Best Linux Distro For Students: Comparison & Analysis..!!

This article is for students looking to switch to Linux and are in the process of selecting the best distro to install in their machines.
Let’ go ahead and explore what choice we have and analyze their differences in an attempt to choose the best Linux Distro for Students.

Let us start by look at the short version of the answer for those of you in a hurry to start your Linux quest!

The Short Version Of The Answer

Overall best distro for Students: Linux Mint

Best distro for Social Science Students: Linux Mint

Best distro for Arts Students: Ubuntu Studio

Best distro for Students in Engineering and Technology: Linux Mint

Best distro for Students in Natural Sciences: Ubuntu

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 the above distros are chosen as the best for Students along with some valuable resources for getting started with your Linux quest!

Are you a Computer Science Student?

If you are a computer science student, we have written a separate article for you. There we have analysed the best distros for various sub-categories of computer science students such as

  • Majors in application software development
  • Majors in Operating System development
  • Students who want to get into Academic Research
  • Students who aspire to become Linux Specialists

You can find the article in the link below!

Best Linux Distros For Computer Science Students!

Let’s get back to the focus of this article which is to analyse the broader category of students in general.

Linux & The Desktop Arena

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

  • stability
  • performance
  • support &
  • security

If you plan to do all of your productive activities over on your next Linux distro then we suggest reading the article we wrote recently given in the link below where we have analyzed and compared several options in order to figure out what is the best distro for workstation purposes.

Best Linux Distro For Workstation: Analysis and Comparison!!

The Analysis

If you have done some research on finding the best Linux distro for Computer Science Students, you will find that most answers around the internet will say go for Ubuntu. While this is true for some students, this is not true for all the students with different goals and majors!

That is because a distro that is the best for programming might not be the best for other factors such as ease of use, stability, customizability, etc. Hence, we need to choose a distro based on the end goal of the student. Our goal of this analysis is to find out what factors are important for different categories of students and find the best distro that can fulfil these needs.

Categories of Students

Below are the 4 main categories of students

  • Students who are studying Social Sciences such as Economics, Business etc, who need an open-source & stable operating system to do their homework, assignments, and projects in
  • Students who are studying Arts who need an operating system to do their creative work in
  • Students who are studying Engineering & Technology who need a good operating system with support for the latest tools they might need for their projects
  • Students who are studying Natural Sciences who need a customizable operating system to run their experiments in

Let us go ahead and look at each of these categories individually and have a look at the needs of each category and figure out the best distros that can match those needs!

Category#1: Social Science Students

Social sciences include the following disciplines

  • international relations,
  • Political science,
  • Psychology,
  • Public policy,
  • Business and Administration,
  • Communication Sciences, etc.

If you belong to any of these disciplines, then this section is for you! The fields may be different, but the kind of work they do on a computer is very similar to each other. Let’s see what those computing needs of social science students in the next section.

Typical Work Done By Social Science Students On A Computer

  • Making documents,
  • Researching online,
  • Reading and annotating pdfs,
  • Shopping,
  • Blogging on a website, etc

All students will, of course, spend a healthy amount of time relaxing watching movies and listening to music on their computers! These type of work gives rise to the following needs from an operating system.

Important Needs of a Social Science Student

  • Good word processor
  • Good Spreadsheet maker
  • Good Presentation maker
  • Good pdf editor
  • Support for your favourite browser

The first 3 of the above list, i.e. a good office suite of apps in Linux is lagging behind Windows primarily because the MS Office Suite is the best in the market and Microsoft still haven’t ported their apps to be able to run on Linux. But then MS Office is a paid software and students find it expensive and it is not open source either!

So, unless you can get a student license for free through your university, you have no other options but to go with the next best options. Even if you can buy a license, on Linux you will be stuck with using the web-based version of the MS suite of apps.

Being said that, on Linux, you have options like Open Office, Libre Office and WP Office which will cover most of your needs as a student, so you will probably be able to survive without the fancy features of MS Office apps! There is also google docs which can be used for collaborating with your students!

Best Distro for Social Science Students: Linux Mint

If the above-mentioned needs match you perfectly, then what you need is a beginner-friendly work station distro with good online support and focus on stability! These needs match perfectly with the needs of a general-purpose workstation, so we suggest you go with Linux Mint! Linux Mint is a community-supported distro, based on Ubuntu’s stable release with some changes to make the life of students like you easier. The features that can help social science students include the following

  • Ease of use through graphical UI apps to install and remove software so that you can avoid using the command line for 99% of your typical needs
  • Nice Taskbar apps like Pomodoro that can be helpful in improving your productivity
  • Comes preloaded with open source word processing, presentation and spreadsheet apps
  • Highly resource-efficient to improve the battery life of your laptops
  • Aesthetics and Desktop environment similar to Windows users, to make the switch easier.

If the term “Desktop Environment” feels new to you we suggest reading the article below to get up to speed in another 5 mins!

Linux Distros vs Desktop Environments: Differences Explained!

One last thing I would like to mention here is, although Linux can do everything a Windows PC or a Mac can, if you don’t mind using closed-source software and you have the budget to pay the premium, I would recommend going for a Windows machine or a Mac as they simply do the tasks (mentioned in the previous sub-section) a lot better primarily because of the MS office suite of apps. As much as I love Linux, this is an operating system targeted towards pleasing the tech community and Linux is still in the beginning stages when it comes to pleasing general users like yourself!

Category#2: Arts Students

Arts include the following disciplines

  • Fashion
  • Architecture
  • Graphics design
  • Theatre and Dance
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Digital arts

If you belong to any of these disciplines, then this section is for you! The fields may be different, but the kind of work they do on a computer is very similar to each other. Let’s see what those computing needs of Arts students in the next section.

Typical work done by Arts Students on a Computer

  • Making diagrams on the computer,
  • Editing music and videos,
  • Writing reports,
  • making presentations, etc

All students will, of course, spend a healthy amount of time relaxing watching movies and listening to music on their computers! These type of work gives rise to the following needs from an operating system.

Needs of Arts Students

  • Support for graphics cards you might have
  • Support for the latest edition of the video editing software
  • Support for good drawing apps
  • Office suite of apps.

We have already discussed about the office suite of apps in the previous section, so let’s go and have a look at the other needs!

Regarding software such as video editing and audio recording, Linux does not lag too much behind the other operating systems! This is all thanks to software such as OBS studio and Da Vinci Resolve! Other famous software in Linux that might be of interest to you are the following

  • kdenlive
  • Openshot,
  • FFMPEG,
  • Ardour,
  • Blender,
  • Inkscape,
  • GIMP, etc.

Since graphics card manufacturers usually give out closed-source/proprietary driver software, they are not very popular in the Linux community! There are many distros which do not have official support for such closed-source/proprietary drivers due to the philosophical conflicts. If you don’t mind using proprietary software, then it is a good idea to go with a distro which officially supports the graphics card you have. Let’s see the distros that best satisfy the above needs in the next section!

Best Distro for Arts Students: Ubuntu Studio

There are 2 good options here for you to try out

  1. Ubuntu Studio
  2. AV Linux

Ubuntu Studio is basically ubuntu bundled with a lot of apps targeting creative people. This is a very good choice if you are picking your first Linux distro.

AV Linux on the other hand also comes with a big bunch of useful software along with some optimizations up its sleeve like a custom kernel with IRQ threading enabled for low-latency audio performance!

I have written a separate article on content creation distros where I have compared both AV Linux and Ubuntu along with their pros and cons which you can find in the link below!

Best Linux Distro for Content Creation: Comparison & Analysis!

To summarize the results of that article

Overall best content creation distro: Ubuntu Studio

Ubuntu Studio is chosen as the overall best because

  • Ubuntu is a popular distro, as such most of the software makers provide official support for Ubuntu-based distributions and
  • Ubuntu distro comes bundled with most of the applications listed in this article which makes it the perfect distro for any type of content creation be it audio video or written content
Best Content Creation Distro for Performance: AV Linux

AV Linux is chosen as the best for performance because of the use of customized Linux kernel which focusses on CPU performance and low latency audio recording!

Best Content Creation Distro For Beginners to Linux: Ubuntu Studio

Beginners are going to need online support at some point during their initial period no matter what distro they are choosing. Ubuntu has the largest online community and hence Ubuntu Studio is chosen as the best distro for beginners to Linux who are into content creation!

Category#3: Engineering & Technology Students

Engineering and Technology involves the following disciplines

  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering,
  • TeleCommunication Engineering,
  • Information Technology,
  • Mechanical Engineering,
  • Civil Engineering, etc

If you belong to any of these categories then this section is for you!

If you belong to the Computer Science arena, then I suggest the following article I have written on that topic.

There I have analysed the best distros for various sub-categories of computer science students such as

  • Majors in application software development
  • Majors in Operating System development
  • Students who want to get into Academic Research
  • Students who aspire to become Linux Specialists

You can find the article in the link below!

Best Linux Distros For Computer Science Students!

Let’s get back to the other engineering disciplines and analyse the needs to choose the best distro for them!

Typical Work Done By Engineering & Technology Students

Unlike the first 2 categories, the engineering and technology category varies a lot between each discipline. Hence the typical work done also varies a lot between each discipline! Some of the common types of work done include the following

  • Making technical diagrams: These can be
    • Schematics and PCB design for Electrical and Electronics Students
    • Blueprints and Floor plans for civil engineers
    • CAD diagrams for Mechanical engineers, etc.
  • Making reports, presentations, etc

All students will, of course, spend a healthy amount of time relaxing watching movies and listening to music on their computers! These type of work gives rise to the following needs from an operating system.

Needs of Engineering & Technology Students

  • Software suitable for the given type of work
  • Good office suite of apps

Best Distro for Engineering Students: Linux Mint

There is no Linux distro that comes preloaded with all the necessary apps needed by Engineering Students yet. That being said, most of the mainstream Linux distros will have support for all the apps available on Linux. Hence let’s make our decision based on other factors like stability, support etc. Hence our problem of choosing the best distro for Engineering students boils down to choosing the best distro of a workstation!

For Workstation, I would recommend Linux Mint, the distro that won the comparison and analysis in our other article mentioned below!

Best Linux Distro For Workstation: Analysis and Comparison!!

Category#4: Natural Sciences Students

The Natural Sciences discipline has the following fields

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology, etc

And other sub-disciplines inside those 3 broad fields.

Typical Work Done By Natural Science Students

  • Designing and Running experiments,
  • Making simulations,
  • Result processing,
  • Reports, presentations, etc.

All students will, of course, spend a healthy amount of time relaxing watching movies and listening to music on their computers! These type of work gives rise to the following needs from an operating system.

Needs of Natural Science Students: Ubuntu

  • Good simulation software like MATLAB, Octave etc
  • Support for your favourite IDE of your favourite programming language
  • Good office suite of apps

These days, the majority of work done on a computer in the natural sciences field involve writing programs to run simulations or to process the results of experiments!

Best Distro for Natural Science Students: Ubuntu

The above needs are very similar to the needs of computer science students and we have already analysed the needs of computer science students in our previous article and our analysis gave Ubuntu to be the best Linux distro for Simulation and Programming purposes!

You can read the analyses in the link below. Particularly, I suggest reading the section named “Category#1: Application Software Development

Best Linux Distros For Computer Science Students!

Overall Best Distro For Students: Linux Mint

As we saw at the beginning of the article, some important factors are common across all types of work done by all categories of students. These include

  • stability
  • performance
  • support &
  • security

Hence if you ask me to select a distro that will be the best for all types of students, we would encourage you to go and try out Linux Mint as this distro came out on top of our analysis to choose the best distro for Workstation. Here is the brief view of the results of that analysis.

Rank

Distro

Avg Score

1

Linux Mint

9.01

2

Ubuntu

8.88

3

CentOS

8.74

4

Debian

8.6

5

OpenSUSE

8.24

6

Fedora

7.66

7

Arch Linux

7.5

As you can see from the table above the competition is pretty close. We suggest you take these results with a grain of salt as this is analysis is done by an individual (me) and every rating given above is our take on things. Hence the distro you choose based on this analysis may or may not be perfect for your specific use case.

Also, these ranks are based on the assumption that our imaginary user will not be an expert in Linux and his/her focus will be on productivity rather than on maintenance.

If you personally don’t mind a little bit of tinkering and love the latest Linux software then Fedora would be a good choice for you.

Or if you have a DIY attitude then Arch Linux might be a better choice for you!

You can read the entire Analysis in the link below if you wish to know how these distros got the points mentioned in the above table.

Best Linux Distro For Workstation: Analysis and Comparison!!

Summary

Overall best distro for Students: Linux Mint

Best distro for Social Science Students: Linux Mint

Best distro for Arts Students: Ubuntu Studio

Best distro for Students in Engineering and Technology: Linux Mint

Best distro for Students in Natural Sciences: Ubuntu

To conclude, we would like to stress the point that we have no personal connection with any of these distros and we have tried our best to be unbiased throughout this article!!

And with that, I will conclude this article!

I hope you guys enjoyed this article and learned something useful.

If you liked the post, feel free to share this post with your friends and colleagues!

Related Articles

Here are some of our other articles that might interest you!

A Step By Step Plan To Learn Linux..!

Best Linux Distro For Workstation: Analysis and Comparison!!

A Complete Guide For Choosing A Distro For Your Computer’s Specs..!!

Best Distro For Software And Hardware Support: An Analysis.!!

Distro-Hopping, What, Why & How Explained!

Reasons Behind The Existence of SO MANY Linux Distros: An Analysis!

EI

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