When I published the highlights of my journey switching from Windows to Linux on my everyday laptop, I was floored at the engagement it received across all corners of the web. I also voiced an admittedly wrong assumption within the article itself that it wouldn't attract many eyeballs, and yet it became one of my most viewed pieces this year. From where I'm sitting, that tells me a ton of people are interested -- are at least actively curious -- about ditching Windows and making the jump to Linux.
With that in mind, I wanted to present five reasons that may lead you to consider switching. Know that these are subjective, and they're targeted at the average Windows user and not folks who rely on Windows-exclusive applications for a paycheck.
One thing to know right up front: the modern Linux desktop OS is no longer the obtuse, bewildering and command line driven thing it used to be. Not remotely.
1: Linux Gets Out Of Your Way
Windows has a tendency to beg for attention. It's like the kid in school who desperately wants to be noticed and is borderline belligerent about it. "Please use me," cries Cortana. "Hey, would you recommend me to a friend or colleague?" asks Redmond. "Hi, I noticed you're using Chrome. Edge is totally better" insists the Edge browser. "This would be so much easier if you signed into a Microsoft account!" "Hey, remember Skype?"
And so on. . .
If you want an operating system that stays out of your way, some of the more popular flavors of Linux like Ubuntu might be the cure.
Ubuntu hasn't nagged me about anything. Canonical, the company behind it, has a merchandise shop but they're not begging me to buy stuff. They offer paid professional support on various levels, but those reminders are nowhere to be found in my day-to-day usage. The company has several sources of income, but they're not beating down my desktop about it. And it's really, really refreshing.
2: You're Not A Slave To The Terminal
From both my research and personal experience, Linux usability has evolved substantially in the past 5 to 10 years. When I first dabbled with it years ago installation was relatively simple, but post-install configuration was a nightmare. You had to spend a lot of time in Terminal, issuing text commands to troubleshoot hardware issues. Issuing more text commands to install graphics drivers. That required digging deep into forums and a heavy amount of googling.
The geeks and power users in the house would call it fun (there is a certain thrill to installing a piece of software and everything it depends on with a single line of text)! For the average Windows user, it was a complete deal breaker. I think many of you still have that perception of Linux. Thankfully, it doesn't really apply anymore.
Taking my personal experience with Ubuntu version 18.04 as an example, I didn't need to touch Terminal. All of the hardware on my Dell XPS 13 was automatically detected, right down to a default 200% text scaling for the laptop's 4K display.
Will this apply to every machine you install Linux on? Probably not. Then again, Windows isn't flawless with hardware detection either. At least with Ubuntu, my WiFi networks and sound don't randomly disappear.
3: Installing Software Is Even Easier
I know there's this perception that Linux is complicated. I thought so too. Based on my experience years ago it was. Hell, I remember downloading a package, opening up Terminal, navigating DOS-style to the location, extracting it, granting the appropriate permissions and sometimes even having to compile it first.
Now installing software is even easier than on Windows. On Ubuntu for example, the included Software Center contains a wealth of programs across a wide range of categories (news, productivity, graphic design, audio and video editing, etc). To install them, you click Install. You don't have to browse to the site, download the .exe package, launch that, progress through a series of license agreements and dialogue windows.
Typically you just click Install.
Relatively new to Linux are "Snaps." These are universal packages that install easily across various distributions like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian and others. The Snap Store contains a ridiculous amount of apps to choose from, and not just the "open source clones" you may associate Linux with. Spotify, Telegram, Slack, Blender, VLC, OBS Studio, stuff like that are there.
And again, installing these apps is a breeze! So is updating them. . .
4: Updates aren't a headache. They're glorious
Have you ever sat and contemplated how much time Windows steals from you with its updates? Or how many times it has rebooted at the most inconvenient times, only to keep you waiting longer while it configures those updates? Or how the majority of software you have installed outside of the core operating system has to be updated separately?
With Ubuntu, sure, you'll get a notification. You may be required to restart, but in my experience you won't be forced to do so. And, like Windows, you can fine-tune how updates are handled.
Here's the glorious part: unlike Windows, Ubuntu updates your other software too. All in one batch. No need to update it directly through the individual app and then step through a series of dialogue windows. Less notifications, less nags, less time invested. You just update your system and your software all at once. It's genuinely elegant and this came as a surprise to me.
5: The Linux Community
The response to my previous article was overwhelming, but it wasn't a case of Linux enthusiasts beating their chests and admonishing Windows. It was a ridiculously passionate community taking the time to suggest alternate software for my needs and detailed tips to make my Linux experience even better. I didn't ask for this, but they blew up my notifications for days on every social network I exist on.
Digging deeper, you find a surprisingly helpful bunch of people on all corners of the internet willing to invest their time into helping people just like me make the transition. Granted, I haven't spent a ton of time mingling with this community but it made a very positive first impression on me. I've heard people call them a sect, but if I hit a stumbling block I feel like this community would be bending over backwards to lend an assist.Closing Thoughts:
I'm now three weeks into using Linux (Ubuntu specifically) as my daily driver, and the more I settle in the more comfortable and less stressed I've become. There are still a couple scenarios I may require Windows or MacOS for, but I'm slowly exploring some alternatives and hope to write about those in the near future.
This article isn't about finding a replacement to every Windows app you're leaning on, but I'm exploring that! It's not about proclaiming Linux to be the perfect solution, but I'm starting to think for the average user it's definitely the superior, less frustrating one. It's not about recommending the right Linux distribution for you (in fact the sheer number of flavors available may be a serious hurdle to mainstream adoption). Like before, it's just a "journal of the journey;" five things I noticed after I made the switch that left an impact on me.