You wouldn't know it to look at Ubuntu.com -- the homepage for the world's most popular free alternative PC operating system -- which only promotes the new 13.04 version of Ubuntu in its normal, familiar flavor. But versions of Ubuntu which work completely differently, or were designed for audiences from educators to creative professionals, also exist for free download.
These other OSes aren't like Linux Mint, which is based on Ubuntu but was created by an independent third party. They all carry the Ubuntu name, and have the same access to its Software Center, or "app store." With that in mind, here's a look at what Ubuntu community members have come up with for other enthusiasts and professionals.
Edubuntu is designed especially for use on a school or classroom's computers, and is used by numerous systems worldwide. The new version comes with updated educational games and apps. Teachers who want to test Edubuntu's suitability for their classrooms can try it out on the web without even installing it.
Made by and for creative professionals, Ubuntu Studio includes professional-grade software for audio mixing and recording, graphic design, 3D modeling, video editing, photography, and book publishing. It's based on the XFCE desktop, which is also used by Xubuntu.
The most lightweight Ubuntu version, LXDE-based Lubuntu is reminiscent of older versions of Windows. It can run on PCs with as little as 128 MB of RAM, and is designed to help save power and put older machines to good use with modern apps. It can even run on old Macs with PowerPC processors.
Originally based on the classic GNOME desktop used by most Linux OSes, Ubuntu started using its own Unity desktop -- reminiscent of the Mac's OS X -- a couple of years ago. Ubuntu GNOME, the newest official Ubuntu flavor, returns Ubuntu to its roots, while also embracing the new GNOME 3 desktop which is designed to be simple and work like a tablet.
KDE has long been GNOME's arch-rival in the Linux world, for professionals and enthusiasts who want a more finely tuned (read: complicated and customizable) experience. And Kubuntu has long been one of the best-supported alternative Ubuntus, with numerous volunteers working on it and receiving official support.
Originally designed to be simple and lightweight, the XFCE desktop now reminds some fans most of what GNOME used to be like before the GNOME 3 tablet-style redesign. It's not as light as Lubuntu, however.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
- Technology & Electronics
- Ubuntu Studio