Which operating system to choose for a web developer workstation ?

I noticed that on most PHP-based projects i worked, Debian was the distro used on most of the customers servers. CentOS went down at second place during the decade, and now that Red Hat voluntarily killed it by turning it into a “development version of RHEL” and even ending prematurely its LTS support, I bet Debian will be even more dominant !

To answer the question asked in the title, the best OS (operating system) for a web developer workstation is an operating system that is as close as possible to that of the server !

Why ? Same package manager, and you can try / test the command line because doing it on servers. In addition, allow developers to better understand the functioning of their servers and the structure of their files …

But what if you are working for several projects and clients with different systems?

I recommend you to go with a Linux distribution based on Debian , or to use this site which you will give its opinion after a long questionnaire .

Needless to say, you should avoid doing web development on Windows, if you are using frameworks more evolved than WordPress, because Docker is starting to be widely used for development, and putting together a Linux docker on Windows will give really horrible performance. Ditto for VMs, Vagrant etc.

Needless to say, avoid doing web development on Windows, as Docker is starting to be widely used for development, and composing a Linux docker on Windows will give really horrible performances. Same for VMs, Vagrant etc.

Then, which Debian-based distribution for web development ? It doesn’t really matter. It’s all about but it all come to personal preferences, expectations and hardware capacities.

I personally find Debian very good for servers usage but very bad for Desktop usage. That’s why Ubuntu entered. It’s based on Debian but add lot of things for making it an good desktop environment.

If you want to use Debian itself for a Desktop usage, I will suggest to go with the Testing channel instead of Stable, because it’s package are often seriously outdated and Testing is stable enough and more useful for developing. And take an edition including a GUI, not the “base” one. Go for the “unofficial live disk including non-free drivers”. Once installed, add “contrib” and “non-free” in your repositories list. Like this, it will turn it into a decent desktop system.

I have to say, I don’t like Ubuntu itself, because of lot of reasons (including the snap store and the color palette), but I appreciate the fact it’s based on Debian, user-friendly, and they did a very good job for drivers and support.

Take also in account the support duration. It’s something to take in account in your choice. Ubuntu LTS (and most of the distro based on it) are supported for 5 years.
Less version-upgrades means less time loss and risks of breaking your system.

So I prefer to use Ubuntu-LTS forks, taking all its advantages, removing its inconveniences, and improving it even more. The most famous of them being :

  • “Linux Mint” is like Ubuntu Made Right and provides 3 differents GUI. It’s the most classical Linux-minded of all Ubuntu-based distro.
  • “KDE Neon” is focused on offering the best experience and updates of KDE. If you want the best GUI of them all, that’s your best choice. But last time I check, some manipulations (like updating the KDE version) were a bit akward.

  • “Zorin OS” is also very interesting for newcomers who wants to keep their habits because its goal it to look like Windows or MacOS.

  • “Linux Lite” is good for old PCs. But you shouldn’t develop on an old PC, anyway

Alternatives : using a lighter debian-based distro. MX Linux, Deepin or antiX. They are also very famous.

Aside of web development and debian-based distros, my favorites are Manjaro and OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, because I find that rolling-release, fresh packages and high customization choices is a big comfort (and time gain) for a desktop usage, even at the prices of some stability issues. And the package managers of theses two are the best.

I was tempted to use LMDE 4, aka Linux Mint Debian Edition, which mix lot of things i like (Debian + Rolling Release + Mint flavors), but some Debian experts don’t recommend it because it have some flaws. It’s experimental.

I heard about Solus as a good distro for development because there is a lot of compilers and containerization/virtualization pre-installed, but I don’t think it will bring something really useful for just WEB development. It’s also build from scratch, so not related to any other Linux family, which is also somehow unreliable.

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