Open Ballot: Best Distro 2012


As 2012 nears its cold, wet conclusion*, we're asking you to look back over the past year and let us know which distro you think deserves the award "Best distro 2012". If you're nominating a distro that's had more than one release, let us know which one.

Raspbian and Android Jelly Bean are a couple of less-conventional ones that have caught our eye. Security-focused distros such as Tails and Qubes are becoming increasingly important in a digitally-hostile world. Mint continues its relentless march towards world domination. Mageia has had a great year while Ubuntu has had it's ups and downs. System Rescue CD protects you from Zombies (honest). Fedora and OpenSuse have continued to deliver. Zorin seems to be attracting interest, as does Rosa. Arch continues to be perfect (if you believe Graham). Gentoo earned a perfect 10 in an LXF review ... the list goes on.

Here at LXF towers, we're divided. There's a rainbow of different distros on display and no clear favorite. Or, rather, there are five different clear favorites depending on who you ask.

Use the comments below to let us know your feelings and we'll use them to gloat when our preferred distro wins discuss them in the podcast.

We'll put our 2012 distro roundup feature online once voting closes (Thursday morning).

*Unless you're south of the equator where it's nearing its warm, sunny conclusion. We're not jealous.

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Your comments

The best is..

..the one you chose to run.

All other distros may or may not suck, but the one you selected is the right one for you.

(BTW Ubuntu 12.04 FTW)


ALL distros seem to have their roots in 1 of 3:
-red hat

I've tried them all and looked for a balance of building/tweaking a system I can call my own, and yet have enough of the tedious basic such as mouse, wifi, video, sound, and networking 'just work'.

Started with Slackware in 1994 and has held a special place in my heart to this day. Later tried Red Hat 5.? and when I saw everything 'just worked' there was nothing left for me to do I dumped it. Any monkey can do that, I wanted to have more of a say in building my system so as to learn. Then I found Debian. Further from Unix than the rest (Slackware being the closest to pure Unix) it offered some smart tools including the almighty 'apt'. I've been 'apt-getting' my life away ever since!

For me that is Debian. A close second is Debian Mint which provides a few extras to smooth things out.

My vote, and what I currently run: Debian Mint

Mattituck, Long Island, New York
Running Linux since 1994

Senior Systems Analyst

Linux Mint 13

Ubuntu and Debian

I personally like Ubuntu for desktop/laptop uses. Debian for my server. All personal preference and what ever someone else says works best for them. Debian was the first distro I tried back in high school that I really liked and it just stuck with me. Ubuntu brought many of the Debian features to a more user friendly packaging.

Ubuntu 12.04 has Taken the

Ubuntu 12.04 has Taken the world by storm!

A Minty Year

I've enjoyed Mint 13 with the Cinnamon DE for most of 2012, and having recently upgraded have found Mint 14 and Cinnamon 1.6 a good, solid improvement. Nothing has rocked the boat too much which is both a negative AND a good thing. Isn't it about time we had a distro that you could install and think "ooh, this looks the same" but as you use it you find the tweaks and improvements??

The year of fresh

Surely there is no doubt that the tool and toy of the moment is Linux Mint?
My own favorites have shown less progress recently, so they are not in the running for the distribution of 2012. Another suggestion could be Arch Linux. The popularity of Arch has bloomed in 2012 and 2011. It is a strong contender for the distro of the year for the less intimidated Linux user.

Have to agree with Ubuntu 12.04

I am running 12.10 on my laptop (I really wanted the latest gimp!) and because my laptop is fairly new I must be one of the few individuals that noticed a massive performance INCREASE rather than the regressions you hear about all the time.

However I have two other machines that aren't as new and they run 12.04 flawlessly, it's only my relucance to add PPA's to my system that I upgraded my laptop to 12.10, had it been back ported much in the same way firefox is, I'd have stuck with it!

It is great looking, rock solid and very usable, I cannot commend Canonical enough for innovating in the UI area, it might not be to everyone's tastes, but I love that everything is search driven and keyboard based, I rarely have to take my hands off the keyboard. Unity actually got me excited about new desktop environments again!




xubuntu 12.x, can someone tell me why mint is really loved,
i've only read that the difference is that some codecs are
included but you can tick a box to install such things during
a standard ubuntu installation.

Down hill

Down hill I'd say, nothing has stud out this year.

Oh, still using Ubuntu 10.04 lts.


I think the 14 release of Slackware is brilliant.

It is stable and stopped me from distro hopping.

Tried and Tested

Whilst the developers have been trying to force everybody into a smartphone/tablet hell I would vote for anything which still allows a great desktop picture to be displayed when the computer is idle. (Who the hell wants a screen load of icons?)

Cinnamon looks good but requires too much grunt from your processors. (Processor grunt should be there for the applications not for the background work.) The SolusOS 1.x range, by retaining Gnome 2, works very well for my computers and, the developer is quietly working on his take with Gnome 3 in the background for SolusOS 2, which will be released when ready. (Now fellows, this is the way you should revolutionise the desktop; not just to pull the rug out from everyone.)

Actually, I believe these new desktops have really been developed by Microsoft so that Windows 8 didn't look so rubbish when that came out and to reduce the Linux DE threat to their dominance of the PC market with a duff release like Windows 8. (There's nothing mainstream to replace Windows 8 with, they mostly all have the same stupid style of DEs.)

I've just started to look at Bodhi 2.1 which works well, even in VirtualBox, which says a lot for Enlightenment, I just have to figure out how it works! At least when I press the wrong thing, I soon now about it, unlike many DE which need a lot of resources to make things happen.

Message to Desktop Developers, we don't all have top of the range PC to hand, so please, make your number one priority for 2013 to be efficiency not bloat.

All Of Them

How can you choose this? Most distros shine in their own way, and are often very different to one another. If you want to run a server, if you want to run a techie desktop, if you want to start someone off with Linux, if you want to rescue a failed hard drive - each one of those will haven a few different distros that will shine in that particular field but aren't so useful for other uses. Plus there's then the base distros that are used to create others, like Debian with Ubuntu and Mint - should these be raised aloft as unsung heroes?
I could try to list what I like, but then I use several different distros for different purposes, so I'm not sure I could even select one for my own personal preference. The closest I could come to choosing anything would be the Linux kernel, as that's what enables me to do lots of cool things with all the stuff built on it, but then that's not a distro, haha.

Linux Mint 13/14

Linux Mint 13 is great, 14 looks awesome. I am using the MATE version right now but i'm going to test cinnamon on 14.

Whonix (despite it's a "virtualbox distribution" that uses debian) deserves to be, at least, mentioned for its innovation on the anonimity concept.

3 distros

Chakra Linux and Manjaro Linux. And Arch of course as base for them. Both chakra and manjaro are simple, stable, up-to-date. And rolling release.

Mint 13/14 XFCE + compiz + Gnome Do

Got to be Mint 13/14 XFCE with compiz and compiz icon plus Gnome Do. Perfect for any machine: desktop, laptop, netbook, nettop or home server.

As for touch screens; I think you are crazy to use anything other than android if you want a decent touch experience. Desktop OS's and touch don't mix well. I think Gnome3 is targeting a burning windows 8 hardware platform.

Mint XFCE is nicely (over 8 weeks) downstream from ubuntu and even the main MATE/cinnamon releases of mint so most of the bugs are worked out by the time it is released.

Turn compiz on or off as needed for optimal video/opengl performance. Codecs out of the box. More like windows than windows now so easy for beginners but has all the tools more advanced users need all ready to go. Add as many or as few compiz effects as you want.

Add a large XFCE bottom launcher panel for a simplified OSX like interface that works with or without compositing.

Perfect PPA compatibility so super easy to add the latest package versions. Open any app, folder or bookmark instantly with Gnome Do.

Don't miss paid apps from the ubuntu software center because the latest versions are usually downloadable from vendor websites (or the humble bundle) as .debs.

All the mint goodies like mint menu and mint themes/wallpapers/icons are there if you want them and Nemo is the best file manager on linux (perfect balance between features, performance and ease of use).

Everything wrapped up in an easy to use and super fast package that doesn't radically change itself from version to version.

Debian SId

And for a fun(mostly) learning experience LFS

Best KDE distro goes to...

Linux Mint! This often overlooked branch of Mint has produced, in my humble opinion, the best KDE distro this year. That said, kudos must be apportioned to KDE developers, as they have made the graphical desktop work perfectly. But a distro is more than just the desktop, but also the way things work behind the scenes and the applications available by default. Mint KDE works smoothly behind the scenes (as long as your PC is modern enough) but comes packaged with a good selection of applications which means you can just jump right in.

Yes, there's still a bit of tweaking required if, like me, you like to fiddle to get things exactly as YOU like them, but it works right out the box for those who don't.

PearOS and Bodhi have also impressed this year. And of course Puppy, my faithful companion, who has saved my PC numerous times and is just so damn quick and awesome, it deserves to be awarded Best Puppy Linux of the year!


Bodhi Linux. Enlightenment has been, well, an enlightenment... I have Bodhi installed on my desktop, laptop and netbook and there's even a version for my raspberrypi! Love it!!

They all have their foibles

I have played with Linux on and off in some form or another since 1992/1993 while studying at the UWE in Bristol. I've been using Linux full time for about 18 months after deciding I wanted to see if I could replace Windows. I started off with Fedora, moved to Mint, Ubuntu and finally ended up at Arch because I decided I wanted a rolling release distro. I've Been using Arch for nearly a year now and loving it.

I keep meaning to give Slackware a try in a VM, it is a long time since I last tried it so I will try that next year.

I have given Gentoo and Funtoo a go in a VM and I like them but prefer Arch.

My vote goes to Arch, it gives a great balance of stability and always having the latest updates.

Arch ! Rock stable and NO

Arch !

Rock stable and NO suicidal dist upgrades any more.

Puppy and Ubuntu 12.04

Puppy Linux has had 2 major releases this year, and both the "Slacko" and "Precise" versions are outstanding. I have found there is really nothing I cannot do with Puppy, and it does it faster than any other OS I have ever used.

Ubuntu 12.04 also gets my vote, as Unity has become mature and polished in the LTS. Of all the desktops out there on any OS, Unity is the only one I see as 100% functional on both the desktop and a tablet.

It has been a very good year for distros indeed!


Ubuntu 12.04

Simply because despite what many people might say, I think that Ubuntu still strikes the best balance of stability, usability and bleeding edge. I run Ubuntu with GNOME 3 and it is incredibly productive for me; the unity interface isn't my cup of tea but it isn't even funny how easy it is to install a different DE. Canonical has done and is doing something that no other company has ever done with Linux and taken some risks and put some money into getting it on hardware standard along with riding the right waves (Android).

TL;DR, Ubuntu 12.04 FTW and I think that it's time the community stopped being so cynical, realized it's easy to switch if you want to and started supporting Canonical.

OpenSuSE 12.2 best KDE very comfy rolling release, etc.etc.etc

Open SUSE had 12.1 and 12.2 releases this year.

Using it since SuSE 7.0 (Your CD got me hooked back then)
I like the completess of these releases, the "One click"
install for everything from single programs to whole window
managers (like KDE 4.9). You can change to a rolling release
(Tumbleweed) mode with a "One click" if you like.

The rock solid foundation (with a bias towards KDE) and no
problems with other window managers (on my 2 13' sub-notebooks
the SUSE LXDE are the most stable compared with Mint / Ubuntu)
allows you to experiment.

Linux Mint 14 MATE

The one distro that just works.

(for me)

Mint 14 for me

Mint conquered my distro-hopping a few years ago. I have been a little frustrated as all the major DEs went through their convulsions, but think Mint 14 has finally achieved the stability we need to get real work done, while preserving the flexibility we love in tweaking our environment "just so." Whether your preference is MATE, Cinnamon (my favorite), XFCE, or KDE, Mint 14 makes them all work beautifully. For 2013, I might vote for Mint Debian, but I'm waiting for the iso respin, which probably won't make this calendar year.

Mint. Has to be

I'm gonna throw in my vote for Mint. I've not tried Mint 14 yet, so I'm going with 13. Actually, I don't really care which version you go for. It's not the distro that I'm voting for, it's the community!

Something breaks, they fix it. You think a package improvement needs making, they listen! The distro might not be 100% perfect, but they at least care about what you think perfect means.

There are many big names can't say that.

Fedora 17

Ubuntu Unity still could not get as stable as I need it. Have to bang my head while using any Mint desktop. openSuse 12.2, very nice, but, the first place goes to Fedora 17.

Best for me

For general use: Mint 14 (MATE and Cinnamon).
For testing stuff with ease of setting up: PCLinuxOS LXDE.
For testing older kit: Antix Base 11.
For partitioning and initialising USB sticks: Parted Magic.
Horses for courses, really.

Mate DE

Out of Unity, XFCE, Gnome Classic and Mate as desktop environments for Ubuntu 12.04 on hardware which is not ancient, but fairly basic, I find Mate the most usable and visually pleasant (after a bit of tweaking with compiz config and whatnot), which probably means I'd give my vote to Mint as a distro if I had tried it.
Certainly a number of programs seem to run better with Mate (Ardesia for example causes everything to freeze in Gnome classic, but is fine with Mate).


Well given that it's what I've been happily running most of the year, since the slow implosion of sidux/aptosid my vote goes to debian sid.
Really once you go rolling release the periodic turmoil of the six-monthly crowd is just too much hassle to contemplate. Sid does break sometimes, but it breaks in small ways that you can do something about.


it seems I am the only one so far to speak about gentoo. well, I tried them all and I do agree that each are great for someone. for me, after 16 years of Linux, I choose gentoo and stick with it

366 versions of Arch

Arch released in excess of 366 versions and each and every one of them rocked if you ask me.

Mint Maya 13

OMG one letter away from Mayan and 13 is an unlucky number. What does this mean for the end of 2012.
I am using Mint in the same way as I used to use XP before updates killed it. Easy to use and not too flashy but at the same time being concerned that it is using too many resources.
Also Raspian.


Wheezy or Squeeze depending on your needs.


Once I had this distro installed I stopped looking until recently when I decided that a plan B would be good. I still haven't found plan B. PCLinuxOS is a rolling release so there is ongoing support for the 'version' you have installed and no need for those tiresome OS installations when a new version is released. It is easy to install so not even tiresome for this distro.

Mint, but...

Mint 9 allowed me to get away from windows some years ago and despite some experimentation with other distros, I've returned to the warm embrace of Mint 13 (MATE and XFCE).

Special mention should go to Scientific Linux 6 and other distros for the part they played at CERN.

Kubuntu 12.04

Tried a few this year...
Other contenders are Bhodi (clean and functional) and OpenSuse 12.2 (bling)

Kubuntu 12.04 just works and is efficient to use. Haven't tried Mint 13 KDE. Time to fire up Virtualbox :-)


For me and for sysadmin purposes the best Linux distribution for this year is with no doubt RHEL 6 or CentOS 6.

What about Elementary OS?

Well I hate the path Canonical has taken with Ubuntu. At the moment we see - just targeting: targeting TVs, targeting Tablets, targeting ... well everything except a computer. There was a time I promoted Ubuntu to a lot of my friends, so they can migrate from Windows - that was successful, but now - users that don't care about shiny stuff and just want something familiar to do their everyday work - Now they all use Linux Mint. That should be 10 of my friends who don't want to see Windows on their laptops/computers anymore.

Now as the title says - What about Elementary OS? They have done a lot of work. I decided to test it about 5 months ago with their hidden daily Alpha Release - it was stable enaugh so I could do almost all my work logged in to Elementary. It is nice, elegant - works with mouse and a keyboard. No more boaring GNOME Shell, no more stupid Unity, no more KDE (probably the only mature DE at the moment). The elementary team did something different and nice looking. They rethinked, designed and made it simple - elementary. I think they deserve a lot of credit this year.

My Vote - Elementary OS

Pear Linux 6

I have 2 laptops with Ubuntu 12.04 and the other with Pear Linux 6 although both systems are similar I prefer pear it's faster and suites me better thanks to all involved.

Anything Wheezy...

I don't think any of the desktop or server distro's win any plaudits this year, but the innovation and enthusiasm created by the release of the Raspberry Pi has brought a quite pure form of Linux into the headlines and imagination, so my favourite distro for the year has to be Wheezy for the Raspberry pi.

P.S. Its pronounced "Zel-us", like Jealous... Not Xelooose... You did make me laugh.

A little bit of what you fancy

I have to agree with Popey, the best distro for anyone is the one they find easiest to use, which for me is Kubuntu or Mint 14 with cinamon.

Popey has the answer

I Totally agree with popey its whatever distro you prefer.

Ubuntu 12.4 LTS is my choice.


My personal 2012 distro has got to be openSUSE 12.2. Suites my needs perfectly in terms of reliability and frequent updates to key applications.

2013 Mayan prophesy

it's all very well for you at Tux Towers to have a laugh about "best distro 2012", while cocking a snook at your masters in Bunga Bunga land, but quite frankly you're missing the point. What the punters want to know is...
"Is 2013 going to be the year of linux on the desktop?"

Puppy Linux Precise

Puppy Linux Precise for the WIN! This distro goes with you anywhere can run on virtually everything and saves all your data back to a flash drive without leaving a trace on the computer. The community is fantastic and it just makes geeking out a joy. It's good for a girl or a boy. Don't overload your shiny new computer with crap. Let it run free with Puppy!

Xubuntu 12.10

Xubuntu 12.10 fixes several problems I was having with 12.04 and is working pretty well for me so far. A proper desktop is a relief to use after the frustrations of Unity.
Otherwise I have been much impressed by Mint13 KDE, to the extent of seriously considering migration of my main desktop box.

More Puppy info..

@Dale - I have several installs of Puppy Precise, and I agree it is outstanding, but have you run the newest version of Puppy Slacko? It came out about 2 days ago, and it is amazingly polished. Your Precise save file will not get recognized when you boot it, but look at the Live CD, and I think you will be impressed!

I hope Barry gives Puppy-Precise the same face lift. :)

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