Most open source operating systems are completely free both in price & in licensing. There are typically no fees, lengthy legal agreements, or restrictive copyright protections. You are even free to modify them and make copies to distribute to your friends.
The robust GNU/Linux system is at the heart of most free & open source platforms, running everything from world governments to the International Space Station. It powers much of the World Wide Web and billions of smart devices worldwide.
Free and open source operating systems are as diverse as the people who use and build them. Which means they come loaded with software meant to aid those with hearing, sight or motor impairment.
The Linux & open source ecosystem has a vibrant community surrounding it, and with that you get a world of support – from written documentation and forums, to mailing lists and live chat, to name just a few.
Thanks to the Linux kernel most open source operating systems have unparalleled hardware support. You can install them on virtually any number of computers or other devices that you want.
There are thousands of free & open source applications available to freely download and install without the need to browse the web. All this software undergoes scrutinous review before it reaches you, so you can find and use what you like with confidence.
Many free and open source operating systems have the LibreOffice suite available which lets you create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations as you would with Microsoft Office. With LibreOffice, you can also open and edit any Word, Powerpoint, or Excel files you may already have.
You still have the best of the web available to you on Linux; popular browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera support Linux. Plus the many other Linux-only browsers.
On other platforms, the creative field is dominated by proprietary programs, but there are several capable open source alternatives. Together the GIMP, Inkscape & Krita make a great set of graphics editing tools. Blender is available for 3D animation and rendering. For digital audio, there's Ardour.
Out of the box, many free and open source operating systems can manage your existing music library and keep you listening.
Arch Linux is lightweight & very customizable, however its installation process is definitely for an experienced user.
Arch's continuous update model can be taxing without the knowledge to fix any possible problems.
As one of the oldest free software operating systems, Debian is very stable & reliable.
However its complex development cycle results in infrequent updates and a tendency to lag behind the competition.
elementary puts design first to ensure that it is not compromising on quality, usability or speed.
With a custom-built set of applications and desktop, elementary boasts a unique and cohesive experience.
Fedora has reputation for being cutting-edge and taking an innovative role with open source technologies.
However, being bleeding edge means each Fedora release is not supported for very long.
Linux Mint sports a community developed desktop with the aim of providing a more user-friendly option.
Mint's diverse selection of included software gives it a more complete out-of-the-box experience.
openSUSE is a rather general purpose operating system, built with stability and interoperability in mind.
openSUSE also boasts its own comprehensive and acclaimed configuration & administration tools.
Ubuntu has a very large userbase and community, as such it has a wealth of contributed support resources.
Ubuntu also receives the most attention from third-party app developers and companies.