Linux is an operating system that has been gaining in popularity for many years. What was once used primarily as an operating system for web servers and supercomputers is slowly but surely making it's way to the personal computer user's desktop. For most desktop users, the idea of using an operating system with it's roots in supercomputing could potentially be somewhat daunting. Luckily for most users, all Linux distributions are not created equally. While they may all share common components, no two distributions are exactly alike. While not all distributions are suitable for newcomers to the Linux landscape, there are some which are perfectly fine for new users to begin their personal journey into the wonderful world of Linux with. So then, which are the best Linux distributions for beginners?
The most commonly recommended "newb"-friendly distribution is hands-down, without a doubt, Ubuntu. Initially released in October of 2004, Ubuntu rapidly rose to prominence within the Linux community for its incredibly simple-and-quick installation, excellent hardware support, and focus on creating a pleasant user experience. As a result of being based on the meticulously maintained Debian Linux distribution, system stability is one of Ubuntu's defining features. Ubuntu's default desktop environment is known as Unity. While not being identical to the Windows or Mac OS X desktops, it provides an experience that should not be foreign to users of either.
Another frequently mentioned starting place for the newer Linux user would be Linux Mint. Primarily a Ubuntu-derivative distribution, Linux Mint also reaps the benefits of being based on a Debian Linux-derivative distribution. However, Linux Mint also comes in a "Linux Mint Debian Edition" derived entirely from Debian. The most noticeable difference between Ubuntu and Linux Mint are the default desktop environments. While Ubuntu uses Unity, Linux Mint uses Cinnamon. Based on GNOME Shell, Cinnamon provides a desktop environment that should immediately be familiar to any computer user familiar with the Windows desktop.
Finally, our last distribution is elementary OS. Also a derivative of Ubuntu, elementary offers many of the same advantages of other Linux distributions mentioned here. The elementary OS design philosophy is based primarily on streamlining the user interface, reducing the necessity of terminal usage, and reducing software bloat caused by unnecessary software dependencies . The beautiful default desktop environment is known as Pantheon and will be most familiar to users migrating from Mac OS X.
In conclusion, most modern Linux distributions are much more accessible to the average computer user than they have been at any other point in the past. However, while some people may be willing to dive head first into one of the more complicated distributions, most new Linux users simply aren't ready for the daunting task of installing distributions such as Arch Linux, Gentoo Linux, or even Debian Linux. Generally speaking though, no matter which route you choose to go, the best Linux distributions for beginners are the ones that give new users the ability to get their feet wet with Linux in the quickest, easiest, and most familiar way possible. If you aren't sure that you've chosen the correct distribution for you, always make sure to give it a shot in a Virtual Machine before making any changes to your actual computer.