Our recent article entitled Ubuntu As Intended drew in a fair amount of discussion about the base software and configuration in the default Ubuntu install. Some readers pointed out a few alternatives that aim to take the standard Ubuntu desktop and give it more polish than the original. Some of these projects just include a few extra packages, some replace the standard software suite, and others are complete makeovers. Today we aim to sift through a few of the more popular Ubuntu variants to find the best ones of the bunch, and see what they can offer.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Linux Mint is an extremely popular Ubuntu variant, and for good reason. Mint provides several desktop solutions including Gnome, KDE, Fluxbox and XFCE, and what they all have in common is a solid software base with several of Linux’s “trickier” packages already installed. This includes some non-free software so that you have support for MP3, DVD, and Flash right out of the box.
Saner Defaults Remix
This is a fairly new project, but it’s beginning to gain a following. The basic idea of the Ubuntu SDR is that the stock Ubuntu is great, but some of the decisions regarding included software may not be ideal. While that is of course subjective, it’s hard to argue with some of the enhancements found in SDR.
Some of the changes you’ll find include:
- Empathy IM replaced with Pidgin
- Min/Max/Close buttons moved back to the right
- Evolution mail replaced with Mozilla Thunderbird
- Simple clean blue (Clearlooks) theme
- Gufw firewall included and activated on install
- All Mono-based apps removed (includes GThumb for photos and Gnote for notes)
- Multimedia repos enabled by default
Ubuntu Ultimate Edition
While some (including this author) find the intensity of the color scheme to be a bit jarring, Ultimate Edition does have a bit working for it, and one of those things is speed. Several of the existing applications have been removed in favor of smaller and faster alternatives. Additionally, UE gives you some help with a few of the more legally or technically complicated packages like Flash and DVD support, either by bundling in to the default system or providing install helpers.
Ultimate Edition is clearly the most “home made” of those on the list, but if you’re willing to tolerate or change the visual theme, it can quickly become a useful desktop.
One common complaint about the normal Ubuntu release is that can sometimes be a bit slow, especially on older computers. Lubuntu aims to solve that by replacing the normal Gnome desktop with LXDE. Gnome apps like Nautilus and Gnome Terminal have been replaced with the liked of PCMan File manager and LXTerminal. The system is also designed to reduce power usage over the standard install, making Lubuntu and excellent choice for laptops.
There are certainly several other Ubuntu forks worth checking out, including Super OS, gOS, and wattOS. There’s certainly no shortage of high-quality Ubuntu variants out there, so if you’ve got any others to recommend, let us know in the comments!