/>
X

Six Clicks: 2014's top Linux desktops

After years of talk about the Linux desktop becoming important, it finally is. But thanks to Chromebooks and Android PCs, it's not the Linux desktop we expected.
01chromebookpixel.jpg
1 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Chromebook Pixel

For years, we've talked about the Linux desktop becoming important. Now, it finally is. But thanks to Chromebooks and Android PCs, it's not the Linux desktop we expected. Instead of desktop distributions from smaller groups such as Arch or Mint, or companies such as Canonical, we're seeing Chrome OS and Android, thanks to Google and top vendors such as Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo -- who are robbing market share from the moribund Windows PC industry.

In 2014, I see us moving to a new world of Linux desktops: Cloud-based Linux distributions, such as Chrome OS and Peppermint ; mobile-Linux distros, such as Android and Ubuntu Touch; and "traditional" fat-client Linux desktops such as Fedora and openSUSE with their newest relative: The SteamOS based gaming Linux.

So, while the Chromebook Pixel, the Rolls-Royce of Chromebooks, pictured above may not be selling in huge numbers, inexpensive Chromebooks are selling well.

02chromeos.png
2 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Chrome OS

Google argues that all you really need for a 21st century desktop is a Web browser, software-as-a-service (SaaS) for programs, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) for storage, and just enough Linux to make it go. Put it all together and what you get is Chrome OS. Considering the flood of Chromebooks from every major PC vendor, Google seems to be on to something.

Under the hood, Chrome OS is built on Gentoo Linux. Only the most sharp-eyed users would ever know it. For Chrome OS users -- and there are millions of them now -- it's all about the Chrome Web browser and cloud services.

03acer-android-pc-620x482.jpg
3 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Android Desktop

Today, we think of Android as the number one smartphone and tablet operating system. Four big-name companies think Android can be much more. Indeed, they think Android can be a top desktop operating system. Those companies include Lenovo and HP, the world's number one and number two PC manufacturers, respectively. The other two companies? They're AMD and Intel. Heck, even Microsoft seems to be thinking about adding Android to Windows devices!

2014: The year of the Android desktop!? It could happen!

04fedora.png
4 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Fedora 20 with GNOME

For programmers, the number one desktop Linux remains Red Hat's community Linux distribution, Fedora. While I'm still no fan of its default GNOME interface, GNOME has slowly gained back many of its former supporters with each minor release that often includes big improvements.

opensuse13-1kde-v1.png
5 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

openSUSE 13.1 with KDE

OpenSUSE with KDE is a rock-solid Linux with a great interface.  While I had trouble with KDE 4.x at first, I've gotten to like this desktop over the years. The latest version works well for me.

06steam-600x350.png
6 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

SteamOS

For almost Linux's entire 20-plus year history, people have complained about the open source operating system not having enough games. That was then. This is now.

Today, thanks to Valve's SteamOS, a Debian-based Linux targeted primarily for games and entertainment, we have the first PC operating system that's designed to be both a gaming and workspace operating system.

While most users will only see Steam-based games, worker-bees can also use its GNOME interface for their jobs.

07mint-cinammon.png
7 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Linux Mint with Cinnamon

Personally, Linux Mint with the Cinnamon desktop is my favorite Linux desktop. Cinnamon takes the best features of the older GNOME 2.x, adds in some goodness from other interfaces, and the result is the best old-school Windows, Icons, Menu, and Pointer (WIMP) desktop out there on any currently shipping operating system.

When people tell me they have to finally move off Windows XP or 7, and they're ready to give Linux a try -- and if they're ready for something new and different, I suggest they try Ubuntu with its Unity interface. But, if they want a desktop that feels a lot like XP's desktop, I'll point them to Mint and Cinnamon every time.

Related Galleries

Linux turns 30: The biggest events in its history so far
05-debian.jpg

Related Galleries

Linux turns 30: The biggest events in its history so far

31 Photos
Say hello to the early days of web browsers
netscape-shutterstock-189041855.jpg

Related Galleries

Say hello to the early days of web browsers

9 Photos
Parallels Toolbox 5.0 for Windows and Mac, in pictures
Mac Dashboard

Related Galleries

Parallels Toolbox 5.0 for Windows and Mac, in pictures

12 Photos
Parallels Toolbox 4.5 for PCs, M1 and Intel Macs
Parallels Toolbox

Related Galleries

Parallels Toolbox 4.5 for PCs, M1 and Intel Macs

39 Photos
Parallels Toolbox 4 for Windows and Mac
parallels-toolbox-show-desktop-macos-screenshot

Related Galleries

Parallels Toolbox 4 for Windows and Mac

10 Photos
How to perform a clean install of Windows 10: Here's a step-by-step checklist
00-before-you-start.jpg

Related Galleries

How to perform a clean install of Windows 10: Here's a step-by-step checklist

17 Photos
Linux survival guide: These 21 applications let you move easily between Linux and Windows
apps-for-linux-and-windows.jpg

Related Galleries

Linux survival guide: These 21 applications let you move easily between Linux and Windows

22 Photos