I have been mulling this over and I have come to a conclusion, most of the linux operating system recommendations around the internet are awful. All too often I see operating systems being recommended that are just not ideal for a new user who is unfamiliar with linux.
So what operating systems would I recommend should someone ask me about linux and what do I look for in recommending an operating system? Well first and foremost it needs to have a user friendly website, downloading and install process. I also prefer to recommend stable bases (I am not talking about gamers here, just friends and family who may inquire and have fairly simple computing needs). Good support is also important and how to get support should be clearly outlined on the website.
So with that, here are the linux based operating systems that I tend to recommend.
Zorin is Ubuntu based, has a very well designed website and a familiar desktop paradigm that any casual computer user will be familiar with, as well as the ability to change the desktop paradigm with one or two clicks to suit a user’s individual preferences. The website also has wonderful guides on how to get started with Zorin under a section called “Help” whose function is intuitive. A great place to start for any new linux user.
Elementary ticks all the boxes with a well designed website, clearly marked support section, and is very stable being also based on Ubuntu. It does have a different desktop paradigm but it is a very intuitive one. Elementary OS is also more than simply a linux based operating system, it is also a tightly focused ecosystem with a wide array of applications developed specifically for Elementary. Not many customisation options but for the type of user I am talking about that is not a huge issue.
An official Ubuntu flavour built on the user focused Budgie desktop is very user friendly to install and use. The desktop is very intuitive and the operating system comes with a good welcome screen to help new users get started containing links to all the important socials and help forum. Do not under estimate how nice a feature that is for new users.
Ubuntu based and built to be user friendly and familiar to new users, Linux Mint is legendary in its stability at this point. It is a simple, no frills desktop experience that will keep on working for years, then you upgrade to a new version and keep on going for more years. A solid workhorse of an operating system.
Linux Lite is something of an underrated operating system as it flies well under the radar of a lot of people, but it is a very reliable and user friendly distro. The website is well designed and it has some very comprehensive documentation available. The desktop will be familiar to most users making it very easy to start using. Very stable too being based on the long term support release of Ubuntu.