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Minimalist linux distros rundown

When I was deciding what distro to use before making the switch to linux, the minimalist ones all seemed similar. This is a breakdown of some of them, what sets them apart, their use cases and their pros and cons.

The distros I'll be comparing are arch, debian, void, nix, guix, gentoo and slackware.


Features: binary-based, uses pacman, uses systemd, AUR, bleeding-edge

Pros: popular, good wiki, good support

Cons: systemd, medium dificulty to install

\--> systemd-free version: artix

\--> see also: parabola, hyperbola


Features: binary-based, uses apt, uses systemd, stable or testing versions

Pros: rock-solid stable, very good support, average dificulty

Cons: systemd, stable has older software

\--> systemd-free version: devuan


Features: binary-based, xbps-src to build your own packages, uses xbps, uses runit, stable rolling release

Pros: no systemd, easy to install, very minimal, good for tinkering

Cons: less popular, less support


Features: binary-based, uses nix, uses systemd

Pros: nix, reliable, reproducable, good work environment

Cons: difficult, not that common, less support


Features: binary-based, uses guix, uses gnu shepherd

Pros: nice package management features, hackable, adheres to GNU FSDG

Cons: difficult, not that common, less support


Features: compiled packages, uses portage, uses systemd

Pros: use flags, very minimalist and fast, customisable, good for tinkering, amazing wiki

Cons: slow to install packages, very difficult, takes a lot of time

\--> openrc version available


Features: binary-based, uses pkgtools and slackpkg, uses slackware-init

Pros: very "UNIX-like", no systemd, very stable, great to learn linux with

Cons: not the easiest, package dependancies are not automatically installed, quite old

My picks

Best server: debian (easy and stable), gentoo (fast), slackware (alternative to debian)

Best desktop: arch (popular and up-to-date), void (what I use)

Best for tinkering: void (v. minimal, runit), gentoo (use flags), guix (Guile Scheme APIs)

Best for development: nix (isolated environments, rollback), debian (common, there are many debian-based distros), arch (same as debian)

Best for learning: slackware (UNIX-like, very "vanilla"), gentoo (throwing yourself into the deep end)

Published: 2022-5-22