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The myth of user-friendliness.

Posted 05-10-2011 at 10:37 PM by TobiSGD

In this post I want to point out my view on the so called user-friendliness.

I often read in posts on this forums things like: "If you want a more user-friendly OS then go for Ubuntu or Mint.", "Debian is less user-friendly than Ubuntu." or "Slackware is not a user-friendly distribution."

But is that true? I think not, at least not in general.

At first I have to define what user-friendliness in my eyes is. Assuming that I am a user, user-friendliness for me is that my OS works in a way I can work at best with. For me it is essential that my OS is working exactly the way I want itand it has to look the way I want it. I don't need a hold your hands OS, if I give a command to my OS it has to do exactly what I want, nothing more, nothing less.

Therefore I use Slackware. It gives me what I want in the way I want it. So for me Slackware is a very user-friendly distribution.

But Slackware wasn't always always my OS of choice. I was a long time Windows user and started with Linux out of curiosity. The first distribution I used somewhat longer was in fact Ubuntu. I have chosen it because Ubuntu was also the OS of choice of my employer, and so I was at least a little bit familiar to it.
At that time Ubuntu was user-friendly for me.

I used Ubuntu from 8.04 til 9.10, and despite it was GUI centrific (as I was when I started with it) I learned my way around the CLI.
After becomming somewhat more experienced, and because of the increasing bugginess of Ubuntu and in general the way that Canonical went with it, I decided to change. After a short time of distro-hopping I discovered Debian.

Debian was exactly the OS I was looking for at that time, stable, easy to configure, a large software repository. I learned a lot from it and had a good time with it.
At that time Debian was user-friendly for me.

Since Debian's repositories are sometimes a bit too outdated, even if you use Sid and Experimental, I was looking for a distro where I can have always the latest Wine, so that I could abandon Windows once and for all. Needless to say that I am a gamer.
Arch was exactly what I was looking for, I installed it side by side with Debian in a minimal configuration with only one purpose: Gaming. Here it was rather funny, I used two distributions that were really different, the rolling release Arch and the more stable Debian, both with a whole different philosophy, and both did exactly what they should do.
At that time Debian and Arch were user-friendly for me.

During my experiments with other distros I came to the point to try Slackware. I heard that it should be really difficult, and as I tried it I found that it was difficult for me. I just couldn't cope with it.
At that time Slackware was not user-friendly for me.

But since there are many Slackers here at LQ, I became curious a second time, and this time I took more time to fiddle with the OS and to understand the philosophy behind it. And it was amazing. After a short time of acclimatization I decided to completely change to Slackware, and till now I don't have to regret it.
At this time, and still today, Slackware is very user-friendly for me.

My conclusion: You can't say that Ubuntu is more user-friendly, or a different distribution is less user-friendly.
User-friendliness doesn't depend on the distribution at all. It depends solely on the user. Not more, not less. And users change over time.

Of course there are distros that are aimed more towards the newbie or the former Windows user. They are newbie-friendly and more familiar for Windows users. But are they more user-friendly than other distributions?

My simple answer: No, just because they can't.
Posted in Uncategorized
Views 30697 Comments 13
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Total Comments 13


  1. Old Comment
    I know exactly what you mean. The worst of all are people that say they can't use Linux because Windows is user friendly. Are they insane? How can an OS with so many security and stability issues be user friendly???
    Posted 05-11-2011 at 04:28 AM by rich_c rich_c is offline
  2. Old Comment
    One user's friendliness isn't necessarily another user's friendliness. If it was, either we'd never have managed to create computers in the first place, or we'd all be building our own hardware and writing our own assemblers. It's better that we are all different.
    Posted 05-18-2011 at 03:42 PM by Skaperen Skaperen is offline
  3. Old Comment
    BTW, Windows could be said to be very hacker friendly. It's just that the hacker isn't in front of it.
    Posted 05-18-2011 at 03:43 PM by Skaperen Skaperen is offline
  4. Old Comment
    I see your point. I'm pretty dependent on various GUI programs to get my work done (and play). So I'm using Mint 10. It makes a lot of decisions for me, and executes them without a problem. But I keep remembering those DOS days (before there was a windows OS). And before that CPM. I got a lot of work done then using command line.

    Now I'm really enjoying learning to use command line in linux. Still, for now, I'm going to stick with one that does a lot of the heavy lifting for me.
    Posted 07-05-2011 at 12:11 AM by littlejoe5 littlejoe5 is offline
  5. Old Comment
    You can take the "user-friendly" abstraction to any level you wish...I know programmers who think using precompiled code is "user-friendly" because you don't have to read man pages on system calls and such...and I'm sure there's some crazy old assembly hacker out there who thinks function calls are for wimps...etc...etc...

    But the GUI vs. non-GUI level is a critical one because it divides a GREAT many computer users, so it's nice to see someone calling BS on it like this. Good post.

    And rich_c, that comment made me laugh =)
    Posted 07-06-2011 at 10:09 AM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline
  6. Old Comment
    I completely agree with you. The term "user-friendliness" has two parts, "user" and "friendliness". Now a permutation of "users" and "friendliness" yields a long list. Not any two users are completely same in taste, nor do they need an OS for exactly same purpose.

    Then again, if you're choosing between Windows and Linux and you have some experience on how to run an OS wished by you, you might consider Linux. But for choosing between two linux distros, it takes a lot of things to take on account, isn't it?

    A thoughtful and logical post, indeed!
    Posted 08-20-2012 at 09:28 AM by leosubhadeep leosubhadeep is offline
  7. Old Comment
    I agree, it is just, the taste of each user...

    I consider debian friendlier than Ubuntu.
    Posted 09-28-2012 at 10:07 AM by suttiwit suttiwit is offline
  8. Old Comment
    People just take the term in the wrong way and always use it in the wrong place, this shouldn't even be used(actualy in my opnion it shouldn't even exist).
    What in the hell is user-friendly?? Is it my friend?
    The proper word to use would be familiar, so, one could say: the way that distro works is more familiar to some users than to others. A thing can't just be your friend, there is nothing friendly about it.

    Posted 10-11-2012 at 11:21 AM by ukiuki ukiuki is offline
  9. Old Comment
    Slackware is user friendly always has been
    It's just picky about who it makes friends with
    Posted 02-21-2014 at 01:00 PM by rob.rice rob.rice is offline
  10. Old Comment
    Speaking of user-friendly DOS and CPM, I really miss some aspects of both, and still use (with FreeDos, and dosemu) some old Dos programs, that (for me) are more user-friendly than what I have found in any GUI program. Also, I miss the old hardware - printers (for example) that could easily be set to print any width or length of paper, and could be set to print 500 pages, or 1000 labels, at a time, and not need attention until it was done.

    But I wouldn't trade my modern inkjet printer with it's CISS, scanner, etc. for one of those old ones, or 4G of memory for 640k (or less). And (though I still use DOS progams) I wouldn't want to be without Linux.
    Posted 02-22-2014 at 07:51 AM by littlejoe5 littlejoe5 is offline
    Updated 02-22-2014 at 07:52 AM by littlejoe5
  11. Old Comment
    a quick look at what was done with such limited systems as DOS
    it's amazing just how far computers are NOW from living up to the power we now have

    when I started in to computers it was the day of the 8bit computers
    my 5 year old $300.00 laptop would have been (had it been around ) the fastest computer on earth on the day I bought my first timex 1000 with the 16k ram pack it was also a $300.00 computer
    Posted 03-05-2014 at 10:21 PM by rob.rice rob.rice is offline
    Updated 03-05-2014 at 10:44 PM by rob.rice
  12. Old Comment
    I like the way you wrote this. Your usage of user-friendly and newbie-friendly hits a note for me. I'm glad I found your page. Thanks and cheers.
    Posted 04-29-2014 at 09:14 PM by j_v j_v is offline
  13. Old Comment
    Fantastic post. I see you are on Gentoo now. How do you like it?
    Posted 05-10-2014 at 11:07 PM by l33y l33y is offline


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