating system and as a bridge to RHEL and CentOS.

Rating: 8/10


  • Newer kernel versions offer better hardware support
  • Most recent Gnome 3 shell
  • Astonishing Yum dependency management
  • Background updates similar to Windows' Yum.
  • Offers a glimpse of Red Hat’s process


  • Dependent on other repositories, such as rpm fusion, to obtain even the most fundamental software ( Skype, flash, etc.)
  • Usability is less impressive than other distros
  • Multimedia playback and flash don’t work without some tinkering 
  • Software center is unstable and slow in F20

System Requirements

  • 2GHz dual-core processor or faster.
  • 2GB system memory.
  • 15GB unallocated drive space.

Rating: 8/10

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6. Kali Linux - Best For Security Programmers

Kali Linux (formerly BackTrack Linux) was built on the Debian operating system, designed for sophisticated penetration testing and security auditing — the perfect combination for cybersecurity programmers. Its numerous tools are geared toward information security activities, including reverse engineering, computer forensics, penetration testing, and security research.


  • Includes over 600 penetrating instruments
  • Adheres to the conventional file-system structure
  • Supports multiple languages
  • Adaptable
  • Compatible with various wireless devices
  • User-friendly for those with a basic Linux background
  • Single location to navigate, download files, and run programs


  • Slow
  • Doesn’t allow you to save anything to your HD
  • Has frequent bugs
  • Penetration-oriented, making it difficult for beginners

System Requirements

  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 20 GB of disk space
  • 32- or 64-bit CPU (single core) with 2 GHz speed or better
  • High-definition graphics card and monitor
  • Broadband internet connection

Rating: 7.5/10

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Bottom line? The best Linux distro for programming depends on your unique projects and experience level. 

Arch Linux, Debian, Kali Linux, and Fedora are popular distributions used for programming. 

Some are more user-friendly, while some require extensive experience before using them. Carefully consider each distro’s pros and cons before settling on a choice. 

Interested in learning more about Linux distributions? 

Take a Linux Course

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which Linux is Best for Programming?

Ubuntu is best for beginner programmers, while Debian, Kali Linux, and Fedora are best for experienced programmers.

2. Which Linux is Best for Python Programming?

All the Linux distributions work equally well for Python programming. However, you can choose Ubuntu if you are a novice programmer.

3. Which Linux Distro is Best for Beginner Programming?

Ubuntu’s simple interface makes it the best Linux distro for beginner programmers. 

4. Which Linux is Best for C++?

All the Linux distributions work equally well for C++ programming. However, Ubuntu is best for beginner programmers. 

5. Which Linux OS is the Fastest?

Puppy OS is the fastest Linux distribution.

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