The Best Linux Distros for Web Developers

None of the essential tools for web development are dependent on any specific operating system (OS). Technically speaking, any device that can run key developer tools can do the job, including your smartphone, or even an older computer that’s running Windows 8. With that being said, there are several reasons why Linux tends to preferred by veteran programmers.

Along with Mac, Linux is based on Unix, the command line for which is simply better than that of Windows’. Furthermore, the majority of the internet runs on Linux/Unix. And unlike Mac or Windows, Linux is open-source and considerably more secure. These are traits shared among the different Linux distros or distributions. But when it comes to which Linux distro is the most ideal for web development, generally speaking the short answer is Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is Officially Supported By All Major IDE Companies

The most important integrated development environment (IDE) software companies all test their software against Ubuntu, which is under the Debian family. For those unfamiliar with Linux, Ubuntu is the distro that’s designed to be friendly to beginners and veterans alike, which is why it has the largest user base. It’s also the distro with which the Android Open Source Project builds source files. And with Ubuntu Make allowing for the installation of other development environments, Ubuntu is the best distro of choice for most web developers. Fedora comes a close second.

Fedora is Where Linux Grows

Hailing from the RedHat family, Fedora is where all the latest advancements within Linux itself gets tested first. Linus Torvald who created the Linux kernel uses Fedora. Its user base is second only to Ubuntu, which is why it’s also supported by major IDE companies. If your web app runs from the cloud, Fedora is simply more compatible with most servers, which run RedHat’s RHEL. Furthermore, its dedicated Developer Portal makes it an arguably easier distro for growing your full-stack web developer skills.

The Arch Ecosystem is for Advanced Users

Arch, Gentoo, Manjaro, and every other distro in the Arch family are designed for advanced programmers and Linux users. While each distro under the family is different, the Arch ecosystem is basically designed to be the ideal coding environment for a variety of purposes. IDE companies don’t need to test their software against these distros because those who use Arch and its derivatives solve the problems themselves. If you’re a Linux expert, you can use these distros to create your own custom web development environment.

While there are many other factors to consider and compare, these are basically the key differences between Linux distros in terms of being conducive for web development. Other than picking the distro that fits your skill level and purposes, you should also consider the hardware you need to do the job. The good news is that you don’t need the highest computer specs to run any of these distros for these purposes.

Hardware Considerations

For the most part, you’ll also need a decent amount of RAM as well as a fast, mid-tier CPU, which are basically the main requirements for most web development applications. 8GB of RAM could suffice, although experts typically recommend 16GB, along with at least the first generation i7 processor or any CPU with similar capabilities.

In a nutshell, the ideal web developer rig should more or less be capable of tasks like video editing, multimedia content creation, and even designing printed circuit boards (PCBs). Popular Linux video editing software Kdenlive for instance also requires decent RAM and a fast processor. This is especially true for when you’re rendering video. And these same requirements also apply to Upverter, the Linux version of Altium’s PCB design software which runs via CAD. From routing complex trace topologies to 3D rendering, Upverter depends on these key hardware specs as well.

So while you might need to upgrade your current rig in order to make it a lean, mean web developing machine, that’s not all you’re getting. Having a laptop that’s optimised for web development also means having a laptop that’s capable of handling the aforementioned tasks and more. And with the right distro at your fingertips, you can further optimise your machine to suit your specific purposes and more quickly grow your skills as a web developer.