Linux Distribution Chart

For this LJ distro chart, we selected distributions and categories based on suggestions from Linux Journal editors and readers, and gathered the information from each distro's Web site and Linux Journal readers shared their comments, favorite distributions and thoughts about each distro's best use in our readers' poll on We include a few readers' comments here with the chart, but be sure to visit and for many, many more comments and to add your own feedback—we're sure we left out at least a few people's favorites! Note that under the “Best for” category on the chart, all distributions were voted as favorites on both desktops and servers, so in the interest of avoiding repetition, we left those out. Also note that in the on-line readers' poll for “Most Frequently Used Distro”, 2% voted for “other”.

DistributionLatest Stable Release (Date)First ReleaseRelease CycleSupport LifecycleBased onDeveloped bySponsored byPackage FormatPackage ManagementDefault Desktop Environment(s) (Version)Linux KernelDefault FilesystemOfficial PortsDerivative DistributionsMost Frequently Used (Readers' Poll)Best For (Readers' Poll)
Arch Linux2009.08 (08/10/2009)03/11/20023–4 months (follows kernel releases)None (rolling releases)NoneAaron Griffin & CommunityNonetar.gzArch Build System, PackmanNone (user selected2.6.32.3None (user selectedx86, x86-64None7%Ease of upgrade, education, older hardware
CentOS5.4 (10/21/2009)12/20032 years (follows Red Hat Enterprise Linux)7 yearsRed Hat Enterprise Linux (open-source SRPMs)CentOS ProjectNonerpmRPM, YUM, up2dateGNOME (2.16)2.6.18ext3x86, x86-64None2%Ease of installation, proprietary hardware support, security
Debian5.0 “Lenny” (02/14/2009)08/16/20032 years (beginning with 6.0 “Squeeze”)3 yearsNoneDebian ProjectNonedebdpkg, APT, SynapticGNOME (2.22), alternate CDs: KDE, Xfce, LXDE2.6.26ext3x86, Alpha, SPARC, PowerPC, SPARC, PowerPC, ARM, MIPS, Itanium, HP PA-RISC, s/390, AMD64, ARM EABIUbuntu, Knoppix, Damn Small Linux, Linspire, Maemo9%Ease of upgrade, getting support, security
Fedora12 “Constantine” (11/17/2009)11/05/20036 months (approximate)13 months (approximate)Historically: Red Hat LinuxFedora ProjectRed HatrpmRPM, YUM, PackageKitGNOME (2.28), Fedora Spins: KDE, LXDE, Xfce2.6.31.5ext4x86, x86-64, PowerPCRed Hat Enterprise Linux, Yellow Dog Linux, Moblin9%Ease of installation, new users, security
GentooNone (versionless)03/31/2002Rolling releasesNone (rolling releases)NoneGentoo FoundationNoneebuildPortageNone (user selected)2.6.32None (user selected)Stable: x86, x86-64, PA-RISC, PowerPC, SPARC 64 bit, DEC Alpha; Development: MIPS, PS3, SystemZ/s390, ARM, SuperHSabayon4%Education, older hardware, real-time apps
Linux Mint8 “Helena” (11/28/2009)08/27/20066 months (follows Ubuntu)18 months (follows Ubuntu)UbuntuLinux Mint TeamNonedebdpkg, APT, MintInstall/MintUpdateGNOME (2.28); Community: KDE, Xfce, Fluxbox2.6.31ext3x86, x86-64None7%Ease of installation, multimedia, new users
Mandriva2010 (11/03/2009)07/23/19986 months18 months (base updates); 12 months (desktop updates); 24 months (server updates)Historically: Red Hat LinuxMandriva S.A.Mandriva S.A.rpmurpmi/rpmdrakeKDE (4.3.2), GNOME (2.28.1), Xfce & twm2.6.31.12ext4i586, i386, x86-64, PowerPC, MIPS, ARMPCLinuxOS6%Ease of installation, education, new users
Mepis8.0.15 (01/12/2010)05/10/2003Unspecified (6 months to 1 year)UnspecifiedDebian/UbuntuMEPIS LLCMEPIS LLC & Communitydebdpkg, APTKDE (3.5), ext3x86, x86-64SimplyMEPIS, antiX2%Ease of installation, new users, olderhardware
openSUSE11.2 (11/12/2009)03/19948 months2 releases + 2 monthsHistorically: SUSE LinuxopenSUSE ProjectNovellrpmRPM, YaST, ZypperGNOME (2.28), KDE (4.3.1)2.6.31ext4x86, x86-64SUSE Linux Enterprise11% (with SUSE Linux Enterprise)Ease of installation, new users, proprietary hardware support
PCLinuxOS2009.2 (06/30/2009)11/2003UnspecifiedUnspecifiedHistorically: MandrivaPCLinuxOS Development TeamNonerpmAPT-RPM, RPM, SynapticKDE (3.5.10)2.6.16Nonex86None4%Ease of installation, multimedia, new users
Puppy Linux4.3.1 (10/17/2009)06/18/2003UnspecifiedUnspecifiedNonePuppy CommunityPuppy Foundation.pup, .petPetGetJWM/IceWM2.6.30.5SquashFS (ext2)NoneNone1%Ease of installation, new users, older hardware
Red Hat Enterprise Linux5.4 (09/02/2009)03/26/200218–24 months7 yearsFedoraRed HatRed HatrpmRPM, YUMGNOME (2.16)2.6.18ext3IA-32, x86-64, PowerPC, i386, ia64, s390, s390xCentOS1%Getting support, proprietary hardware support, security
Slackware13.0 (08/26/2009)07/16/1993UnspecifiedN/AHistorically: Softlanding Linux SystemPatrick Volkerding & CommunitySlackware Linux, Inc.txz/tgz (tarball)installpkg/upgradepkg (pkgtool)Blackbox, Fluxbox, FVWM, KDE (4.2.14), WMaker, Xfce; Community: GNOME2.6.29.6ext4x86, x86-64, IBM S/39Slam64, SLAX, VectorLinux4%Education, older hardware, security
SUSE Linux Enterprise11 (03/24/2009)03/1994Major: 24–36 months; Service Packs: 9–12 months5–7 yearsopenSUSENovellNovellrpmYaST, ZypperKDE (4.1), GNOME (2.24), JFS, ReiserFSXFSIA-32, x86-64, PowerPC, ItaniumNone11% (with openSUSE)Getting support, proprietary hardware support, security
Ubuntu9.10 “Karmic Koala” (10/29/09); long-term support “Hardy Heron” (04/24/2008)10/20/2004Biannually (April/October)18 months; long-term support: 3 years for desktop, 5 years for serverDebianUbuntu CommunityCanonicaldebdpkg, APT, Synaptic, Ubuntu Software CenterGNOME (2.28)2.6.31; long-term support: 2.6.24ext4; long-term support: ext3x86, x86-64, ARM, SPARCKubuntu (KDE), Edubuntu, Xubuntu (Xfce), Ubuntu Studio, Linux Mint, Crunchbang, Ubuntu Netbook Edition31% (any flavor)Ease of installation, getting support, new users
Yellow Dog6.2 (06/29/2009)1999UnspecifiedWhichever is longer—1 year from launch or 3 months from new versionRHEL, CentOSFixstars SolutionsFixstars SolutionsrpmYUMEnlightenment, GNOME (2.16.0), KDE (3.5.4)2.6.29ext3, JFS, ReiserFSXFSPowerNone0%Gaming, older hardware, proprietary hardware support

Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.