Linux is not just for developers and command line pros

Here's why Linux is an operating system that can be for everyone.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Closeup of Linux penguin on chess board
Georg S/Shutterstock

I'm not a developer. Although, I did study C++ back in the 90s and that was really the extent of it. I did very well in my classes but quickly realized I had no desire to become a developer. And, as everyone knows, if you don't use it, you lose it. It took very little time for my brain to jettison everything I'd learned about C++. 

And I was perfectly okay with that.

It also didn't take me much time to realize I couldn't tolerate the Windows operating system. 

This occurred before my studying C++, so my approach to the open source operating system was very much from a user's perspective. 

The thing was, back when I owned that Pentium 75 computer, I installed Linux over Windows. 

Also: How to choose the right Linux desktop distribution

Once that happened, I realized I had no choice but to learn how to use Linux. And guess what…

Not being a developer didn't hinder me in the least. I'm not saying it helped me, but it certainly didn't prevent me from learning a new operating system. And that was back in the day when Linux was actually a challenge.

These days? Not so much. I would go so far as to say that Linux is just as easy to use as either MacOS or Windows. And as far as reliability and security are concerned, Linux is on par with MacOS and blows Windows out of the water.

But what about this notion that you have to either be a developer or know the command line like the back of your hand in order to use Linux? Is there any truth to that?

In a word, no.

Let me explain.

Also: How to install Linux applications from the command line

You don't have to write Bash scripts or know how to compile software

Once upon a time, this wasn't the case. I remember the old days when I was constantly having to write Bash scripts to get things done. 

One of the first things I had to do was cobble together a Bash script to keep my modem connected to my ISP. That was seriously challenging. And installing new software almost inevitably required compiling. 

Granted, even then the installation from source was most often a combination of the commands ./configure, make, and make install. However, that wasn't exactly as universal as you might think. For example, if you wanted to install a new kernel, the process was considerably more challenging.

Today that's not the case. With modern Linux distributions, there's no need to write Bash scripts or install software from source. Sure, you still can, but it's not required. And compiling software? I haven't had to bother with that for years.

Also: The best Linux distros for programming

Who is Linux truly for then?

The truth of the matter is that Linux is for everyone. You might not have ever experienced the open source operating system, which means it represents a major change. I think it's fairly safe to say most people don't like (or embrace) change.

But even Linux isn't as profound a change as you might expect. Fundamentally, it works just like every other desktop operating system on the market. You use your mouse to click through menus and open software. You use software like web browsers, office suites, email clients, and media players just like you would any operating system. You can drag and drop, manage users, create new folders, and just generally similarly use a computer as you've always done. 

The biggest difference to the end user is in the interfaces, which also happen to be based on traditional and easy-to-understand concepts. There are start menus, application launchers, drag and drop, file managers, system trays, notifications, and so much more that you've already grown accustomed to.

These are not concepts or features geared toward developers or command line experts but, rather, ideas that are fundamental to all operating systems. And so long as you stick with one of the main Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Zorin OS, etc.), you won't have even the slightest problem getting up to speed.

Also: The best Linux distros for beginners: You can do this

After all, I did it back when Linux was actually (and truly) challenging.

Sure, developers use Linux but so too do all types of other people, from designers to family members, to loved ones, to just about anyone who wants to work with an operating system that doesn't suffer the same slings and arrows of an outrageous Windows misfortune.

No matter what you might think, Linux is far easier than you've been led to believe. Although the power of Linux certainly does lend itself to developers and those familiar with the command line, that's not the primary intended audience. Linux is for everyone. If you've been on the fence for some time, let this be what you need to ease you over to the open source way of doing things.

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