Which Ubuntu Derivative Is Right For You?

Jack Wallen
Apr 2, 2009
Updated • Dec 5, 2012

If you're interested in Linux then most likely you have taken a look at Ubuntu. And if you have taken a look at Ubuntu then you know there are a lot of derivatives out there that specialize in one cross section of society or another. But which one is right for you? That is where gHacks comes in.

In this article we will examine the different Ubuntu Linux spin offs, highlight what each spin off is about, and decide who that spin off would suit. Hopefully, in the end, you will know exactly which *buntu ISO to download, burn with your CD or DVD burning, and install on your computer.

What is a derivative and why would I want to use one?

A derivative takes the original (in this case Ubuntu Linux) and alters it to fit a particular need or audience. As for Ubuntu there are quite a few derivatives and each one targets a very specific need. That specific need is why you would want to use a derivative. Say, for example, you are a teacher and you have specific needs from your operating system. There is a derivative for you. Or say you want KDE instead of GNOME. There i a derivative for you.

With that in mind, let's take a look at what derivatives are out there and who they are for. First we will look at the officially supported Ubuntu derivatives.


If you are in the business of education as either a teacher or a student, and you need software to fit those specific needs, Edubuntu contains everything you would need to teach a class, be in a class, or learn about a class. Edubuntu contains software for math, science, writing, educational games, and more. As for target age, Edubuntu is useful for elementary school through graduate school.


The default Ubuntu "ships" with GNOME. Although GNOME is an outstanding desktop environment, there are those that will prefer the KDE desktop environment. For those fans of KDE who do not want to have to spend the time installing KDE, Kubuntu is for you. Kubuntu is now defaulting to KDE 4.x.

Ubuntu Server Edition

If you are looking for a reliable and fast server installation that contains nearly everything you need for a server by default, the Ubuntu Server Edition is for you. But be warned, this is a text-based install as well as a GUI-less operating system. So to use the Ubuntu Server Edition you best bone up on your command line skills.

And now for the Recognized derivatives.


If you're looking for a full-blown Ubuntu installation that has smaller hardware requirements than the stock GNOME or KDE based Ubuntu, Xubuntu might be for you. Xubuntu uses the Xfce window manager to keep system requirments as low as possible while still offering as much user-friendliness as possible.


If you long to have an operating system completely free of restrictive licensing then Gobuntu is for you. Gobuntu endeavors to hold true to the Free Software Foundations' four freedoms:

  • The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program and adapt it to fit it to your needs.
  • The freedom to redistribute your modified program.
  • The freedom to improve the program.

So using Gobuntu you can rest assured that the included software will ahere to the four freedoms. This can cause problems if you have hardare that depends upon restricted drivers (such as NVidia cards).

Ubuntu Studio

If you have serious multimedia needs Ubuntu Studio is for you. This derivative includes: Ardour (professional-level audio tools); Gimp, Inkscape, and Blender (Graphics tools), PiTiVi, Kino, and Cinepaint (Video tools). What Ubuntu Studio does is install all of these tool for you so the end results is an outstanding distrubtion ready to fulfill your multimedia needs.


If you need a media center PC and you want it based on an open source operating system, Mythbuntu is the OS you've been looking for. Once you have met all of the hardware requirements for your media setup, this Ubuntu distribution makes creating a stand-alone PVR system a snap. And because your media center will be powered by Ubuntu, you can bet that media center will serve as a standard desktop or a server. With MythBuntu you can meet many needs with one distribution.

And some unofficial derivatives


Eeebuntu replaces the default operating system on your Eee PC. But Eeebuntu isn't just a replacement for your Eee operating system, it is definitely an upgrade. Eeebuntu will make your Eee PC seem more like a standard PC than many other Netbook respins.


I hadn't heard of Crunchbang, but with a name like that I had to look. Of course CrunchBang is a relevant derivative because it uses the OpenBox window manager and GTK+ applications. That means an incredibly light weight distribution (even more so than Xbuntu.)


This is my favorite Ubuntu derivative because it uses the Enlightenment (E17) window manager. It's sleek, well done, and chock full of eye candy.

Final Thoughts

Have you found a derivative that would match your needs yet? The above list includes all of the officially supported and the recognized (as well as some unrecognized) derivatives. If one of these derivatives does? not meet your needs you could either roll your own or look at a different distribution. Fortunately Ubuntu and its derivatives cover a lot of ground.


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  1. Will said on April 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    I have tried ubuntu a couple of years ago, but due to my hoards of MS softeware switched back to XP. My machine needs a re install so I will try xubuntu this time round, and see how I get on. I am a big fan of light wieght programming and so xubuntu seems to be my derivative of choice.

    1. Environmental Consultants said on May 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm

      Xubuntu was ok, but it fell flat on driver support and multimonitor support.

      I now I could have maybe done this via the comnad line but it really was two complicated for a wysiwigophile like my self.

      Perhaps I should have gone for standard ubuntu 1st off, as is I have plumped for windows 7 which is fine, and has very good compatability with old hardware some of which is 10 years old.

      xubuntu would be fine for a simple system and is as good as windows in that setting.

  2. anarchyuk said on April 4, 2009 at 11:32 am

    ubuntuultimate edition rules them all

  3. mividaendigital said on April 3, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Sorry about that. Always thought it was official.

  4. Richard Kut said on April 3, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Another great distro is moonOS. It uses E17 as its GUI. It is very fast, and looks great (at least to me).

  5. Zed said on April 3, 2009 at 3:29 am

    CrunchBang is pure, pure, pure awesomeness.

  6. Brian said on April 3, 2009 at 3:09 am

    Linux Mint is, by far, the best derivative of Ubuntu for the desktop. JRE, Flash, and Win32 codecs out of the box. The artwork is beautiful, too.

  7. Beer Meister said on April 3, 2009 at 12:30 am

    I set up Ubuntu Server on an old Dell to act as a local network mirror for my online wiki. 20 minutes to install with Apache, MySql, and Samaba, and another 10 or 15 minutes installing and reinstalling MediaWiki until I figured out how to import my database and files properly, and I was done. I had some basic knowledge, and I had been doing some research on mirroring databases, but I am far from a wiki, Ubuntu, server, or MySql expert and within an hour I had this done. I know…I know…Distributions like Clark Connect can do this too. But, I did this from scratch, I know where everything is, and I Google anything I need. I installed WebMin and PHPMyAdmin, but they are largely used to just look around. No glitches, burps, or headaches. I was never able to do this with the original Redhat, Mandrake, and TurboLinux server distributions. I didn’t have to troubleshoot anything, tweak anything, find drivers, etc. It just works. SSH via Putty rules. Ubuntu Server. A good distribution. Nice write up on the derivatives. Thanks.

  8. nimicitor said on April 2, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    You forgot nUbuntu:


  9. jack said on April 2, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Mividaendigital: Xubuntu is not an Officially Supported derivative but a Recognized derivative. Check out this ubuntu.com page:

    i reworded a bit. now it’s is 100% correct. ;-)

  10. mividaendigital said on April 2, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Sorry to tell you, but Xubuntu is an official derivative. Also you forgot Linux Mint.

  11. jack said on April 2, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Lee: Crunchbang has been added (as well as OpenGEU).

    thanks for letting me know about Crunchbang.

  12. iampriteshdesai said on April 2, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    This time I will try KDE!
    KDE 4 sucked but this time I ope 4.1 is stable enough.

  13. Lee said on April 2, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    No Crunchbang? It’s not *buntu, but it IS based on Ubuntu and 450 (or 700) megs of pure win.


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