What do you mean with WM? LTS? DE?


When you’re reading this you’re probably completely new. Chances are you’re wondering what all these terms mean. No worries, that’s what I’m going to explain here.

First off, Linux distributions can be divided in several groups, according to their “release model”. The release model means how often they provide updates and how they are provided to you.

LTS release means that a distribution provides a Long Term Support release. These releases are supported longer than usual, this can range anywhere from five to ten years of support. If you’re interested a LTS release of a distribution, I’d check with them for how long the LTS support is valid, before you need to update to the next version. Regular updates are in general only meant to address serious issues (such as security, or stability of the software).

Fixed release is a release model where you install once. You get updates, alright, but these are generally meant to address bugfixes. Once in a while the distribution provides a huge update which you download and install to go to the next version of the distribution. The difference between fixed release and LTS release is that fixed release receive the huge updates more often and are supported for a shorter period.

Rolling Release. Some people may tell you this is asking for problems. This need not be true. Distributions such as PCLinuxOS and Solus Linux have a focus on stability, while providing a rolling release model. A rolling release model translates in a flowing update process. New software comes available when it’s released. This means there are no huge updates once every, say, six months. Rather, there’s a constant stream of updates.

There’s one key difference between most Linux Distributions and Windows regarding updates. In Linux updating is a quick process which can sometimes be done in a matter of seconds. Of course, if you have little bandwidth, it is likely those updates will take longer to download. However, actually applying them is generally a very fast process. With most distributions you can even keep using your computer while it’s applying updates to all kinds of stuff, even to the core of the operating system. Yes, this is no joke.

Distrowatch also lists something which might be confusing to you. Init system. You do not need to worry about this. If you have been reading about this systemd thing, which seems to be dividing the Linux community deeply, I suggest you just ignore it until it becomes relevant for you and then start weighing the pros and cons. This is not the time to worry about this.

Next there’s terms like Desktop Environment and Window Manager? What do those mean?

A Desktop Environment (or DE in short) is a whole suit of programs which work together to form a smooth user experience. A DE usually comes with a whole host of applications specifically designed for it. While they are easier to use, that ease of use generally comes with greater processor and/or memory demands, especially when you start firing up applications. Examples of DEs are: KDE/Plasma, GNOME, XFCE, and Cinnamon.

A Window Manager (or WM in short) is a completely different cookie. They are usually very lightweight. Most of them obey certain specifications which allow them to work together with other applications, creating a feel like a DE. However, they are less integrated then DEs, but in general a configuration using a WM is lighter on system resources. Examples of WMs are: openbox and i3.

You’ll hear us mention terms like GUI and CLI often.

GUI means Graphical User Interface. This is the interface you’ve probably been using for most of your life. You either tapped on it using your finger, or you used a mouse to interact with it.

A CLI is a Command Line Interface. This is where people enter commands using the keyboard to get stuff done. The computer then replies by providing text output on the screen. We will not be concerning ourselves with this one here.

You may be wondering: now what?

You can go over to distrochooser and do a quick test to see which distribution would fit you best.

Linux Hardware is a website dedicated to tracking hardware compatibility with Linux. You can refer this website if you’re uncertain whether Linux will support your computer.

Q: I’ve heard Linux is hard.
A: It depends on the distribution. Distributions like Linux Mint and Solus Linux work very hard to make things as easy as possible to understand. With these distributions there’s no need to do anything on the CLI. On the other hand, there’s distributions like Gentoo Linux, Void Linux, and Arch Linux are targeted at advanced users who know what they are doing and who will drop you on the CLI right from the get-go.

Q: What is a Linux distribution?
A: A Linux distribution is a collection of software configured in such a way as to perform (a) particular function(s).

Some distributions are aimed at servers, others desktops, yet others at power users. Some are commercial, others are completely free. The variation is endless. It is safe to assume there are at least some differences from one distribution to the other. Sometimes these differences are wildly obvious, other times they are more subtle.

Linux is the name what’s at the core of the OS (Operating System); it’s a so-called kernel. The kernel is responsible for the communication between the hardware and the rest of the operating system. Without this application developers would need to do a lot more work to get things done.

Putting those two together you end up with: Linux distribution. Sometimes people call this “distro”.

Q: I’ve heard my application is not available on Linux.
A: Linux is a set of different operating systems than Windows. Some software manufacturers do not choose to provide their software for Linux. It’s still very likely you can get your desired task done on Linux, albeit using a different application. This different application need not be a worse option than you were used to. That being said, it may require some getting used to.

Q: Oof the update screen looks complicated. What are all these things being updated?
A: They’re components of your operating system being updated. Unlike Windows or MacOS, Linux does not hide things from you. If you do not trust something, you can consult the community. It’s safe to press the update button. The update program will likely ask for your password (this is a security feature), and than it goes off doing its job.

Q: When I went to the community and asked my question, I got very disrespectful replies. Is the Linux community always this toxic?
A: There are some rotten apples in every community, but there are things you can do to lower the likelihood of them treating you badly significantly.

  • Do your homework. Use a search engine to look for your issue and a possible fix.
  • Make sure you’re asking the question in the right place.
  • Make sure your question is specific. Don’t say “my computer is broken”, rather say “application X won’t launch, and I’m getting error Y, after doing Z.”
  • Make sure you ask politely with respect for the maintainers. Odds are they are not paid to provide you with support. They likely are doing all that work in their own spare time. Be considerate of the human.
  • Be patient. People have lives and other things to do. The likelihood of getting an instant reply is next to nil. Your post will eventually be answered.
  • In general, use common sense.

Treat people with excellence, and you will be treated with excellence.

Q: I read that Linux sucks! Why should I believe you?
A: I use Linux on a daily basis. For the last several years I’ve used Linux only in the GUI. I’ve never encountered issues which could not be solved. Granted, my usage profile is not that hard to handle. I don’t play computer games at all, nor do I need niche applications. I am well aware applications catering to certain niche markets are available.

Q: Ok, when should I not use Linux?
A: There are several situations in which you might not want to install Linux on your computer.

  • If you’re a gamer, Linux might not be for you. While the situation is improving rapidly, it’s still not perfect and some games will simply refuse to run on Linux. Anti-cheat software is the culprit most of the cases, but there might also be other issues preventing the games to run on Linux. Here it’s best to check.
  • When you’re married to Autodesk or Adobe, you may find Windows or MacOS more suited to your needs.
  • The demands of your boss might also be a considerable impediment, especially if the computer you use for work is provided by your boss.


  • Added a blurb about the speed of updates.
  • Added question and answer: What is a Linux distribution.

Hi @xahodo ,
Great effort.
I am sure it will help people.
Getting started with Linux is indeed a learning curve.
Thank you


Exceedingly welcoming and well-written. And accurate! I wish everyone dipping a toe into Linux could read this.

Exactly why I read through ItsFoss every day.