When looking for a Linux distro, it’s easy to lose sight of the important differences between distros and get overwhelmed. The subtle differences can make all the difference in choosing a distro, and that’s where distro reviews like this come in. Here we discuss a long-standing member of the community that’s less common on the desktop but is still an excellent choice for your desktop in our review of openSUSE, a Linux distro for the practical user.
openSUSE First Impressions
When booting up openSUSE for the first time, at least with the Network Install ISO, I’m very impressed with the guided setup that YaST provides. YaST, or Yet Another Setup Tool, is the hallmark of openSUSE. It allows you to configure and manage your system from a simple graphical interface that takes a lot of the guesswork out of administering your system. I would feel very confident giving YaST to a first-time Linux user and letting them figure it out.
With the Network Install image, YaST is the first thing you boot to. It runs a few tasks for you, then presents you with the choices you need to make while providing sane defaults that will get you started on the right foot, particularly with things like Btrfs sub-voluming and repositories, which are very specific concepts to Linux that even power users from other OS won’t grasp at first.
Of all the installation processes I’ve worked with, I think that the installation experience with openSUSE and YaST is one of the better ones. Everything is drop-dead simple, and YaST really does the heavy lifting for you.
openSUSE User Experience
openSUSE gives you two desktop environment choices in the installer: KDE Plasma and GNOME. You can check out our reviews on each for more specifics on the differences between them to make sure you know which one to choose.
The way openSUSE sets up its system when you just choose a standard desktop system is quite interesting to me. You get a bunch of applications installed that may or may not be necessary, depending on your preference. I could see if you’re used to and really like a classic Windows 7 feel, that this particular rendition of Plasma and system configs would really speak to you, mostly because there are a bunch of games, office apps, and other programs installed. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but it’s perfect for someone who’s used to having a computer set up and ready to use out of the box.
I also like that the continuity of YaST continues into the installed system. It creates a particular experience when administering it that you may grow to really want in a workstation.
It’s easy to get a feel for what YaST is like because everything is very transparent to you as the user. Want to learn more about your hardware? Click on “Hardware Information.”
Want to add a printer? Click Printer.
Want to add Virtualization packages? Click on “Install Hypervisor and Tools.”
Set up VNC for remote management? Click Remote Administration (VNC).
You get the idea. YaST is a really great way to help a new user set up their system and get familiar with the extreme modularity and extensibility of Linux as a daily driver or workstation.
One thing I don’t much like about openSUSE is the relatively old kernel it’s using. 5.3 is in the range where it’s borderline if it’ll work well with particularly new or obscure hardware, so I wouldn’t plan to install openSUSE on your brand new workstation or laptop. It may have some issues with newer hardware.
Overall, openSUSE is an excellent distro for users wanting to set up a workstation or desktop that’s easy to manage and use but doesn’t have to do anything beyond standard workstation or desktop features. Gamers may not like openSUSE because of the older kernel.