The Mac is an ever-increasingly closed-off ecosystem, with users finding that they need to use dongles and converters for everything from ethernet cables to SD card readers. The decision to replace the Escape and Command keys with the gimmicky “touch bar” a couple of years ago wasn’t great either.
It’s safe to say that when it comes to macOS, the honeymoon is over. Longtime users are starting to get fed up with Apple from the way they restrict compatibility to their amateur file system, to the way their operating system takes away advanced functions longtime users are used to using.
In this article we’ll go over the best Linux distributions that Mac users can install either on their Macs or on dedicated Linux computers.
Fedora has long since established itself as a leading Linux distro thanks to an impressive repertoire of packages and pretty much unrivaled stability. It ships with the GNOME desktop environment which, as we’ll see again later in the list, is as close as you get to macOS out of the default batch. What’s more, it gives you access to GTK3 themes, including the excellent macOS Mojave theme created recently.
As Fedora uses the robust Wayland protocol, it also has access to distinctly Mac-like extended gestures, which are vital to recreating that slick, gliding desktop experience that macOS is renowned for. A lot of Mac users have reported Fedora to be one of the best-functioning Linux distros you can run on a Mac.
2. Elementary OS
It is impossible to talk about Mac-like operating systems without talking about the Elementary OS project. This is a Linux distribution that adopts some of the design philosophy that Apple employs into their work: simplicity, beauty, and features. When it comes to this Linux distribution, if you’re coming off of macOS, this is the choice you should consider first and foremost.
Elementary has taken a lot of functions and features that some Linux distributions struggle to enable easily (like HiDPI, for example) and made it so users have a great out-of-the-box experience. If you’re a new Mac user frustrated with Apple and have recently switched, try this version of Linux first.
The Solus project is a new one that has only recently gained popularity. Since then their mission has started to resonate with a lot of people: a Linux distribution that works as hard as it can to give you a first class desktop experience. Solus, like Elementary, tries to make it so users aren’t hunting around for software or looking at forum posts in order to figure out how to use their newly-installed Linux distribution.
Budgie is the flagship desktop for Solus, and it is created from scratch to mimic the look and feel of Mac. It comes with a notification area that highly resembles that of macOS. As a Mac user, when you install Solus, you’ll feel right at home.
Alternative: Ubuntu Budgie is also based on the Budgie desktop and has been included as one of the Ubuntu favour. It is based on Ubuntu which gives you a solid core to start with. If you like Solus, chances are you will like Ubuntu Budgie too.
4. Linux Mint
Long before many other Linux distributions tried to do “easy to use Linux,” there was Linux Mint. It was a humble operating system based on Ubuntu that took the time to include little things that beginners have a hard time with: proprietary codecs, the flash plugin, and an easy-to-use Desktop that anyone can pick up.
Though Linux Mint is a bit traditional and something that most Mac users will not be familiar with, I encourage them to give it a chance. This is a solid Linux distribution with a reliable set of software that would make any Mac user feel at home.
The Gnome Shell desktop environment has a lot of similarities when it comes to macOS: it has a dock, and it values simplicity instead of piling options on top of options. The Gnome desktop essentially makes Linux way easier to use, as well as modern. For a Mac user recently switching to Linux, Ubuntu is a good choice.
It takes the stability and reliability of the Ubuntu base and combines it with a desktop environment that Mac users can appreciate.
For a long time, Apple was the place to be for a lot of users, including advanced ones. Even if you needed to do technical work, you could at least expect a terminal and reliable hardware. As of late, Apple seems not really care what its hardcore, advanced users have to say. Instead, they seem to be more focused on perfecting dongles and selling thunderbolt headphones.
That’s why users have turned to Linux. For as much negativity that you can give Linux, these new switchers will never need to worry about a Solus developer ending the project to focus on some silly way of replacing the escape key or an Elementary OS developer deleting features.
This article was first published in Feb 2017 and was updated in Dec 2018.