I'm going to install Linux + a desktop environment on my Dad's laptop.

After some searching through the stackexchange network, I realized I also had to choose between a fixed release or a rolling release linux distribution.

Once decided, the point now is : which Linux desktop environment for beginners ?

This answer proposes KDE, which I already know.

I've also already tried Gnome2, XFCE and LXDE in the past, which, in my opinion, won't especially be very easy for my Dad to use.

Any other suggestion ?

  • How old is your dad? Which OS has he used before? What screen resolution does the laptop have? Does he have any special needs like high DPI scaling? Is it a touch laptop or does he use a regular mouse? IMHO, without knowing your dad, this question is hard to answer. Jun 2, 2020 at 21:04
  • 1
    @ThomasWeller He doesn't need high DPI scaling yet, he's not that old thank God. He's use Windows 7. The resolution is 1366x768. The laptop has both a touch-pad and a touch-screen.
    – SebMa
    Jun 2, 2020 at 23:02
  • "I've also already tried Gnome2, XFCE and LXDE in the past, which, in my opinion, won't especially be very easy for my Dad to use." <- Please explain why. Without more details, it is very difficult for us to guess.
    – Nicolas Raoul
    Jun 3, 2020 at 12:30
  • itsfoss.com/windows-like-linux-distributions
    – user14090
    Jun 4, 2020 at 14:33

2 Answers 2


Until she passed away, I had my Mom running Kubuntu for 15 years. The trick is not to match the Windows interface exactly (which has its own issues anyway) but to have an interface that is close enough and pleasant enough to use that learning it is easy. The second most important thing is to pick a distribution and window manager that DOESN'T CHANGE THE UI willy-nilly with every new major release. Even Microsoft makes that mistake on occasion. Gnome is a disaster on that front, and even KDE has stumbled in the past.

What older, less-savvy computer users tend to do is learn procedures and menu locations. Something like "click on this box at the lower-left; go to the third menu down; move right and down and click on the red fox; ah-ha there's the Google search bar (set as the home page in Firefox)". Change the menu position, the icons, whatnot, and you WILL be getting service calls.

I had my Mom running KDE because that's what I use on my Gentoo box, which made support easier for me. (I had her on Gentoo once for a little while long ago--BIG MISTAKE. Don't set up a rolling distribution for non-savvy computer users.) The odds are you'll end up doing support now and then anyway, so pick something YOU can live with as well. My favorite plug-and-play distribution today for beginners is Mint Cinnamon. Mint is based on stable Debian/Ubuntu, and Cinnamon is a very nice and clean desktop interface with a lot of the Windows paradigms, great support, and very little to fuss with. Check out the link provided by a_horse_with_no_name; it recommends it as well and includes a screenshot.

  • Sorry about this great loss. You have an interesting Linux experience. BTW: I've just tried KDE+Manjaro which is based on Arch Linux which comes with the Pamac graphical package manager and I love it. It's so easy with Pamac to install official or even build AUR packages. It's my first time on a rolling release distribution, according to your experience what is wrong with using a rolling release distribution ?
    – SebMa
    Jun 6, 2020 at 19:44
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    As a Gentoo user for 16 years I'm a huge fan of rolling releases. The reason I don't recommend them for non-computer-savvy users is that every now and then something will roll over and cause a sudden change and 'break' the computer, and you will then start getting service calls. It can be something as simple as the next version of Firefox deprecating an old theme you had installed, or the email program using a new set of icons. Suddenly the old familiar interface is gone. Now you need to 'retrain' your user. Been there, seen that. That's why I like LTS releases for non-savvy users. Jun 8, 2020 at 4:11

As a former Computer Education teacher, I've used Linux Mint with XFCE at my school lab. From 1st grade to 7th (primary school).

They liked it. My students were able to use XFCE easily. Some of them were first time mouse users. But still, they've dealt with it.

Personally, I use KDE. (Why? Literally, there's no reason.)

  • OP said he has already tried KDE and XFCE. When he's still asking this question, that means neither KDE nor XFCE suit his needs. Otherwise he would already have found a solution. Jun 3, 2020 at 8:11
  • I've given a specific distro + DE example. For example, AFAIK Kali uses XFCE by default too but I hate the Kali desktop experience. 2nd. OP stated this: "which, in my opinion, won't especially be very easy for my Dad to use." And I suggested my opinion: "Even 6 years old 1st grade students used it." This is what I'm suggesting actually. Let the dad decide.
    – Ali1928
    Jun 3, 2020 at 8:29
  • Ali, please add some screenshots and say more about why it is easy to use. Thanks! :-)
    – Nicolas Raoul
    Jun 6, 2020 at 5:00
  • I also use Linux Mint, but with either Mate or Cinnamon. It is similar to the "traditional" Windows 7 interface, but also very customizable.
    – jrw32982
    Jun 9, 2020 at 18:46

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