There are distributions that work to make themselves accessible to people of every skill level and technical aptitude. They’re often called "Beginner distributions", but they aren’t just for beginners. Actually, any one of these choices would be great for everyone, but they’re also the best places for newbies to start.
Mint also features one of the simplest desktop environments to use and navigate, Cinnamon. The Mint team developed Cinnamon themselves, and they still maintain it to be as user friendly and intuitive as possible, while still looking great.
There’s another factor that’s very important for beginners. Mint is dead simple to set up. Mint uses a modified version of the Ubuntu installer that’s even easier to use. It includes third party packages and other extras that most people commonly set up after installing their system. So, with Mint, you get everything you need out of the box.
ElementaryOS is also based on Ubuntu. That means loads of packages, a giant and supportive community, and more third party support than you could ever need. All of these factors come together to form a picture where you have a highly usable system with all the benefits of a popular Linux distribution and the polish of a commercial operating system.
There's one main downside to ElementaryOS. It's based on the LTS releases of Ubuntu, meaning that packages can get very outdated. This usually isn't a big deal for new users, but for anyone who knows their system and wants updated versions of key packages, it's a substantial downside.
Zorin has its own styling too. It doesn't have a unique desktop environment, but the developers have customized GNOME to be much more traditional and friendly to new users. Zorin is a great option for Linux newcomers. It has the same strengths and faces the same challenges as Elementary. Pick whichever one is more appealing to you.
Neon is based on Ubuntu, but is also the perfect showcase for Plasma. Plasma, despite all of the power that it puts in your hands, is actually a great option for newbies too. Plasma, by default, has a similar layout to the traditional Windows one. It's also one of the most stylish and modern desktop environments available on Linux today.
Plasma isn't just a desktop environment. It's a complete desktop suite that comes equipped with all the additional pieces of software that you need for a robust and fully functional desktop. Plasma doesn't just have basic utilities like file managers, PDF viewers, and archive managers. It comes with some excellent innovative tools too, like KDE Connect and Plasma Vault. KDE Connect allows you to bridge your Android phone and your desktop, sharing files, controlling and viewing text messages, and even using your phone as a trackpad.
With KDE Neon, you not only get a solid Ubuntu-based distribution; you get a well polished experience with Plasma. That combination leads to a smooth and user friendly experience.
Solus is a rolling release distribution, but unlike other big names with that model, Solus moves at a more conservative pace, electing to thoroughly test each package first. They still release everything in a timely manner, and you get the benefit of never requiring a full system upgrade.
Solus has another usability trick up its sleeve, Budgie. Budgie is the Solus project’s own desktop environment. I was built with new users in mind and brings a sleek and modern appearance without distractions. Budgie is intuitive, and it’s such a pleasure to use, many other distributions have ported it over. Budgie isn’t the only card Solus has. They’ve built a ton more usability improvements into their distribution, including an excellent graphical package manager.
Manjaro removes the barrier to entry that usually prevents Linux newbies from taking advantage of some of the greatest benefits Arch brings to the table. It provides a simple graphical installer based off of Ubuntu’s, and offers a selection of desktop environments, complete with a set of applications that users normally install themselves. What really makes Manjaro stand out is just that selection.
Manjaro also offers all of the same choice as Arch in package selection, making it fantastic for gaming, multimedia, and just about anything that benefits from having new software and a wide range of choices. Manjaro is also a rolling release distribution, but it moves slightly slower than Arch, allowing the developers to more thoroughly test changes before bringing them live.
Because Manjaro is based on Arch, you can still dig around inside the system, when you feel ready. You can also take advantage of features like the AUR that allow community members to create their own packages for up-and-coming software.
If you’re feeling more adventurous as a newbie, but you still want a safety net, Manjaro is an amazing option. You can really test the waters in a meaningful way without getting in over your head.
There are plenty of Ubuntu’s “children” on this list, but you might want the genuine article, the one that started it all. Using plain Ubuntu has its advantages. You can be sure that your specific configuration is the one being targeted by the software you’re installing. That goes for getting help too. Canonical, Ubuntu’s parent company, officially supports Ubuntu with paid contracts for servers, so if you plan on using Linux in a professional capacity, this is a great option.
In fact, there are plenty of major players in the tech industry that rely on Ubuntu. Wikipedia runs on Ubuntu. Google developed Android on Ubuntu up until just recently. Much of the startup world runs on Ubuntu too because it’s a great option to get running quick on the cloud.
While there are Ubuntu derivatives on this list that bring extras to the equation, sometimes, there’s no substitute for the original.