What Linux does better than Windows

Linux-based operating systems are free alternatives to Microsoft Windows and MacOS, which ships with Apple computers.

While Linux technically only refers to the kernel, the core program of an operating system, it is often used as shorthand for any operating system that uses Linux.

However, for a fully functioning computer several other programs are required in addition to the kernel. GNU is a major source of such programs for Linux-based systems.

Aside from the cost, openness, and freedom, which are often covered in comparisons like these, there are a few practical places where Linux operating systems shine in comparison to their premium-rated counterparts.

You will also find many articles talking about the improved security and privacy you can have by running a Linux distribution. Those are important issues, but for the purposes of this one we will focus on user experience features.


Installing and updating software

While Windows and MacOS have app stores, they are outclassed when it comes to the package management features available on Linux.

The package management functionality of Debian-based Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Mint is especially good.

For instance, in the event that certain software is not available in the Microsoft or Apple app stores, you have the option to install it manually.

However, this means that the operating system’s built-in package updater will not track when a new version of the software is released and prompt you to install it. Each program must then be checked, and install its own updates.

On Ubuntu, functionality exists for programs to add themselves to a central database so that the system-wide software updater knows where to check for new versions.

Ubuntu Synaptic package manager


Choose your graphical environment

While Windows and MacOS offer some level of customisation, on Linux there are several desktop environments for you to choose from.

Among them are GNOME and derivatives such as Cinnamon and MATE, as well as KDE, Xfce, and Enlightenment.

This variety is not only available in desktop environments, but other parts of the system, too. From boot loaders to filesystems, Linux offers a degree of low-level choice you won’t see on Windows and Mac.

Linux Mint screenshot


Taking screenshots

All three operating systems offer similar functionality when it comes to taking screenshots, but Linux systems running GNOME and have the sanest defaults.

Under GNOME, you can use the following key combinations to take screenshots:

GNOME

  • Print Screen: take a screenshot of the desktop and save it.
  • Alt + Print screen: take a screenshot of the window and save it.
  • Shift + Print Screen: select an area of the screen to capture, and save it.

If you hold the Control key with any of the above combinations, the screenshot will be copied to your clipboard instead of saving it directly.

Windows

  • Print Screen / Ctrl + Print Screen: take a screenshot of the desktop and copy it to the clipboard.
  • Windows Key + Print Screen: take a screenshot of the desktop and save it.
  • Alt + Print Screen: take a screenshot of the active window.
  • Windows Key + Shift + S: (Windows 10 only) select an area of the screen to capture, and copy it to the clipboard.

MacOS

  • Shift + Command + 3: take a screenshot and save it on your desktop
  • Shift + Command + 4: select an area of the screen to capture, and save it on your desktop.
  • Shift + Command + 4, then spacebar: select a window to capture, and save it on your desktop.

If you hold the Control key with any of the above combinations, the screenshot will be copied to your clipboard instead of saving it directly.

In MacOS Mojave, Apple will introduce a screenshot and screen recording toolbar, which you can bring up with the key combination Shift + Command + 5.


Run on old hardware

Linux is known for being able to run better on older hardware than Windows and MacOS.

Other World Computing and EveryMac maintain lists of Apple hardware and the latest versions of MacOS they can run.

Only iMacs made after 2011 will be able to run the upcoming MacOS Mojave. The same is true of the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini.

Mac Pro computers from 2010 onwards will be able to upgrade to the latest version of Apple’s operating system when it releases.

Microsoft has done a great job with keeping the minimum requirements for Windows 10 as low as possible, requiring only a 1GHz processor and 2GB of RAM for a 64-bit system.

Not explicitly mentioned in the minimum specifications is that your CPU needs to support PAE, NX, and SSE2. For practical purposes, this means Windows 10 needs at least an AMD Athlon 64, or a Pentium 4 “Prescott” processor.

Linux distributions have similar requirements when you want to install a graphical desktop environment, but may often be able to support older CPUs.

If you use a more lightweight desktop environment such as Xfce, which ships as the default option for Xubuntu, the RAM requirements may be reduced to 512MB.

If you drop the graphical interface entirely, you can run Linux on machines with CPUs as slow as 300MHz and with as little RAM as 256MB.

Old Computer


Handy command-line utilities installed by default

While MacOS generally has all the major command-line utilities you would expect to find on a Linux system, every so often you’ll need to use one that’s missing.

GNU Wget, a program that downloads content from web servers, is one such utility that is not installed on MacOS by default. MacOS does still have cURL, a similar tool which supports additional protocols, but doesn’t have all of the same features Wget offers.

Windows is extremely lacking in this department, with even a simple Whois lookup requiring that you first download a program that can perform Whois queries from the command line.

Wget - Ubuntu Windows Bash


Now read: Valve reportedly working on tools to improve Linux gaming

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What Linux does better than Windows