Is Linux harder to use than Windows or macOS? No. You may not have access to all the same applications, but there’s a reason Linux has become dominant on supercomputers, servers, and even Mars-bound rovers.
Linux is often the best tool for the job, and so can your laptop. There are several areas where Linux is often easier than Windows and macOS.
1. Learning for the first time
Many aspects of Linux-based desktops are actually simpler than their for-profit proprietary counterparts. Consider the Windows Start menu, for example, which isn’t particularly intuitive. It’s a set of four squares representing the Windows logo, a trademark, not something that’s obviously associated with launching apps.
And when you open the Start menu, an abundance of on-screen information suddenly appears to you. When not overwhelming, some of this information can be confusing. In Windows 11, the app icons you see aren’t even necessarily already installed on your machine.
On Linux, an application launcher might be intuitively labeled “Applications” or, if the launcher handles more than applications, “Activities”, as in the screenshot above. Similarly, compare the GNOME File Manager to Windows Explorer, and the contrast will give you an idea of how simple Linux is.
As with everything on Linux, your experience depends on which flavor you use. Platforms such as GNOME and the elementary operating system are relatively easy to learn for new computer users. Some distros, like Linux Mint, manage to deliver a less cluttered and less cluttered Windows-like experience than that provided by Windows.
2. Managing and opening local files
Most Linux programs handle local files very well. If you want to import photos from your camera, organize playlists from your personal library of MP3s, or watch downloaded MP4s, there are plenty of apps to help you get the job done.
Problems arise when trying to interact with online services, as these generally don’t target Linux as a platform to support. Consider, for example, the number of e-book readers available for Linux, but the lack of support from Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook.
If you have a huge library of Kindle or Nook books, you can read them in a web browser, there just aren’t any native apps. Still, if you want to preserve your privacy by reducing your digital footprint on the web, the lack of support from these companies is actually a plus.
This differs from other operating systems, on desktop computers or mobile devices, which push you more and more towards online services. They often retain the ability to open local files, but not necessarily as default behavior.
Many people find themselves installing cross-platform FOSS apps even on Windows and macOS to play local media files simply because they are often the best tools for the job.
3. Stay private
When you use Linux, you don’t have to go out of your way to stay private from the company or community that provided your operating system. In most versions of Linux, nothing you do is tracked anywhere other than your device. This means that everything you do outside of a web browser is private.
Nobody knows what you do on your PC, including the apps you install. You do not need to create an account. You don’t need a product key. For the vast majority of apps, there isn’t even anonymous usage data downloaded in the background.
Once you open a browser, all bets are off. Most versions of Linux don’t offer special protection against the myriad ways web platforms monitor everything you do (although there are privacy-focused distros that do). But if you’re making the effort to bring more of your digital life offline, Linux isn’t keeping tabs on what you’re doing.
4. Encrypt a disk
Reducing online tracking isn’t the only way to protect your data. If someone gets their hands on your computer, they can easily access files on your hard drive or USB drive even if your computer is locked, unless you encrypt that information.
On Windows and Mac, you need to find and sometimes pay for specialized software to encrypt a disk. You may then be required to use the same software to access your data.
On Linux, this feature is pre-installed. You can encrypt a disk with the default partition manager, such as GNOME disks. These programs can encrypt flash drives, portable hard drives, or secondary drives on your computer.
If you want to encrypt your operating system and all personal files on your computer, this is an option you have when installing most Linux distributions.
5. Install or reinstall your operating system
Most versions of Linux are very quick to install. It’s kind of a prerequisite, because most people don’t use Linux on devices that come with Linux already pre-installed. As a side effect, Linux is also easy to reinstall if something goes wrong.
This contrasts with Windows, which most people never install for themselves. The Windows installer is functional, but it’s less polished than many Linux installers and takes a lot longer to get the job done.
You also have to jump through more hoops to get your hands on a Windows install image, and you’ll probably also need a product license if you legally want to do more than just test things.
6. Save money
Windows and macOS software usually cost money. Some require you to pay upfront or make a purchase after experiencing a free trial. Others may insist on a monthly or annual subscription.
Those that don’t cost money usually come with ads or other forms of tracking, contributing to a culture where your ability to stay private is correlated with how much you’re willing to spend.
The vast majority of Linux software is free or paid. Need to write a paper for class? Are you working on an animation project? Programming a video game? Play video files? Batch rename thousands of photos at once? Do you take care of some addictive games? You can do all of this on Linux for free, legally, without compromising your privacy or unintentionally installing a virus.
7. DIY and customize
Linux is a DIYer’s dream come true. You can customize your computer as much as you want. Depending on your desktop environment, you don’t need to install third-party software to do this.
This means you can change the theme of your desktop and applications. You can change colors, adjust fonts, increase the number of panels, and splash your wallpaper with widgets.
You can also remove software components you don’t need, which speeds up your computer’s speed and reduces the risk of security vulnerabilities in parts of your computer you don’t even use.
Save yourself the headache and just use Linux
In the early days of Linux, most things were a little hard to do. You may have had to create your own drivers, compile your own applications, and learn how to do things that weren’t documented. A lot of things just didn’t work out.
This is no longer the case. Linux is fully functional and is simply a better option for many tasks. And it gets both better and easier to use year after year.
You may have heard of the term “Linux” on the Internet. But what does it mean and why is it important in the open source world?
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