I don’t believe in the year of the linux desktop

Philip Thomas K.

15 Nov 21


As someone who has used linux as my daily driver for around four years now, I can safely say that it is something that I am no longer a novice in. It has been a delightfully eye-opening journey thus far, and I don’t doubt that it will continue to be so.

But I do feel that the linux community may be somewhat misguided in their notion of the year of the linux desktop. A sizeable group believe that in some years, linux may start to dominate the desktop OS arena. In this, I disagree whole heartedly.

I believe that there are only two ways anyone would ever try linux in the first place.

  1. They do NOT wish to buy an operating system, and would instead like to use an OS that is free by default.

  2. They actually wish to learn how to use a unix based operating system.

If you are exclusively in the first group, be prepared to be frustrated with linux just as much as you would be frustrated with Windows or OSX. Linux most likely will not be able to offer you a distro that is clearly miles ahead. That is a fact I believe that some linux users will not be happy to hear. And that’s because they know that their distro is better than Windows and OSX.

But they need to realise that the time and effort they put into customising their OS to their liking is something the majority of other users will not be willing to do. This could be either because they are too busy and do not have the time, or that they are simply not interested in optimising their user experience themselves.

You cannot claim that linux will be better for the average user out of the box because all users have differing opinions on what constitutes good user experience. Personally, I believe that lf has a far better user experience than any other GUI based file manager I have come across. But since it is based in the terminal, all average users would never be willing to try it.

If however, you are also in the second group as mentioned above, I have a harsh truth for you. You need to learn the command line. There is no way around it. If you claim to be a power-user you have to be comfortable in using the command line. And it will take some time and interest to learn it.

Anyone who says that linux is free if you do not value your time is ignorant. I guarantee that as someone who has used both linux and windows, only windows has ever truly wasted my time.

Because of all these reasons, I do not see linux ever taking up a significant chunk of the desktop userspace. And honestly, I am fine with it. We in the linux and BSD community are separated from the rest mainly because of our users.

Users tend to be very involved in the intricacies of their own operating systems. True, they may not be very noob friendly by directing most, if not all questions to refer to the official documentation. But this is the best way to filter those that are willing to help themselves, and those that pretty much expect customer service from free software.

Anyone who plans on becoming a linux user needs to know that most users are very comfortable with the command line and have no qualms about spending half an hour reading documentation that may not even be useful. So, unless you have the right mindset, please don’t try linux and complain about it as if you were ripped off.

Rant over.

Best Regards,