This is what makes Spiral Linux so good for new users

Pros

  • Numerous desktop options
  • Excellent printer support
  • Pre-installed proprietary codecs
  • Extraordinary achievement
  • GUI app stores

cons

  • Some applications are outdated
  • Budgie desktop contains only one theme
  • Budgie Raven sidebar is not flexible
  • No “Welcome” app.

There are thousands of Linux distributions to choose from, ranging from easy-to-use (such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint) to the very complicated (such as Gentoo† Any distribution that claims to be user-friendly is not exactly cut from the same cloth, and how a distribution is made user-friendly depends on many things. Package managers, desktop environments, and pre-installed applications are all areas that any Linux distribution that claims to be user-friendly should consider.

Therefore, when a new distribution arrives, claiming to be user-friendly, the first thing I do is examine those three areas. So when the developer of GeckoLinux announced a new distribution called Spiral LinuxI just did that.

What is Spiral Linux?

Spiral Linux is a Linux distribution, intended for users who are not that familiar with Linux (although there is an option for advanced users) that is based on Debian Linux with the lofty goal of supporting all major Linux desktop environments. Currently Spiral offers Linux versions for the following desktops:

  • Cinnamon
  • Xfce
  • GNOME
  • KDE Plasma
  • Mate
  • parakeets
  • LXQt

Based on Debian ensures that the operating system will be very stable, reliable and performant, with the caveat that some applications are always on the stable release (meaning they can be a little behind). That’s fine, because stability and reliability are the name of the game here and you don’t want cutting edge apps on a production desktop.

Some of the unique features of Sprial Linux are:

  • Support for newer hardware (thanks to the 5.16 kernel and installed proprietary firmware).
  • Easily upgradeable to Debian Testing or Unstable branches.
  • Btrfs sub-volume layout with transparent Zstd compression and Snapper snapshots for easy rollback.
  • Extensive printer support.
  • Optimized for power management with pre-installed TLP.
  • VirtualBox support out of the box.
  • zRAM swap for better performance.
  • Normal users are automatically added to the sudo group.

The developer has taken into account what a Linux distribution should look like for new users. The only miss here is the lack of a welcome app to make it easier for new users to get on board. Even with that overview, Spiral Linux is a wonderful Linux distribution that anyone could feel right at home. I have installed the Budgie version of Spiral Linux (Figure 1) and was seriously impressed.

The Budgie desktop environment running on Spiral Linux.

The Budgie desktop environment is a great choice for new users.

Image: Jack Wallen

Did we really need another Linux distribution?

If you ask most Linux users, the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” Why? Because Linux has always been about choices and having more choices is often considered a good thing.

That doesn’t mean everyone has the same opinion. Some believe that the sheer amount of distributions weakens the power of Linux. I don’t feel that way. While I would prefer there was an “official” Linux distribution that could support large companies (because for some companies it’s an absolute deal-breaker to develop and support hundreds or thousands of distributions), there is another distribution aimed at new users should be seen as positive. And what Spiral Linux does is tick all the right boxes for this use case.

According to the developer, the reason for yet another Debian based distro is:

“Debian itself provides a base system that can be very user-friendly if configured properly. This is where SpiralLinux comes in. A lot of effort has gone into improving the default SpiralLinux configuration for all major desktop environments using the packages and mechanisms that Debian provides. So basically a SpiralLinux installation is actually a legitimate Debian installation that can be infinitely upgraded from the official Debian repositories while retaining its unique SpiralLinux configuration.”

So not only do you get a Linux distribution that is easy to use and just works, but you also get a distribution that will last as long as Debian exists. Given how volatile some projects can be, it’s good to know that this new distribution has tied its car to Debian in such a way that it will be there for the long haul.

What makes Spiral Linux so good for new users?

The answer to that question can be summed up in one sentence: it just works. And while that makes the out-of-box experience pretty good, it doesn’t quite answer the question. For that, I would develop that phrase to say, “It just works, works well, and works with ease.”

It’s one thing that everything works out-of-the-box. That should be the case with every operating system. But to make things not only work, but also work well and easily, is another thing. Distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint nailed this for years (and Fedora has finally caught up). But not every distribution can make such a claim

Take elementary OS for example. This is a nice distribution that can be used by any user of any skill level, but is hampered by a lack of applications. From the elementary OS app store, you will find that a lot of software is missing. And not every desktop environment is aimed at new users. Xfce is a great desktop, but it offers so much customization that it can be a little daunting for those not used to being able to configure every single aspect of the desktop. Budgie, Cinnamon, Mate, KDE Plasma, and GNOME are all excellent options for new users (although GNOME has a slight learning curve simply because it completely redefines the desktop metaphor).

Yes, Spiral Linux offers options for Xfce (and the “Builder” option for advanced users), the other versions will serve you perfectly for those new-to-Linux users.

So what are you waiting for? Download a copy of Spiral Linux and see if this OS is anything to welcome you to the world of Linux.

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