Why I prefer openSUSE over other distributions

I recently had a discussion on Facebook in the openSUSE users group at Facebook about the reasons why we prefer openSUSE over other distributions like Ubuntu.

An almost complete list of openSUSE's benefits

Installation

One of the first benefits of openSUSE you will recognize is the Installation process. You can easily hit the Next button a few times, give some basic inputs like the username of your account and end up with a fully featured and functional copy of openSUSE on your hard disk drive. If you want to adjust the installation you can do that easily as well. In contrast to most other available installers the openSUSE installer has a good balance between making the installation easy for newcomers as well as making the installation as customizable as possible for the advanced users.

Desktop Environments

Most of the common distributions like Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora and others are offering spins of their distribution with different desktop environments. openSUSE does not have a default desktop or spins. When you install openSUSE from the Installation DVD - as is always recommended - you have the free choice between KDE (standard selection), Gnome, Xfce and LXDE as well as you can install openSUSE without any DE, too.

This way, as long as we ignore the fact that there is a standard selection made for KDE, all common desktop environments are treated equally. KDE on openSUSE is well known for offering the best integrated experience of any of the available distributions. Disappointingly it is lesser known for the very well done implementation of the Gnome, Xfce and LXDE desktop environments which is in no way inferior to the great KDE implementation and integration into the openSUSE Linux based operating system.

YaST - Yet another Setup Tool

Although YaST engenders criticism it is nevertheless still the most powerful and centralized configuration tool available as a graphical interface and command line tool alike. It provides an easy and safe way of configuring many aspects of the operating system like the boot loader, software repositories, security tools like the firewall or AppArmor, systemd processes and many many more. With the 13.1 release YaST was almost fully ported from the proprietary YCP to the open source Ruby programming language, opening the development of new modules or improvement of existing ones to a lot more competent programmers.

OBS - Open Build Service

OBS is providing both, users and programmers, a common place for building and sharing software packages and even whole repositories via software.opensuse.org with other users. It is able to comfortably build packages for specific versions of openSUSE and many other common open source distributions like Fedora or Debian as well. Additionally software.opensuse.org offers a Direct Install (formerly known as One-Click Install) feature, making it easy for everyone to hunt down needed packages and directly install them form the web platform of software.opensuse.org.

Zypper - the package manager

Zypper is the name for openSUSE's package manager. It is working in the background when using the GUI-Tools for package management in YaST and is available as a powerful command line tool. It is well known for the most advanced dependency resolution, speed and reliability. The libraries zypper is based on have earned so much reputation that it is now used for Fedora's new package manager dnf as well. But from all package management tools I know of it is additionally offering the most readable output. In combination with a Btrfs formatted system partition zypper makes auto-snapshots of the system before performing package operations which makes rolling back to a previous snapshot easy if there might occur problems after the update.

Snapper - rolling back and browsing Btrfs snapshots

If you are using Btrfs as system partition or anywhere else, Snapper offers a GUI and command line tool for easily rolling back whole snapshots or even single files and proved to be superior enough to be now available for other distributions like Arch Linux as well.

openQA - automated Quality Assurance

OpenQA is offering a unique tool-set for automated testing of software. Probably this is more interesting to advanced users and developers than to regular users, but it is the tool which makes Tumbleweed and Leap well tested and as stable as we know it.

SUSE Studio - build your own OS

With SUSE Studio you can build your very own individual OS right from the browser. This is a great offering whenever you are in the need for an individually put together live DVD/USB device or installation media. You can start with a full Leap or Tumbleweed image and add the software you need or start right from scratch with the absolute minimum of openSUSE and put it together the way you want and need it. In case your individual combination may fit for others as well you can easily share it with the community and anyone can easily download, install or only test drive it directly in the browser.

Last but not least: the community

Getting help is always important and although most of the other communities are as helpful and responsive as the openSUSE community you will hardly find any community which is as friendly as the openSUSE community at providing help.

Conclusion

Sure, your choice is always depending on your personal taste and preferences, but maybe these points will help you at the decision making process. Altogether I tried to collect primarily objective reasons for using openSUSE instead of any other available distribution. This does not mean that openSUSE has to better fit your needs than other distributions as I could find reasons for using Arch Linux (as an example) as well. Nevertheless these are outstanding features almost no other distribution is able to offer.

Further reading

  • OBS - Open Build Service / openbuildservice.org (EN)
  • openQA - automated testing / github.io (EN)
  • openSUSE homepage / opensuse.org (EN)
  • SUSE Studio / susestudio.com (EN)
  • openSUSE Community / forums.opensuse.org (EN)
  • Snapper / opensuse.org (EN)
  • Zypper package manager / opensuse.org (EN)
  • YaST - Yet another Setup Tool / opensuse.org (EN)
  • KDE / kde.org (EN)
  • Gnome deskto environment / gnome.org (EN)
  • Xfce - X forms common environment / xfce.org (EN)
  • LXDE - Lightweight Desktop Environment / lxde.org (EN)
  • Debian / debian.org (EN)
  • Ubuntu / ubuntu.com (EN)
  • Fedora / getfedora.org (EN)
  • Arch Linux / archlinux.org (EN)
  • Linux Mint / linuxmint.com (EN)
  • YCP programming language / opensuse.org (EN)
  • Ruby programming language / ruby-lang.org (EN)
  • dnf package manager for Fedora / fedoraproject.org (EN)