Deciding on your first Linux distribution is no easy task, with so many available and each offering its own unique features and style. If you’ve gotten past your first google search, lets say for ‘Linux for beginners’ or ‘best Linux distribution’, chances are you have seen both Mint Linux and Ubuntu Linux showing among the first few results. Why and how are you supposed to pick one? Let’s take a quick peek at each to make your decision easier.
Both Mint and Ubuntu share a lot of the same features, as Mint is based on Ubuntu, but there are a few key differences. Ubuntu’s user interface shares many similarities with Apple’s OS X, while Mint has much more in common with Windows XP and Windows 7. Ubuntu’s “Dash” menu places your taskbar on the left of the screen, and has a handy “Dash Home” icon that will allow you to search for apps.
While it seems easy enough on the surface, icons are easily hidden by other icons and lost, making navigating your running apps quite an exercise for beginners. Mint’s interface places the taskbar at the bottom of your desktop, much like Windows XP, and in sticking with the Windows’ theme, Mint’s menu is much like a Windows’ Start Menu. You can also place shortcuts directly on the taskbar, just like the Windows’ quick launch bar. This is a toss up, depending on your individual preference to pick the winner.
Both Ubuntu and Mint feature excellent Software Centers where you can download thousands of applications to customize your machine. Ubuntu has the edge in appearance, with the “Ubuntu Software Center” prominently displayed on your left taskbar. Mint’s “Software Manager” is less noticeable, making it slightly harder to find. Both are user friendly and offer thousands of applications, but Mint’s Software Manager loads much faster than Ubuntu’s resource hogging Software Center. For this reason alone, the edge goes to Mint.
Linux and customization are two terms that go hand in had. While both Ubuntu and Mint used to be comparable in this area, Ubuntu’s recent releases eliminated many of the personalization choices, while Mint’s choices have expanded. Again, Mint Linux gets the nod.
Both Mint and Ubuntu are widely accepted, and each has a veritable army of community members creating customizations, applications, and offering a helping hand. In terms of overall ranking, DistroWatch places Mint in first place, with Ubuntu a somewhat distant second. Why does this matter, you’re thinking? A stable and increasing community is an indicator that new features will be released constantly and a good community support base will be available. This category is probably a toss up, with Mint perhaps a tad above Ubuntu.
Verdict : Mint Linux is Best for Beginners
Both Mint Linux and Ubuntu Linux are excellent distributions for beginning Linux users. Both distributions are easy to install, easy to use, and visually attractive. The communities behind Ubuntu and Mint are impressive and knowledgeable, and thousands of apps are available on both at the click of a mouse.
While either one is a quality choice for beginners, Mint does offer a few advantages that you will enjoy as you become more familiar with Linux, namely customization. If you are installing Linux on an older computer with less resources, as is often the case for beginners, Mint’s slightly better performance also gives it the edge here. Overall, neither is a bad choice, and the fact that no purchase is necessary gives you the freedom to install and test whichever distributions you choose.