I will soon be shifting to a Linux OS for my day-to-day work. From the perspective of the KiCad developers, Which Linux version / flavour would be my best choice?
Debian, Ubuntu and Fedora are officially supported by Kicad team. You will have varying level of luck with other distributions.
I use openSUSE which works for me but there are a couple of small drawbacks. It takes a little while for the maintainer to build a new stable release, maybe a week or two. And for some reason, the Python 2 binding was chosen. However I am willing to put up with these as KiCad is just one application which I use sporadically. Just FYI.
I personally use Debian but compile from source. For overall experience I think Ubuntu may have an advantage in ‘community’. Also the repository seems to have links here and may be a tad more responsive to changes and updates.
I use and recommend Solydxk, a Debian 10 buster stable linux distribution created by Arjen Balfoort, with an art-deco styled theme for KDE Plasma, my preferred Desktop manager. https://solydxk.com/
If you burn it to a live DVD, you can try both Xfce and KDE before deciding.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that on the soldyk OS, the providers have provided a deb package for kicad 5.1.8+dfsg1-1~bpo10+1.
That allowed me to install it using APT.
A bunch of years ago I switched from windoze to Debian.
Debian has a quite strict policy about what they want to distribute, (and I applaud them for that), but this does make it more difficult for “beginners”.
After a while I wanted to try a distribution which is a bit more “beginners friendly” and I tried Ubuntu, and it was too weird. Their desktop (Unity) had a main menu that kept hussling locations of programs automatically (probably in some “order of used” order) but the result was that I could not find anything, and on top of that I did not like the brown/orange colors. I may have used it for a few hours total, so don’t know much about it.
After that I tried Linux Mint, and it “just works” for me, and I have been running different flavours of Linux Mint for 5 years or so. A few months ago I got a new PC for free (an first gen i7) which is twice as fast as my old (Dualcore E6550) PC. The guy who gave it to me was friendly enough to put Debian on it, but it did not run very well. the Video Card was making lots of noise because the driver was not installed properly, and I had problems with the monitor resolution on my dual monitor setup, so that lasted about 10min, and I put Linux Mint on it again, and also switched from HDD to an SSD I had lying around. Linux Mint installed in about 15 minutes (Including Updates) and all the usual stuff such as LibreOffice, Firefox and other programs.
I also used the opportunity to switch from the “XFCE” Desktop to the “Mate” desktop, because there were some small nuisances in the file browser (Thunar) that is included with XFCE. “Mate” has some other small nuisances and I quite liked XFCE, so next time I’ll switch back to XFCE again. (A sudo apt install xfce probably also works), but I don’t want to spend much time on configuring my OS. For me it’s just some tarmac to race my applications over.
A few years ago I dusted of an old (and very slow) and mostly unused PC. It had been gathering dust for a few years and had not seen any updates. Out of curiousity I tried to update it with apt, and after quite some time (half an hour or so (slow PC)) it got stuck on broken dependencies. I almost wiped the SSD, but remembered that Linux Mint has an “Update Manager” with a GUI frontend, so I also ran that. After a few reboots (multiple kernel updates, and newer versions of the whole Linux Mint itself) that PC was up to date with no broken dependencies anymore. I was quite impressed by that. The only user input was a few reboots and running the update manager a few times.
I work on both systems: Windows and Linux. and I have Kicad on both !
For Linux installations, Always prefer Debian based Linux distributions (except Ubuntu. I don’t like it, don’t ask).
Worked 3 years with Kali Linux, now switched over to Linux Mint. approx. 6 Months ago
Another Mint here.
No problems installing and running, and, even fewer problems installing and running Ki cad… it just worked!!
Lubuntu 20.04. I like the LXQt desktop.
Two ways to look at this:
Which distro is “supported” by the developers
Which distro provides packages for KiCad.
Picking a distribution that the developers use is beneficial IF you run into a very specific bug as it could be replicated if it is related to a distro-specific bug. This methodology of picking a distro however becomes problematic once you apply it to other software. Matlab officially supports RH/Centos/Ubuntu. Ansys officially supports RH/Centos/Suse… very quickly you will not be able to find a distro that meets a stance of officially supported.
Now picking a distro where the developers manage the build, packaging and distribution removes almost all the problems you could encounter that is distro-specific as such developers will manage initial build and test.
So really what is required is a distribution that is friendly to new users but also provides kicad as part of the main or community repositories.
Ubuntu is still a very good choice for this, or you can try Gentoo
I use Linux Mint - interface is easily recognizable to people who saw Windows95 no fancy “intelligent” stuff, just basic start button and windows.
Unfortunately KiCad is not officially supported on Mint despite substantial popularity and install base. The problem is with wxWidgets - https://gitlab.com/kicad/code/kicad/-/issues/3801
Mint uses it’s own flavor of GTK3 that does not play nicely with wxWidgets somewhere. Building from source using wxWidgets 3.1 helps a lot, but not in all cases.
I am using Kubuntu and enjoy my KiCad experience.
Because the lead devs don’t have anyone using Linux Mint as a daily driver. We are all doing this in our free-time, we won’t be going too crazy here. It’s not that we don’t care about crashes and such but troubleshooting deeper issues like say the rendering issues Mint has for some users is far beyond any of our time constraints.
Since none of us on the dev team are Mint users, if any Mint users can provide accurate information about which kinds of Mint work and which don’t (some bugs depend on Cinnamon vs MATE vs Xfce, and last I checked LMDE didn’t work at all) we can clarify that on the KiCad website.
Hello, and thanks for the comments so far…I have barely scratched the surface of Linux distros but I’ve seen Mint (which is comfortably similar to Win95…Win7) and like it. A bit disturbed of course by the fact that it isn’t ‘fully supported’ by KiCad. Fedora (which I am test-driving as a “live distribution”) I already find uncomfortable, inasmuch as there is no obvious way to Maximize / Minimize windows…I can’t imagine wasting time dragging corners up and down all day long…
Kubuntu has similar UI feel as Windows and is based on Ubuntu if this helps you.
I’ve recently tried Ubuntu, Mint and Kubuntu and I’ve settled on Kubuntu.
I would not put too much weight on whether it is “officially supported” for KiCad.
I’ve never had any problems with KiCad on Mint, and installation via the repository as described on the KiCad Website is kept up to date and “just works”.
If you start with Linux, your main concern should probably to start a distribution that is both friendly to beginners, and is quite popular, so lot’s of info can be found when you encounter some “weird” problem. Mint ticks both those boxes.
Long ago Knoppix started with bootable Live CD’s, but these days over half of the distributions can boot from an USB stick. Mint is also among them.
It is not too difficult to make a multiboot setup, but if you’re not too tight on money, then my advise is to buy an EUR30 SSD and install linux on that. That way you can set in the BIOS (UEFI) of your PC from which disk it boots, and you can even pull the plugs from the SSD of your Other OS, as extra security that not a single bit gets changed on it (for example by user mistake and partitioning the wrong drive).
A typical Linux installation is below 20GB, but if you add some big programs it grows quite rapidly. KiCad is over 5GB, and I have both V5.1.x and V5.99 installed. I use a 40GB partition for Linux itself, and a 3TB HDD for data. 40GB is a bit smallish when installing big programs, but 60GB should be plenty for installing lots of programs.
If you’re curious about other distributions and their popularity, then have a look at
Which kind of Mint do you use? There are definitely at least some kinds where there are major graphics issues with KiCad that we cannot fix.
Currently I’m running Linux Mint 20.1 MATE 64-bit.
paul@medion:~$ uname -a
Linux medion 5.4.0-64-generic #72-Ubuntu SMP Fri Jan 15 10:27:54 UTC 2021 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
paul@medion:~$ cat /etc/os-release
PRETTY_NAME="Linux Mint 20.1"
Up to a few months ago I was running Linux 19.something with Xfce.
It’s also quite logical that there are problems with KiCad on LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) KiCad uses a PPA to install KiCad, and PPA’s are an Ubuntu thing and they do not work on a “pure” Debian System.
I also do not consider myself a very knowledgeable Linux user. I just do not have much interest in fiddling with an (any) OS. I have an extreme dislike for both windoze and the fruit brand, and this leaves some linux distibution as pretty much the only option for me.