How You Can Help Make 2017 the Year of the Linux Desktop

How You Can Help Make 2017 the Year of the Linux Desktop

For many of us, it doesn’t matter if Linux achieves world computing domination. What matters is that we can use it today, and it’s awesome. Are you considering making the switch for the first time? Then 2017 can be your year of the Linux desktop. So here are some tips on how you can help make 2017 the year of the Linux Desktop. Check it out, below.

There are two ways to make the switch. One requires zero technical experience, while the other option is free.

1. Buy a Computer Running Linux

Aside from Chromebooks, you can’t walk into your local big box store and walk out with a computer running Linux. But you can buy one online. You’re not limited to one site or vendor either.

System76 has a flashy website and computers that ship with Linux running out of the box. All you need to do is create your account to start using your new laptop or desktop, as though you had just picked up a Windows or Mac.


2. Install Linux on Your Current Computer

You may not be aware that you can replace the operating system powering your current computer. Well, you can, and this can often breathe new life into hardware that Apple and Microsoft would tell you needs to be replaced.

Installing Linux yourself does require some comfort with certain computer terms, but it’s not that hard. Linux distros usually come in the form of an ISO or IMG file. You then burn this data to a blank CD or USB drive. After this, you restart your computer and fire up your new CD or flash drive before your operating system kicks in.

What Version to Pick?

Linux doesn’t come in the form of a single product. Rather, it’s collection of programs made by many different developers. When bundled together, this software is capable of making your machine run as well, and often better, than it does running a commercial operating system.

This means typing “Linux” into a search engine won’t bring you to a website with a giant download button. You’re going to need to learn a few new terms in order figure out what you want.

1. Distribution (“Distro”)

Instead of installing something called Linux, you have to choose which distribution, or collection, or software you want running on your computer. Some other popular options are Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Linux Mint, and Elementary OS.

Yes, the list above is pretty long. Picking one can seem overwhelming, but there are a few that are aimed at first time switchers from Windows and Mac.

2. Desktop Environment

When you’re looking at distros, what you see in the screenshots are various desktop environments. Windows and macOS each have their own, which you aren’t able to change. In Linux, you can fundamentally transform how your computer looks and feels by swapping one environment for another. Some will feel familiar to what you’re already used to. Others offer experiences that are unique to Linux and other open source operating systems.

Some of the desktop environments you will see mentioned most often include GNOME, KDE, Unity, Xfce, LXDE, Cinnamon, and MATE. That sounds like a lot, but in the Linux world, we’re only getting started.

Don’t worry, you can save experimenting with desktop environments for later, or you can choose to stick with the one you start off with. You will find plenty of Linux users taking either approach.

3. Free and Open Source Software

The vast majority of Linux programs are considered free and open source software. The “free” part doesn’t refer to price, though most don’t cost you any money to use. Free software is code that you’re free to use, tweak, and share however you wish. The only way you risk running into any legal trouble is if you try to take someone else’s code and try to sell it as your own. This is very different from most commercial software, where you have to read (“skip”) a long license agreement and accept the terms before use. This often means giving companies control of your data and what you can do with it.


Open source means an application’s code is visible to you. Most commercial software is hidden, leaving you to trust that the developer is only doing what you expect them to. You have no easy way of knowing what information is being logged or if there are security holes that make your machine vulnerable to attack. Most of us can’t look at source code and make sense of it ourselves, but we can rest a little easier knowing that other people with expertise can do that for us.

Getting Software

When you want new applications on Windows, you look for a big download button on a website and click on the EXE. Life is different on Linux. You can grab most software from your distro’s repositories. That’s a big word, but it means most of what you want is available in an app store of sorts. Installing programs is roughly as easy on Linux as it is on a smartphone.

year linux desktop app center

Each distro comes with its own way of distributing software. Newcomers will feel right at home with GNOME Software, Linux Mint’s Software Manager, or Elementary OS’s AppCenter. Only the more technical distros will force you to use the command line. Once you get used to the Linux way of doing things, you may not want to go back.