There are many, many Linux operating systems out there, variations upon a theme. Each one unique in their behavior, and appearance. In this flurry of operating systems however, a few stand out in regards to what they bring to the table. And the word for that can only be described as innovative.
1. Fedora: The Early Adopter
When you think of innovation, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the bleeding edge. Fedora certainly ticks the boxes in that regard, as it changes with the shifting Linux environment. It makes an effort to not only be part of it, but to carve the way for many other operating systems.
One benefit of this is that any new and upcoming things in the Linux world can be all found on it. The latest version of the GNOME desktop for example, ships with Fedora. Another very interesting thing that Fedora provides is the ability to upgrade to major versions (e.g. 24 to 25) without downloading a new installation disc. Something like this could certainly benefit more static Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu.
While it may not be the best for people who want something that’s consistent in its behavior — there will always be some problems for early adopters after all — if you want to know where the Linux desktop is moving, Fedora is your best bet.
2. Void Linux: Rolling Release With a Twist
But first, a quick primer on what a rolling release is: basically, it’s a way of developing a Linux operating system that leaves it constantly updated. The idea is that you don’t need to upgrade it once in a while using a fresh install disc.
Like Arch, Void is built from the ground up, meaning that it’s not based on any other Linux operating systems. Contrast this with Linux Mint for example, which is based off Ubuntu (which in turn is based off Debian).
While Void also seems to be aimed at experienced Linux users, the installation process is much friendlier. For example, Void has an actual installer program, unlike Arch. It also supplies a live desktop to test it out. There are also some interesting architectural decisions that makes it different from many Linux operating systems.
Because of them, in use, Void tends to be faster and lighter than its counterparts. For example, its start-up time is surprisingly quick, since it uses a different way to boot the system up from the norm. If you enjoy what Linux operating systems like Arch have to offer, you might like how Void goes about it.
3. Elementary OS: A Focus on Design
Many of its applications are home grown, specifically designed for Elementary’s Pantheon desktop. From the calendar application to even the email client, everything blends in, with an almost Mac-like aesthetic. Which isn’t a bad thing.
While this Linux operating system isn’t the greatest example of technological innovation, it makes up for it with an unparalleled focus on quality. And that alone is quite a feat, with all the variety that needs to be sifted through.
4. CoreOS: Exercise in Minimalism
These days, it’s called Container Linux, but the things it brings to the table still stand, even if its original name doesn’t. It’s a name known more outside of the desktop world, designed for servers and the like. And for good reason: many of their design choices, such as restricting the base system to the bare minimum (hence the name CoreOS), were made around being ideal for that purpose.
Along with this, this Linux operating system is designed around easy management of multiple minimal systems at a time. While the common user might not find this useful, having maybe three computers at most, it’s especially helpful if you, say, own a large network’s worth of them.
Its success has led to Red Hat (creator of Fedora) creating their own, similar operating system called Fedora Atomic. It’s testament to the innovation that CoreOS has brought to the table, and will (hopefully) do so in the future.
5. Gobo Linux: Refining the Linux File System
Traditionally, programs are placed into different folders, depending on the type of files they have. For example, configuration files might all be stored in one folder (e.g. /etc), with actual programs in another (e.g. /usr/bin). Gobo Linux then, is quite a departure from that norm, placing all these files into their own special place, under the aptly named /Programs directory.
The operating system does not rely on a package manager to keep track of everything. As they describe it, the file system itself acts as one, since all the parts of a program are stuck in one place. Removing a program then, is simple as removing the program folder. Another advantage of this is Gobo can easily run multiple versions of different applications. For example, /Programs/Firefox/45.0 and /Programs/Firefox/44.0 could run without a hassle.
While this may seem like a rather novel idea, it certainly has some merit. And while this hierarchy hasn’t really been adopted outside of Gobo Linux, it’s definitely innovative, both technologically and appearance-wise.