Linux apps aren't picky: they'll take any system as it comes
The third factor in our trio is how well the desktop of your choice is supported. In some ways this is a chicken-and-egg question for newcomers since most won't know which desktop they want to use.
Pretty much any Linux application can be installed on any Linux system, at least in theory. That means any desktop can be installed with any distro, but in the real world it doesn't always work out quite that smoothly. For example, the Cinnamon desktop is a relatively new desktop interface developed by the same people who created Mint Linux, which means Cinnamon is nicely integrated with the rest of Mint. That doesn't mean you can't install Cinnamon on Fedora or Arch. You can and people do, but it will most likely be a bit trickier and finding solutions to your problems can be more difficult since fewer users will be using your particular setup. That's why, to stick with the Cinnamon example, it would make more sense to use Mint if you really want to use Cinnamon.
All of the distros I've mentioned ship with a default desktop that the distro has tweaked to work best with the rest of its tools. If you're just starting out I suggest sticking with the default desktop, which means, for example, if you download Fedora you'll end up a GNOME user. Grab OpenSuSE and you'll end up a KDE user. Install Ubuntu and you'll be a Unity user. Opt for Mint and you'll likely end up with the MATE or Cinnamon desktops.
That doesn't mean you're stuck with them, though. There's a flavor of Ubuntu for KDE fans; ditto for KDE on Fedora. You can also install GNOME on Mint and pretty much any other combination of distros and desktops, but until you get more comfortable, stick with what's on the default live CD.
These criteria are by no means the only things to look at when choosing a Linux distro, but they should make a good framework to start your investigation.
Beyond these, it’s also worth considering if you’re going to still need Windows apps. Some distros integrate better with virtual machines and WINE than others. For example, it's not hard to make Adobe Photoshop (the lack of which is frequently cited as a stumbling block to adopting Linux) run almost like a native application in Ubuntu (and by extension Mint, which is based on Ubuntu).
If you're installing Linux for friends or family, you'll likely want something that's as close to Windows as possible to minimise any potential confusion. In that case OpenSuSE may be the best choice since it mimics the Windows start button and task bar quite nicely (as will any KDE desktop, but OpenSuSE does a particularly nice job).
If you're installing Linux on a family computer you may want to consider Fedora, which has good support for the Sugar desktop, a desktop environment geared toward children (Sugar is what ships with the One Laptop Per Child machines).
If all of this is overwhelming, here's my advice: if you've never installed or used Linux before, start with Mint Linux and use the MATE desktop. Installation is easy and most hardware should work right out of the box, which will get you up and running in no time. Most of the software you'll need is installed by default - web browsers, office suite, photo editors and music players are all included - and finding more apps is a breeze with Mint's software center. The MATE desktop also sticks with a familiar paradigm of mouse-driven menus.
If you want something a bit different, give Ubuntu Linux a try. The Unity desktop is a departure from the familiar world of Windows (or even most other Linux desktops), but once you wrap your head around it, it works quite well - especially if you're a fan of keyboard shortcuts. Like Mint, the installation and setup process are simple and in most cases all your hardware should work right out of the box.
Anyone planning to primarily use Linux to write software or develop web applications will likely be quite happy with Fedora, which does a good job of shipping up-to-date developer tools like Python, Ruby (and Rails) and web servers like Apache. The software installer may not be the best, but the command line Yum installer works just fine so long as you're comfortable with the terminal.
OpenSuSE is also a great choice for most users. Historically it has been particularly good in business settings, but thanks to a really well done KDE release, it makes an excellent choice for just about any situation.
Jumping from Windows or Mac to Linux is an unsettling experience, as you exit the predictable, pre-packaged world to one of choice and where support doesn’t come from a phone call or a Genius Bar.
The reward is a system that gives you the choice to obtain a system that reflects you and your way of working. Making the right choice means thinking carefully about how you work and what you do, and tuning out the noise of those in rival distro camps who think they’ve got the monopoly on the correct Linux choice. ®
Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills
I've seen it all through the years on sites like Slashdot, Linux Today etc. I'd make a comment that a dialog was missing / broken / unforgiving, or that some common device didn't work, or that I shouldn't have to edit some file to make the desktop work properly and I'd be greeted with outright hostility at times.
It's like some people truly believe that Linux should mean groveling around in HOWTOs or in hand editing text files just because the desktop is too retarded to include a checkbox that would turn something on or off. This RTFM attitude and zealotry has done as much damage to Linux as anything Microsoft has done.
Fortunately Linux has moved on a lot in the last decade but this ugly arrogance and defensiveness is still there.
Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"
""Comfortable with the terminal" "
For the last griefing time - You do NOT need to use a command line to install or use most modern Linux distros.
BUT if you do it can greatly enhance the experience.
Re: Mint is great but ...
I see that SUSE 10 is now on over 3800 security vulnerabilities.
If you don't understand how meaningless that number is then you have no business talking about security.
Is there actually a commercially supported Linux version that has better security than Windows?
I'm tempted to say 'all of them', but the fact of the matter is that Windows has gotten a lot better in that regard. Still, they are all at least on par with Windows and some are better than Windows.
Most of the distributions seem to suck for security.
Again, if you take the raw number of security vulnerabilities as your indicator and think it actually means anything then you've proven you're not qualified to comment on security.
Here's the thing: that 3800 security vulnerabilities is the number of vulnerabilities in the OS plus all the software in the repository. To get an equivalent number for Windows you'd have to count the vulnerabilities in Windows itself, which you can't do outside of Redmond -- I'm not slamming proprietary software here, just pointing out that Windows could easily have that many known vulnerabilities and we'd never know until they were fixed. Then you'd need to count the vulnerabilities in every single Windows application out there. And then you'd end up with an equally meaningless number.
Here's the thing: the vast majority of those vulnerabilities are things along the same severity of a legitimate user being able to change another user's default font with physical access to the machine. In other words, they are minor annoyances rather than true security concerns. Real security problems like remote execution and privilege escalation bugs tend to get squashed very quickly in Linux (or, for that matter, any other major OSS project). Usually those kind of bugs are patched in hours as opposed to days at the bare minimum with similar bugs in Windows.
Don't get me wrong: Redmond's a hell of a lot better with security than they used to be. We don't often see major security bugs for which the official answer to 'when will it be patched' is 'never' anymore (there were a TON of those back in the IE6 days). They've almost caught up to Linux security wise. I personally don't like the way ACLs are handled in Windows, but it works.