This article is for those of you who are Linux-users/Distro-hoppers who are trying to find the perfect distro to do Front-end development in. Let’ go ahead and explore what choice we have and analyze their differences in an attempt to choose the best Linux Distro for Front-end Development activities.
Let’s start by look at the short version of the answer for those of you in a hurry to start your Front-end development activities!
The Short Version Of The Answer
Winner: Ubuntu and its derivatives
Runner up: Fedora
That is just the short version of the answer, let’s go ahead and look at the longer and more informative version and learn what were the factors considered, what other choices you have and see why Ubuntu is chosen as the best distro for Front-end developers along with some valuable resources for getting started with your Front-end development quests!
Linux has already captured a huge percentage of the server market and it is the most dominant player there. As Linux is getting more and more famous lots of distros are being developed to enhance the desktop support for Linux.
The setup programmers would need for coding will be radically different than the setup artists and video editors would need for content creation and editing! Hence some factors that are considered important for using Linux as a workstation depends upon the kind of work that you are planning to do with it.
But some factors are common across all types of work. These include
- support &
If you plan to do all of your productive activities over on your next Linux distro then I suggest reading the article I wrote recently given in the link below where I have analyzed and compared several options in order to figure out what is the best distro for workstation purposes.
If you are going to be doing lot of your development activities in Python then I suggest reading this other article I wrote on that topic!
The Needs of a Front-end Developer
The basic needs of a Front-end programmer include the following.
- A good code editor: VS code, Atom, Sublime Text or Brackets.
- A good IDE: Angular IDE, Eclipse, Aptana Studio, ALM or Webstorm IntelliJ
- Packages and libraries, you may need for your project
- Graphic Design tools to make necessary images: Linux does not have support for adobe so you may need to use the cloud version of Adobe products or switch to GIMP and Inkscape for your graphics needs
- Virtualization software to test your Front-end apps on several operating systems: On Linux you have support for VirtualBox and GNOME Boxes
- Source code management software like Git
- DevOps tools like GitLab
The above needs can be fulfilled by all the Linux distros as Linux is a major operating system, as such Linux has all the capabilities needed to develop and run Front-end code! All you need to do is to ensure you have the necessary versions of Frameworks of your choice installed in your distro. One distro is not going to be better than another in terms of how good it executes any given Front-end code as these distros are going to be using the same Linux OS underneath anyways.
Other Important Needs
Official Support for the Latest frameworks
But then we are interested in professional development, and hence we need the latest Front-end frameworks version available as soon as it is released so that we can test out our code with these latest versions. Usually, the official repo’s of most recent distributions will be behind the latest frameworks releases, but we can always download and install the latest versions straight from the framework’s official website! So, this is another need that is not a decision-making factor for us while choosing a distro!
That leaves us with one last important need.
DECISION MAKING FACTOR: Official support for your favourite Front-end IDEs
Not all IDEs are tested extensively on all distributions of Linux before being released. Hence it is a good idea to choose a distro based on what actual distros are actually supported by the developers of your favorite IDE. Since the Linux distro world is huge, the developers of IDEs usually test only on the most popular distros.
The Distro Choices
That leaves us with 3 most popular distro families
- The Debian Family: Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, etc
- The RedHat Family: Fedora and CentOS
- The Arch family: Arch, Manjaro, etc
Reason Ubuntu gets 1st place
Ubuntu is the distro all major IDE companies test their software against and officially support. If you are uncomfortable with their Unity desktop, you can go ahead with one of their other flavors like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, etc. You can read more about these flavors in my other article given below.
Debian is considered to be a distro for advanced users and hence it does not have a big user base. The same goes for other derivatives of Debian which does not have a large user base as Ubuntu. This leaves us with Ubuntu and flavors of Ubuntu as our best bet for IDE compatibility purposes!
Reason Fedora gets 2nd place
Fedora is from the RedHat family, it is used as a testing ground by RedHat to test their latest features before releasing them in their RHEL enterprise edition. Hence Fedora is the most popular distro in terms of support for the latest advancements in the field of Linux. It also has a big user base, only second to Ubuntu. Due to their big user base, this is another distro IDE developers test their software again.
If your Front-end app is supposed to be run from a server or a cloud, then since most of the servers are running RHEL, it makes sense that you use Fedora do develop your app. As a bonus, you get to work with some experimental features months and sometimes even years before you get them in Debian based distros like Ubuntu!
What about Arch and Family?
Arch and its derivatives are all about catering to the needs of advanced users who can tinker their way through problems. Hence the IDE companies don’t invest much of their resources in testing their app in the Arch Ecosystem as the Arch users are proficient enough to solve any problems they might come across.
If you already in love with the distro you are using, then there is no reason in switching just for Front-end development. If you are a beginner to the Linux world then go with Ubuntu or one of its flavors or Linux mint. If you have been around the Linux field for a while and you want to switch from the Debian family of distros like Ubuntu or Mint, then try out Fedora or Cent OS from the RedHat family for your Front-end development. If you are an expert in Linux, then I suggest you try the Arch family and install your own optimized version for doing your Front-end development activities in.
And with that, I will conclude this article!
I hope you guys enjoyed this article and learned something useful.
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Here are some of my other articles that might interest you!