What needs to happen to Linux to have a Year of the Linux desktop?

I am an artist, graphics designer, and I dabble in web design on the UX side of the equation. Microsoft wants to jam AI into everything and strong arm everyone into Windows 11 and the upcoming Windows 12 (even though Windows 10 is faster than Windows 11). I tried to switch to Linux in 2022, and again in 2023, but it didn’t work out.

I really want to switch to Linux permanently, but Clip Studio Paint, and the Affinity suite do not run well in Wine, and do not always run well in virtual machines like Boxes and Virtual Box. My computer is all new within the last year (AMD Ryzen 9 7900X, AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX, G-Skill Flare X5 64 GB DDR5 6000 kit, 3 2TB PCIe 4.0 NVME SSDs, on an Asus ROG Strix B650 E-F motherboard, mounted into a Phanteks Enthoo Evolve X chassis, with a EVGA G2 850 Watt Power supply - yeah, I know this power supply is just enough). So my computer is capable for the work I need it to do.

For the record I am not looking for help to switch to Linux again just yet.

Back to the question. What needs to happen with Workstation based Linux distributions to become a more viable choice for general users who do not want to reside in Apple’s Walled garden, and those that want to avoid the grinding cogs Microsoft Machine and create that Year of the Linux desktop that will make and keep enthusiasts happy. Because until Linux becomes more adopted among users applications like Adobe CC, the Affinity Suite and Clip Studio Paint will not make the move to develop their apps for Linux.

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I suppose more people joining Linux and showing that it has higher market share to some point would have devs natively port their applications to Linux.

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I agree, but for the most part there has to be something there to make users want to use it as their primary OS. Macs are Macs, and for the Apple users it is all about the lifestyle, PC users just seem to be mired in the “Windows is the only OS for PCs.” For Linux to have a higher market share something has to happen to the largely patchwork perception of Linux to move the installed user base from Windows and Mac to Linux.

Like better adoption of Wayland, with the development of some form of compatibility layer for X11, Gnome ceasing to look like they took the Mac OS Finder and tried to shove Windows design features into it. KDE adding features to Plasma that appeal to new users migrating from Windows and Mac to Linux … etc … Its stuff like that.

This forum has a super intelligent user base with a ton of experience in Linux, and yet this topic pops up every few years on the forums, and it feels like the topic kind of dies. Linux should be to the point where it is a mainstream choice for general users. It has been around since the 90’s, has grown in capability, but has not gained the traction it should need … so why?

What does the Linux development community need to do move Linux forward so larger quantities of computer users will want it on their systems?

One point is that software developers struggle with the packaging of their products.
Most distros are based on shared libraries, which makes it hard to have support for a big variety of distros and (lts) versions.

Therefore solutions like snap, appimage and flatpak where developed, but non of these solutions have become a „industry standard“.

We don’t need one single app store, but a common Packaging Format that runs out of the box on all distros.

Another Point, which I think got better over the years but still needs to improve, is the overall ruggedness of the WM/DE. People will tinker with the DE/WM settings and you should not able to mess up your Desktop settings to the point where you can’t login. I think to be widely accepted we need a lot more validation and fallbacks. If you have a new user with a system that’s boots to tty, they will just give up and never come back.

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I guess a really big one would be Adobe to stop being dicks and release Linux versions of their software. They make so much money from them it just seems like a smart business practice to do so but apparently not according to top CEO brass…

The whole philosophy of ’ wait until ALL the users are there before releasing software for platform ’ is pretty stupid when applied to developers with more money then sense. Struggling developers I fully understand, but there are low cost translation solutions.

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Normies dont care. Grandma don’t care. Apple users dont care.

Linux is still too fragmented and confusing for new users worrying about what distro to pick.

Normies don’t understand until the enshittification begins to squeeze them. Gamers are starting to move. Maybe the users will follow.

But until you can deliver a simple windows like or apple like user experience to grandma who will never touch the command line, then it will never happen.

On this front I think the steam deck is doing a great job on accessibility and game compatibility.

Windows has been growing objectively worse over time. While alternatives are getting better. At a certain point, those lines will cross.

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dont bother waiting for them to change. move to alternatives like GIMP, KDen Live, Davinci, etc…

edit: krita, inkscape

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There are Krita and Inkscape as well.

I guess one of the major problems of the “linux desktop” is all the various distributions and flavours available. It’s like a very large restaurant menu on a date. Too many choices.

Although many distros today are very polished, they have the same difficult task of Windows in that they are building for unknown combinations of hardware, so it can be difficult for everything to work on every machine. But most distros are built by volunteers… whether that results in more or less man hours, I’m not sure.

The problem is that the linux desktop is not a company, ultimately the user experience is a function of more than just the desktop environment, it is also whether the system is stable, does all the hardware work (laptops), etc… it’s very difficult to provide a good OOB experience without any help from manufacturers.

On the bright side it seems Asus is embracing Linux support on some of their mobile gaming laptops… would be nice if they expanded that and other companies started copying. Some of these changes make it into the kernel… Intel and more recently AMD have been doing work in this space as well.

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And don’t forget enterprise and office users.

LibreOffice isn’t quite on par with 365.

Many users are tied to Office 365, Teams, Sharepoint, Onedrive and enterprise and legacy crap. Work and office machines will be stuck on windows for some time.

Then there’s retraining the users…

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Very true … especially Uninstalling the desktop UI. Kind of like Linus did that caused him to give up on LTT’s Linux challenge.

This is a good super cut:

It would be interesting to see this challenge revisited because many of those things are resolved now.

For example HDR support was #10 I think and we’re starting to see it.
https://forum.level1techs.com/t/state-of-hdr-on-linux-early-2024-previously-late-2020-early-2021-mid-2022-early-2023

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For the Linux to have a Year of the Linux desktop, to happen we need to have the capacity to coerce a strong government contract and enable corruption at the service level is my cynical take on this.

Forcing to mandate MS/Adobe/etc to have an official Linux version would also push it significantly forward.

We currently dont have the capacity for both.

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I guess we could rephrase the question as, what is keeping people on windows?

What gaps are there in the linux ecosystem where the alternatives aren’t sufficient?

  • adobe suite
  • office 365

I think Audio production and DAW’s are also currently a weakness on Linux. Audacity is extremely basic. The linux DAWs like Ardour and LLMS don’t seem as advanced as the windows counterparts like Ableton, Reason, Fl studio…

I’d love to see Ableton supported on Linux but that probably wont happen. Ableton is currently unusable in wine. I am not sure if this is to do with pipewire / pulsaudio components.

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I’m a 3D artist and I switched to Linux full time almost 4 years ago. Never looked back. My advice: leave Adobe and similar tools behind and learn the alternatives. Then you can get in touch with the developers and try to convince them to fix or develop specific tools you need for your workflow. Also please support them financially if you can.

This might sound ridiculous, but I don’t want those companies to develop for Linux. I also don’t want Linux to attract normies. Companies and normies ruin everything by dumbing evrey useful function and interface down to the lowest common denominator. There is no more user friendly space than mobile and mobile is pure cancer precisely because of that.

What I would like to see is NEW AND INNOVATIVE graphic applications being developed for Linux exclusively.

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I think this is one of two major issues with seeing more Linux adoption in the desktop space. If you can’t get the software compatibility on board, then that will always be a large barrier to anyone trying to adopt it. Everything someone runs today on Windows needs to work (and work just as well) on Linux or there’s no reason to switch. Compatibility layers are a band-aid that might suffice for some people, but most don’t want to deal with that.

The other barrier I see is an overabundance of flavors. There are so many different flavors of Linux out there that it makes the previous issue even worse, and it can paralyze less technical users with too many options. Consider the case of someone who’s not really a “computer person” but who knows how to Google problems and get answers from videos or articles. In Windows this is pretty uniform, but in Linux, you have to be specific about which distro you’re talking about or the same fix might not work. It’s very frustrating.

Desktop Linux needs these two main things: broad and solid software compatibility, and consolidation of distros (at least in such a way that there’s one very popular distro that the majority of desktop users can choose and is the obvious choice for those who don’t know Linux) to really set it up for success. Unfortunately these things are largely out of the control of anyone in the Linux community, so I don’t see the current situation changing significantly in the near future.

Support for HDR would be nice :slight_smile:

Well, I have been using Linux Desktop (almost) exclusively for a few years now. It’s perfectly fine for general use (web, mail, office stuff, etc.).
It’s hard to underestimate how hard it is to move from the predominant software tools in each category to alternatives, even if these are 99% functionally equivalent.

I started using Mozilla tools for browsing / email because they were (largely) identical across OSs some 15+ years ago when this largely wasn’t a thing (For mostly political (not technical reasons) I cannot imagine to ever use Chrome - although there is Chromium if you like).
The switch from MS Office to LibreOffice is harder if you got used to the original. It totally works, though. Just gotta find what LibreOffice did to the 10 buttons you use all the time. The underlying functionality is pretty much identical. Again I “forced” my wife to it by not shelling out the $$$ for the original. My kids don’t touch that stuff since their school uses Google products.
Thanks to that even my family (definition of normie user) would hardly notice a switch from Windows to Linux.

I consider any other software “special purpose”.
Special purpose software typically has powerful alternatives on Linux but the transition typically requires marching up a significant learning curve.
Adobe Premier → Davinci
Adobe Lightroom → Darkroom
Adobe Photoshop → Gimp
Don’t expect a 1:1 functional equivalence - it doesn’t exist. It can take years to learn the equivalent tools (same time it took you to learn the originals). I have yet to find limitations in those tools. Technically, they’re largely as powerful. Productivity-wise you may have to learn a completely different way of using the product, but I think they’re on par here as well.
Don’t expect the latest gimmicky features (AI anyone? - cloud integration?)

Based on my experience a full transition to Linux basically stops hard when you run into a situation where the system (OS) has a hiccup of some sort:

  • software update gone wrong
  • error message you don’t understand

On Windows, MacOS et al. there is enough market pressure to get the bug fixed sooner than later. On Linux the situation can typically be fixed with sufficient command line experience and/or willingness to learn (or a reinstall as a worst case scenario). But THAT is the deal breaker for normies.

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Gaming on linux has gotten easier thanks to valve and their steam deck and is what I think has brought in some gamers from windows.

I figure if game deves made a patch or enable support for linux even if it’s thru steam / epic / gog it’ll bring more people over,

This will probably bring a bunch of others over as well imo.

As for corporate / creative types the apps either need a linux version or an equivalent version that works with the same files / has the same or similar functionality. Corporations will come onboard especial since you make open office / libra office corporate version say 1/2 the price of office 365. Use corporate greed to our advantage for once!

First up, Linux users and devs need to pull their heads out of their asses with that sort of attitude, and actually use a Mac for a bit (not just make baseless assumptions and copy the superficial UI look - badly) and see what it does well. Or at least listen to some users about what they like about the platform.

Just because the hardware looks and feels nice that isn’t the end of it.

The Mac desktop UI isn’t actually that great out of the box. It’s the way the software actually works across the ecosystem.

Fix that problem in Linux.

There’s a reason there are plenty of ex or current Linux users daily driving Macs (myself included, I started with Slackware 3.1).

Also. It isn’t just “too many choices” on Linux. It’s that most of them software wise fucking suck. And so much software in the app stores is buggy feature incomplete trash.

The platform is mostly fine. Fuck. KDE 2.0 on Linux kernel 2.4 or whatever was mostly fine 20 plus years ago.

Software needs to get feature complete and polished and far too much of it is junked, reinvented and perennially buggy and incomplete.

As a user of all 3 major platforms for 3+ decades I believe that the Mac generally has the highest quality apps for very little outlay. Ableton is actually a great example here. Mac setup “just works” out of the box. Last I tried it on windows it needed manual audio buffer tweaking etc.

To make a Mac usable as a general purpose desktop (for things most users want to do) costs far less than making a windows box usable in terms of legitimate non pirated software. Both in time and dollars.

And Linux? It’s a shit show. Unless you work within a particular niche. No matter how much money you throw at it. Software either doesn’t exist, exists but is buggy as fuck, or costs the same as on a Mac or windows anyway.

There are some exceptions but they are often available on Mac or windows too (blender for example).

As always. The platform cost is a one off factored into the cost of the machine. The application software is what matters.

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For there ever to be a “Year of the Linux Desktop”, computers will need to ship from big box stores with Linux installed by default.

Not as an option. By default.

Normal people don’t install their operating system. The majority of Windows and Mac OS users didn’t install their operating system.

Linux merely needs to get over the “installation required to acquire users” problem.

That is to say, as a proud Linux user… there will never be a Year of the Linux Desktop.

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Don’t wanna start a religious war here, but the same is true on Windows and Apple platforms (add Android if you will).
I think we can agree that the software apps/suites that do work are better known for popular (Windows/Mac/iOS/Android) platforms (for many reasons - strong marketing, better word-of-mouth) and therefore it is easier to find them.

+1 That’s my experience as well.

I don’t use Macs because I am too cheap to buy their hw. And I don’t mind / like the software setup.

I don’t agree with the quote, but with the sentiment. Elbow grease required to make stuff work - at least work it the way you like it. Typically a deal breaker for normies.

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