While user-friendly distributions (distros) certainly have their place, in this guide, we’ve tried to get back to the glory days when developers would customise their Linux build. These Linux distros allow you to fine-tune your development environment so whether you’re a veteran programmer or relative newcomer, you can get on with your coding.
In short, whatever your programming preferences, you’ll find a distro to suit your needs in this top 10 roundup.
1. Arch Linux
This means, for instance, that you can install a barebones window manager like i3 to be certain your system will respond quickly when using your chosen text editor. If you run into difficulty, the Arch Linux Wiki offers a helpful installation guide.
The Debian website has extensive manuals, including a chapter on programming talking you through the basics of creating a script, compiling it, and using Autoconf to allow your scripts to be compiled on other Linux distros.
The Raspberry Pi website has excellent guides on using the visual programming tool Scratch, which is used to create animations and games. There’s also an excellent section on getting started with Python, which is supported out of the box.
Younger coders might prefer to learn to use the programming language for Minecraft Pi, a mini-version of the highly popular sandbox game.
Gentoo suffered a minor setback a few years ago when its comprehensive Wiki went offline. Fortunately, it has since been restored. There’s also a small diehard Gentoo following on Reddit if you need further help.
Ubuntu is the chosen distro of the Android Open Source Project for building source files. The Android build is regularly tested using the most recent versions of Ubuntu.
You can also install other development environments using Ubuntu Make.
Ubuntu now supports the ‘snaps’ application packaging format, using the Snapcraft tool, which allows you to write apps in the programming language of your choice and package them with all the required dependencies. Visit the Ubuntu Developer portal here.
Aside from being very easy to set up and install, Fedora has a dedicated Developer Portal. Simply click ‘Start a Project’ to see dedicated guides on developing web, command line, desktop and mobile apps. There’s also an excellent section on working with hardware devices such as Arduino.
If this wasn’t enough, Fedora also comes with DevAssistant, which automates the process of setting up your development environment and publishing your code with simple commands.
OpenSUSE comes preinstalled with all the basic tools a software developer needs, such as the Vim and Emacs text editors, build automation tools such as CMake and packaging tools like RPM. The operating system also comes with OBS (Open Build Service), a tool for developers to build software for various distros and platforms.
This results in a highly stable system. The CentOS repository also contains the Developer Toolset 2.0, which boasts a range of essential programming tools.
For developers, the Xen virtualisation platform offers a way to compartmentalise your projects and run applications safely inside a virtual machine.
You can find instructions on how to do this and other developer tips in the excellent CentOS Wiki.
Solus supports several editors and IDEs such as Atom, Idea and Gnome Builder, as well as the Git GUI, GitKraken. The Solus project website also claims that the OS supports a number of programming languages such as Go, Rust and PHP.
10. Puppy Linux
The Puppy Linux ‘Wikka’ details the programming languages supported by the OS. One notable language is BaCon, which can convert code written in BASIC to C.
The Wikka also has an extensive selection of tutorials on writing Bash scripts and getting started with Python.