We review the top 10 best Linux distributions for programmers and developers to help with their work and personal projects.
Developers or programmers use various tools and applications for their job or projects. It includes code editors, programming language compilers, add-ons, databases, etc. If you categorise the workflow of a modern developer – it contains a typical workflow as below –
- accessing the code repo
And this typical workflow may need a wide range of tools. A standard list might be like this –
- Code editors
- Simple Text Editors
- Web browsers (all variants for a web developer)
- Database engine
- A local server
- The respective programming language compiler
- Monitoring or profiling tools (executables or network)
Arguably, Linux is the best choice for programming compared to Windows. I am not comparing macOS in this article for several reasons. The primary reason Linux is the best because packages and apps with modern technology come as pre-installed or very easy to install in Linux distributions than Windows.
Hence, in this post, we would like to list the best Linux Distributions for programmers in 2023.
Table of Contents
Top 10 Linux Distributions for Programmers in 2023
1. Fedora Workstation
Perhaps the perfect Linux distribution among this list is Fedora Linux. Its default workstation edition for desktop brings an authentic GNOME desktop experience with its choice of packages.
Fedora Linux default installation gives you all major development packages out of the box. They include PHP, OpenJDK, PostgreSQL, Django, Ruby on Rails, Ansible, etc.
Installing additional applications such as Code editors and other packages are super simple with the dnf package manager. You can also take advantage of Software, an app store where you can search and install applications with just a click of a button.
Fedora Linux supports Snap and Flatpak, and that gives you more flexibility. You can also take advantage of the RPM Fusion repository in Fedora. The RPM Fusion repo gives you access to many free and non-free packages. Fedora Linux doesn’t want to include these packages in their main repo for license and other obvious reasons.
You can check out the latest Fedora Linux on their official website below.
2. Ubuntu Linux
The second Linux distribution in this list is Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu Linux is the most used Linux distribution today on servers and desktops. Ubuntu provides a long-term support release with five years of official support (plus another five years of maintenance support) and two short-term releases per year for power users.
Due to its popularity, all the latest packages and application vendors provide Ubuntu (.deb) variants. The popularity also brings massive support in forums and documentation, perfect for developers, especially when you are stuck with errors during the development phase. Learn more about Ubuntu at the below link.
openSUSE is one of the most stable and professionally built Linux distributions used in critical systems worldwide. This Linux Distribution is a go-to solution for enterprise-level workloads, including desktops, servers and thin clients.
It has some advantages over Ubuntu and Fedora. First, it has two variants – Leap and Tumbleweed. The openSUSE Leap is a long-term support release (LTS) that provides up-to-date stability. The openSUSE Tumbleweed is a rolling release software that features bleeding edge packages.
If you need the latest packages and hardware support for your development, then Tumbleweed is your choice. If you need stability and a longer-running system with low maintenance, choose openSUSE Leap.
One of the advantages of using openSUSE for your development work is its package manager YaST. You can automate many activities with ease using the YaST package manager.
On top of that, the openSUSE software delivery method is outstanding. Its software portal is on the web, which you can visit, search for a package and click install.
If you are a little experienced in Linux compared to the new users, choose openSUSE for your development work.
4. Manjaro Linux
Manjaro Linux is an Arch Linux-based distribution that makes Arch installation easy. It is based on Arch Linux but brings several features such as a GUI installer like Ubuntu or Linux Mint, pamac installer, its curated repositories and more. Manjaro comes in three primary desktop flavours – GNOME, KDE Plasma and Xfce to cater to almost all user bases.
If you want Arch Linux and its rolling release package base for your development needs but do not want to get into the hassles of installing vanilla Arch, Manjaro is your perfect choice.
5. Arch Linux
While Manjaro and other Arch-based easy installation Linux distributions are out there, you may still want to get your hands dirty with the vanilla Arch installation with your custom desktop.
This is more for power developers or programmers who want more control and a custom Linux operating system built for projects or needs. In those cases, you may want to install Arch Linux with your favourite desktop to set up your development operating system.
Suppose you are experienced in Arch Linux and computers in general. In that case, this is the best choice among all because it gives you complete control over each package in your custom build Linux operating system.
6. Pop OS
The Pop OS (represented as Pop!_OS) was developed by computer manufacturer System76 for their series of hardware. Pop OS is free and open-source, based on Ubuntu. It follows the Ubuntu release cycle for its base while bringing additional tweaks and packages customised for users.
Pop OS is perfect for programmers because it natively supports many programming languages based on Ubuntu. It markets itself as popular among computer scientists and programmers for its curated software centre, which has a dedicated section featuring applications for development and programming.
On top of that, the COSMIC desktop (customised GNOME desktop) in Pop OS gives a unique experience to programmers with auto-tiling, a lovely colour palette, native dark mode and a wide range of settings.
If you need an Ubuntu base and want a stable programmer-friendly Linux distribution, then choose Pop OS.
7. KDE Neon
If you are a developer who feels comfortable in the KDE Plasma desktop and wants a Qt-based development environment, then KDE Neon is perfect for you.
KDE Neon is a Linux distribution based on the Ubuntu LTS version with the latest KDE Plasma desktop and KDE Framework packages. So, in KDE Neon, you get Ubuntu LTS stability with bleeding-edge KDE packages with Qt.
This is a perfect Linux Distribution if you need a fast system with out-of-the-box applications, a friendly user interface and huge community support.
Debian GNU/Linux needs no introduction. Debian’s stable branch is the base of Ubuntu and all its derivatives. Hence it is one of the primary and stable Linux. And it is perfect for your development environment because it gives you ultimate stability with multi-year support.
Although, Debian’s stable branch is slightly conservative in adopting the latest packages. Debian maintainers carefully check and merge packages because the entire world (well, almost) depends on Debian stability.
It is a perfect programming environment for advanced users and sysadmins if you want a stable and long-running dev environment with low maintenance effort.
9. Kali Linux
The Kali Linux is developed by Offensive Security and primarily targets ethical hackers and penetration testers looking for network vulnerabilities. It comes with tons of hacking tools and applications pre-installed.
It can be a perfect Linux distribution for programmers and developers if you are experienced enough. Go for Kali Linux if you are well versed with Linux and have experience navigating errors and dependencies.
10. Fedora Labs Options
And the final Linux Distribution in this list is a combination of Linux Distributions from Fedora Linux.
Fedora Labs provides specially curated Linux Distributions for programmers, scientists and students with pre-loaded applications, respective packages and utilities. Many people are unaware of these, and when appropriately configured, they can act as perfect ready-made Linux distribution for you.
Here’s a summary of them.
- Combination of Scientific and numerical open-source tools with KDE Plasma desktop.
- Application list includes –
- GNU Scientific Library for C/C++
- MATLAB Compatible MGNU Octave
- Maxima Computer Algebra System
- Gnuplot for drawing 2D and 3D graphs
- Pandas Python library for data science
- Packages for Java and R programming languages
- Learn more about Fedora Scientific and download it here.
Fedora COMP NEURO
- Open source neuroscience applications and packages with GNOME Desktop environment. Learn more and download it here.
Fedora Robotics Suite
- Perfect Linux distribution combines the best open-source robotics applications and packages targeted to beginner and experienced Robotics scientists and programmers.
- Learn more and download it here.
These Fedora Labs options can be perfect Linux distributions for programming projects or working in specific science fields.
So, how do you choose your favourite among this list of best Linux Distributions for programmers?
If you are unsure and want a development system up and running with minimal effort, go for Fedora Workstation or Ubuntu.
If you have spare time or want more control over your system, like experimenting and being comfortable with occasional errors, then go for Arch Linux-based systems.
Pop OS is also a good choice for new developers in the Linux ecosystem. For specific needs, go to the Fedora Labs options.
I hope this list of best Linux Distributions for programmers in 2023 will guide you on choosing your favourite Linux distributions for programming and development.