Top Linux Distros for Software Developers

There are a wide variety of Linux distros to choose from, each with different features that may appeal to software developers.

If you’re ready to try Linux for programming, the next step is to choose which Linux distribution (aka distro) to use. In general, Linux operating systems are flexible, they offer a variety of tools and emulate a wide variety of environments, and they’re backed by active communities. But specifically, each Linux distro has its own features that may appeal more to you as a software developer. Here are the most popular Linux distros, based on users who have registered on and some of the reasons software developers choose them.


Ubuntu is the most used Linux distro, utilized by thousands of technology companies around the world. It’s lightweight, and you can run it natively on a PC, Mac, or a virtual machine (VM). Ubuntu also offers a wide variety of development tools and libraries, and features are constantly updated. The distro also claims to provide the smoothest transition from development to production. Another advantage is the large Ubuntu community that’s there when you need support.

Learn more and download Ubuntu.

Debian GNU/Linux

Debian, the “universal operating system” is popular for its stability and flexibility that allows it to run almost anywhere. Users of this Linux distro also benefit from a wide variety of packages, its .deb package management, an extensive collection of tutorials, and the active Debian community. Debian 9.0, “Stretch,” was released in 2017 and will be supported for 5 years from release.

You can try Debian live before downloading.


Fedora, backed by Red Hat, is a stable operating system with a frequent release cycle allows it to stay on the cutting edge. Advantages of Fedora for developers include Flatpack support, which is a distro-agnostic platform that enables you to offer apps to desktop Linux users regardless of the Linux distro they use. This eliminates any delay from distro maintainers testing apps before they’re offered to users.

Learn more and download Fedora.


CentOS is free, community-driven software derived from the sources of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. If you are developing enterprise applications, it may be the choice for your ISV. It features a continuous release repository and extensive resources.

Learn more and download CentOS

Arch Linux

Arch Linux features a package manager that allows you to customize installation with only the packages you choose, it reduces the chances that unnecessary applications interfering with your work. Arch Linux also features a rolling release, so it’s always up to date. In addition, the Arch community includes experienced programmers who are willing to help you get past any hurdles you encounter.

Learn more and download Arch Linux.

Gentoo Linux

Gentoo warns that it works a little differently than other Linux distros, but it provides guidance and resources to that help you with the installation. There’s no installation program, so you can customize it in any way you want — you have complete control. Gentoo is also actively developed, with quickly integrated patches and documentation updated daily.

Learn more and download Gentoo.


The openSUSE Linux distro has two versions: Tumbleweed and Leap. Tumbleweed features a rolling release with the newest Linux packages, and Leap is openSUSE’s regular-release with guaranteed stability. A unique feature of openSUSE is its YaST configuration and installation tool.

Learn more and download Tumbleweed or Leap.

The Choice Comes Down to You

A major factor in the choice of Linux distro is your personal preference. You may try one of the most popular Linux distros but find that you prefer one that’s less often used. Your experience with Linux will also factor into which distro is suited to you. With the benefits Linux can offer — including flexibility, stability, and support — it’s worth evaluating your options. 

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.

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Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.