Best Linux distros for programming in 2021.

Vishesh Dhawan
July 20, 2021|2 min read

Linux is considered the best operating system for coders, developers and even hackers. The reasons for Linux's popularity among the dev community are: it is free, extensively customizable, easy to install and use, great support for almost all the programming languages, fast execution speeds on low-end hardware, robust security and also job better job opportunities for people who are skilled in Linux too.

Today Linux not only power your personal desktops but also servers, IoT devices, mobile operating systems, cloud servers and many home digital appliances etc. With such vast industry adoption, the demand for Linux skilled engineers only gets higher. However, one of the major concerns when starting to learn Linux is to pick the right distro for yourself.

To ease up this decision for you here is a list of carefully selected Linux distros that you can learn and build interesting projects with -

  • Ubuntu
  • Fedora
  • OpenSUSE
  • Arch
  • Manjaro
  • Kali
  • Raspbian

1. Ubuntu


Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distros one can find. It is easy to install and use and suitable for all kinds of users: beginners to experienced developers.

Ubuntu is a beginner first choice. It comes with a simple GUI software downloader and installer (snap store) you can use to easily install any software. For software not available in the snap store or apt repository, you can download a ".deb" file of that software from external resources and install them just by double-clicking it.

Ubuntu is supported by almost all the major utility software developers. E.g. docker, intel and Nvidia drivers, blockchain projects etc.

Ubuntu has a giant community of hobbyists and developers. So if you find yourself stuck at any problem, there is a high chance you'll easily find the solution online. Overall ubuntu is a good distro to start with and hold on for a long time too.

2. Fedora

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Fedora is a community-driven project from RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). It's Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds's preferred distro. Fedora is popular among the dev community because of its up-to-date feature set and the developer portal.

Fedora only ships with open-source elements. You can also share your problems in the fedora forum and the solution will arrive quickly.

3. openSUSE

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OpenSUSE may not be as popular as Ubuntu or fedora but is surely a great operating system for developers. This distro is available in 2 versions - OpenSUSE Leap and OpenSUSE Tumbleweed.

OpenSUSE Leap is an LTS release that remains up to date and guarantees stability, while Tumbleweed is a rolling release for the people who want to try the latest software.

One of the strengths of OpenSUSE is YaST package manager which helps to automate many tasks, and the bonus is its software delivery method. you can go to its software portal website and install any software with one click.

4. Arch Linux.

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Arch Linux is made for alpha Linux geeks who want full control over their desktop. It doesn't come with a GUI desktop environment or any software. The installer is also a CLI (terminal).

It gives the users the power to build their desktop from the bottom up. We can choose any desktop environment, display managers, utility software etc. to install.

Due to not packing any software in the installer, it has no bloatware at all. Another benefit of arch Linux is that it is a Cutting-edge Linux distro and ships the latest software as fast as possible.

The greatest advantage of ARCH Linux is AUR (Arch User Repository) which is a large community of software developers and hosts a large number of packages.

5. Manjaro


Manjaro is the most popular Arch-based Linux distribution. It comes with all the benefits of Arch Linux but it is preconfigured with a GUI desktop environment and some essential software preinstalled.

Manjaro also has a utility for manually switching Linux kernels and installing drivers easily.

6. Kali Linux

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Kali Linux, created by Offensive Security is a hacking and forensics focussed Linux distro. It is widely used by cybersecurity researchers and hackers worldwide.

Kali Linux comes preinstalled with over 600 penetration testing tools. But these tools are not for absolute Linux beginners.

It can be a great programming distro too if you are focussing on cybersecurity or ethical hacking.

7. Raspbian

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Raspberry Pi is an awesome credit-card-sized single-board computer. It can run many other Linux OS such as kali or ubuntu but Raspbian is the default OS it ships with.

Raspbian or Raspberry Pi OS is a feature-packed OS that comes with tons of preinstalled programming tools such as Python, BlueJ, Greenfoot, Mathematica, Geany etc. With the inclusion of all these tools and its ability to run on low spec hardware, it is a perfect OS for IoT and embedded systems too.

Final thought

Deciding the right distro for yourself is a subjective matter. All the Linux distros mentioned here are overall great for general development stuff like web development etc. But all the distros also offer some ergonomy for some specific tasks.

In the end, it depends upon the needs of the user to choose the right distro according to their project needs and desirable features. And if you are an absolute beginner who has never had a taste of Linux, my recommendation will be Ubuntu.