Open Ballot: What is Linux's killer feature?


As we rev up our podcast engines for the next recording, we want to hear your words: what do you think is the killer feature of Linux? What's its strongest selling point, the thing that makes it better than its competitors? Perhaps you reckon the kernel's rock-solid stability is key, or maybe you think the plethora of desktop environments gives it an advantage.

Let us know in the comments below, and remember that leaving your name as boring old Anonymous Penguin will make kittens cry.

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Your comments

My killer feature

The thing I like is the fact that as most software is installed via a repository, it all automatically updates itself. With Windows each program has to constantly check to see if there are any updates.

Oh and I like being able to install it on as many computers as I want without having to pay another licence fee.


KDE. It's less bloated than Windows, and looks cooler.

Lightweight Beauty

Linux distros with new desktop environments, Unity and Gnome 3, are lighter than Windows 7 and Mac OSX. And they are, IMHO, much more beautiful and user-friendly.

Looks like Windowmaker

I notieced when looking at Unity that it looks a lot like the Windowmaker layout with a toolbar at the top. It is not as new and original as at is reported to be.

included stuff...

To put it short, I'd say it's the window management. Being able to use a new one when the work demands it. I truly love KDE for all it's strengths and weaknesses(few). I had to leave it for win7 due to company policy and like a good thing I never noticed how much it did for me before it was gone. It helped me so much in work that I didn't quite notice how much. Where win7 is a click-fest to do anything KDE gets out of the way with some clever settings and nifty ahortcuts.
So in short, Linux seldom gets in the way of work but simply stays out of the way in console and just does what it's told. In KDE it does the same, letting you do a lot of clever stuff to minimize grievances while you work. If it makes any sense to you.



The killer feature is Freedom, with a capital F. To name a couple of advantages:

Thanks to Freedom, Linux can translated into dozens of languages. This is really important in places where there is a language used by a minority. For example, I live in a part of Spain, Catalonia, with two official languages Spanish and Catalan. There is much more Free software in Catalan than proprietary software. This is something really important for Catalan speakers.

Thanks to Freedom, we can know what the code does. I work in a university and I used several programs for mathematical calculations, mainly Octave, Euler, Maxima and R. How are you going to use the scientific method if you are using a Big Black Box to help you in your calculations? Science requires transparency.


Free of Charge

Linux's strongest selling point is that it's a FREE stable OS that can make the computer do what we want it to.

Many linux users take it for granted.
Most Windows users don't care for rock-solid stability, no-need to restart after updates and so on, as long as they can surf their favorite websites, watch movies and listen to music. Tell them they can do all the things they like to do WITHOUT PAYING for the OS and its inevitable upgrades and you get their attention.


Installing a commercial OS on a machine provides you with a platform that's POTENTIALLY ready for useful application - but in reality pretty useless for any meaningful purpose without purchasing additional software e.g. office, games, modelling tools etc.

I've got Zentyal running as my firewall\proxy server, Ubuntu UNR running on my 7 year old daughters netbook, gnome with gcompris running on my 5 year old daughters computer, android on my cellphone, boxee on my home media system and my own laptop setup as a developer machine running gnome with all of the development tools I could possibly need.

Linux's flexibility and rich repository of software allow me to tailor make a a setup for whatever specific requirement I have.

Most importantly, because the tools are free I've been able to experiment, learn and find what works for me best. The cost of many commercial applications are a barrier to entry, that have prevented me from embarking on the learning path. I've found Linux an incredible enabler, that's provided me with opportunities that I wouldn't have had, without it.

no defragmentation

no defragmentation need and overall low maintance is a plus.

open source

The most important feature (at least for me) is that it is open source. So whenever I don't like something I can go and change it. Wish it would be that easy in the real world...

Distributions mean it's ready-to-go

The great thing about most Linux distros is that it takes just ten to twenty minutes to go from a completely new system to one that you can be productive with. This is where it's strength over Windows lies.

Whilst vendors like Dell, HP, and so on tend to bundle rubbish onto their Windows systems (like a "free" version of Office that only lasts 30 days) that tend to require removal, replacement, or activation, once you've installed your distro of choice, you're done -- no need to go out and purchase more software, or waste time downloading your standard set of apps and installing a bajillion Windows Updates (with the accompanying bajillion restarts).

Linux Installation/updates

After having spent the best part of a day re-installing Windows XP and all the updates on my sisters desktop and hitting the problem of SP3 installation conflicting with a running AVG software.

My Linux Ubuntu installations have all been without a hitch and shorter too! Mind you trying some recent Linux distros with Gnome3, one worked with my desktop hardware whilst the other didn't! So I'm awaiting for the next version of Fedora before a do another installation.

Ps. what happend to your podcast for last week?

Something Very Simple But Practical

There's loads of cool features that people have mentioned that are technical, etc, but one I would put forward is very simple: workspaces. I have to use windows at work, and at times I have a lot (often 15-20, but my record was about 35 - all active and being used) application windows open and many times, I reckon at least 1-2 times a week, I think "I wish I was using Linux so I could manage these over several workspaces". That, for me, makes it a killer feature!

Well, like other said: *

Well, like other said:

* Freedom
* Possibility to install on brandnew hardware and old hardware, even other cpu architectures like MIPS(i'm Dingux user :P)
* Less or no crashes
* Bash, yeah, I know that MACOSX has a nice shell, but having one for free for common tasks is awesome. Windows is trying with PowerShell and Cygwin also helps, but not as good as Linux

Agree with Javier

If there is one "Feature" that Windows will never duplicate it is the freedom.

Software repositories, Flexibility, Robustness and Freedom. The only word that wraps that all up as one is Linux.


Scripting in Windows can be pretty cool, but scripting in Linux is just awesome. There are so many choices of shell and scripting language, with an immense range of modules, to perform almost any imaginable action - batch processing images and sound, reformatting the rubbish out of Excel spreadsheets (Perl ParseExcel), remotely managing other PCs, driving software with automation scripts and test patterns, etc. A few minutes on a web search engine finds solutions to most problems.


Some focus on features and some on simplicity. I appreciate that my hardware is not particularly potent - and yet I have some excellent software to bring out the best in it. Windows on a netbook is a sad joke.

I have to same distro on

I have to same distro on four different computers they all update from one of them, my wife doesn't pester me about viruses and I have ultimate control.

Oh and I contribute very little to Microsoft's obscene profits ;-)

The Community

Some of the reasons mentioned above such as freedom, scalability and that lovely shell scripting apply to me but by far as a computing student what has been the edge for me is how incredibly diverse and large Linux based communities are.

Great podcasts, forums, blogs and tons of assistance for anything from building web servers to firewalls, routers etc, etc.

Sure proprietary software has large communities as well but you often get a one sided view of everything (How the mother company wants things). With Linux and Open Source on the whole you easily arguments for and against the use of particular applications. Very nice indeed. :D

We had app stores before app stores were cool

To echo/expand on what Mark Fraser said, most modern Linux distros have central (but widely mirrored) repositories for installing new software and updating existing software. When Apple's App Store made a splash, it was trivial for Ubuntu and Fedora to throw store-like interfaces on their existing yum/apt databases, and now when my parents, who run UNR on their computers, want new software, they search for a word or two in the Ubuntu Software Center, click, install, and start using the app.

I've seen the Apple App Store, and you can't get past the first screen without entering a credit card, so we've got them beat on cost, too.

Linux's killer feature... that it is not Windows/OSX, and I'm not thinking about how it looks. It's the 'freedom' thing.

The pros and cons of Linux

There are a few that often attract new users:

1. Free (as in beer) usually
2. More secure than Windows
3. Faster (especially boot up times)
4. Best eye-candy

Being open source attracts some users; but I think that the benefits of that are appreciated more over a longer period of time.

Biggest drawback/obstacle to uptake: lack of 'industry standard' software, especially office software - decisive for many businesses and educational institutions.



that is all

oh and the fact I can poke it and it doesn't try and bite my finger off :D

Price / Boot Time

Just wanting to add this to my first post, having read some other comments:

* I believe that the issue of price is moot. I've tried that argument on Windows users, and it mostly falls flat. Most insist that they get Windows for "free" when they buy their computer. The OEM gets a huge discount, so only about £40 of your money is actually going toward a copy of Windows when you buy a new computer. Annoying, but *not* a strong argument to a pragmatist.

* I've found that Windows 7 boots faster than ArchLinux for me on my machine; shockingly fast in fact. There's plenty I could do to speed up my Arch boot, but I'm not actually too fussed about a few seconds of boot time. I'm not sure boot time is a sensible argument for Linux.

Linux's killer feature is

Linux's killer feature is the community. The openness and willingness to share information about products and issues means that you are never more than a google away from a solution most issues. My dad loves Linux now after he realised this any problem he has had even ones stopping him from booting were nothing more than a click away.

Support for old hardware. I found a tutorial on how to perfectly configure Ubuntu on a nearly 10 year old laptop. Windows Vista and 7 just say no!

Open access to bug trackers means that you can see people are listening and responding to your issues. Have you ever tried contacting tech support for a proprietary software product? It's horrendous (usually).

Gnome 3

Gnome 3 is the killer app nowadays and for the future too!

Easy Installation

In my books, the best feature is the ease of installation. Installing Windows and getting it set up correctly can be a major pain, but Linux installs very quick and easy. Long gone are my days of despair when a Windows machine would fail to update correctly or when a hard drive died and I'd have to spend hours trying to get it back to noraml. Failed hard drive? About 25 mintues later and you are up and running again. Mess around with your settings too much and break something? No problem, 25 minutes later and you are back up again. Helping a family member with an old and slowing XP install? Install something new for them in about 25 minutes. Want to try a different distribution? No problem, only 25 minutes away.

Virtual Desktops

As silly as it may seem, I'd be lost without my virtual desktops! Being able to have my work spread across as many desktops as I want and being able to hop quickly from one to the next keeps clutter down and my productivity up. They're also one of the first things that non-linux users ooh and ahh about when they see Linux for the first time. I know that Apple has gotten on this bandwagon of late, but Linux still wins here.

Killer Features

Less worry about viruses and malware.
Because of repositories, ease of installing software.
Fast installation.
Not having to wait to use the system whilst updating.
Works on older machines.
Allows me to play without fear of breaking and losing stuff!
(Yeh, I know I can lose stuff if I forget to back up, but a live disk often gets me out of trouble.)
Choice of window managers, not Hobson's choice.

All of the above and...

All the great desktops (window managers) PLUS
the STARTUP TIME, using a ssd in a 2x1,6GHz Lenovo laptop,
Lubuntu 10.10 comes up in 8 seconds (4s bios, 4s OS).
Even beats my sisters apple netbook (then again this is
bsd at the core).

Frank Lindemann (franklin)


One can nearly always find a version of Linux that will work just about any computer, turning a weighty doorstop into something useful. Moreover, this isn't like being forced to use the old version of a proprietary OS where support and updates might no longer be available.

So So Many killer features so little time..

One of the most major killer features is like when you think it can't get any better but it does get better.

Things just keep getting better.

I'll just make some kittens cry *after* I post

I don't think you can really say Linux has a killer feature.

All the things previous posters have mentioned are very good reasons to use it above other OSes but really, isn't a killer feature something that gives you a high market share?

Evidently, we don't have one of those.

I also like

Multiple desktops. How cool are they?
Once your used to using more than one desktop you (I) find it near impossible to get on without them.

A great feature under promoted.



Yes! No!

There are as many killer features as there are people who use Linux. For me, it's the fact that Linux allows me to use my PC in any way I choose. Since the very code that makes up the OS is freely available to hack away at, your only limitation is your own ability. This is why Linux is better than Windows or iWhatever.

P.S. Please add a shout-out to Mr Saunders for asking two of my questions to RMS!

Repositories and package

Repositories and package managers.

It's so easy to find and install everything. Need something that's not installed? apt-get install. Bam. Done. No worrying about hunting the right version down on the web. And of course the freedom bit fits nicely in here, as I can easily try a few things out, and don't have to worry about huge EULAs.
And of course all the updates get taken care of at once.

Trustworthy software repositories coupled with package managemen

I can't imagine going back to a OS without a solid package repository.

Whenever I need a new program for something I search in my repository and maybe look what google suggests I should use.

Most of the time the repository offers just what I want. And when I use it

I don't need to worry about viruses.
I don't need to worry about ads in my applications.
I always get full versions, not some limited trial or shareware with pop-up windows every 30 seconds.
I get just the application I want, not a whole ecosystem with its own installation and update mechanism for each program.
My package manager makes installation quick and easy, and takes care of dependent packages.

I'm used to this and usually don't think twice about it. But pondering your question made me realize how great this actually is.

All of the Above

All of the above and it just works!!!

As I recently found out reinstalling a laptop for a friend. Vista no wifi and no software to play DVD's or write to CDR/DVDR. I could have spent even more time getting it up and running but as it only had 1gig ram and was crawling I chose to load Mint 9(LTS) and 2 Hours later (including updates) all up and working and all the software he could ever want.

Talked to him today and he's a very happy convert to Linux - nuff said.

I came to Linux because I

I came to Linux because I didn't want to get betrayed (Wga updates) or sold out by my OS anymore. Besides that, I really like the stability, fast paced development progress, customizability and the ability to troubleshoot way deeper than just some certified black-box tests.

Sheer Flexibility

There is something for everyone with Linux. Almost whatever you can conceive to do with your computer, someone has done already and made it available in Linux. Movie editing, recording studio, multiple TV show recorder, router appliance, firewall appliance, desktop, server, mobile phone, tablets, disk partitioner, live CD (fantastic for trouble shooting Windows), search engines, VOIP and it goes on endlessly.


I can use the computer as to tool it is intended for which typically means doing the boring, repetitive tasks it was designed to do oh so well. I'm a developer by trade so using the computer to solve a problem scratches an itch or two and I know using Linux (and more so 'Open Source') that my knowledge and skills aren't restricted by the closed nature of the beast.

It is customisable, fast and secure.

The ability to install what I want, where I want, without worry

The fact that I can pick and choose, install multiple OSs, revive old computers, all without worrying about DRM, licensing or payment is what I REALLY love about Linux

It's just Ace !!! :)

Once it is installed and set up it just works on my hardware with none or very little down time or maintenance required. It still boots up and shuts down quicker than my Windows 7 installation (which is on a faster hard drive). Freedom of choice etc......

so many choices

I find myself agreeing with everyone's post. So for me the real killer feature of Linux is the fact that it is Linux. The community, and variety of software and environments, all of it, no matter how confusing it may seem. Like Metasansana, I like the variety of expressed opinion. If you dont like one program, ask around and you will find five you had never heard of. Then with a couple clicks of the mouse you can try them out. How can that be bad?


With this magazine supporting it, surely there can be no better operating system.

"What is Linux's killer feature?"

I've been unable to kill it so far. ;o)

Colonel Pannyck has been unsuccessful too. ;oD


Too many to list

The price is important to some (pensioners and such) but for me it's the speed of Linux, firstly on boot and then how soon you can use you desktop, with Windows it takes so long after login before you are able to use it, and that drives me totally bonkers also on older less powerful machines it gets along quite nicely thank you.
One other thing is the absolute freedom of choice, if one OS is not your cup of tea then just install another, there's plenty out there.
Then theres the community, or hell lets face it there is no one reason why Linux is the best thing since button up boots it just is. Long live the Penguin.


i learnded computers

the open invitation to explore your computers inner workings at your own leisure has to be the greatest attraction.
also the universal spell-checker.


Pure and simple. If a particular distro, window manager or desktop environment doesn't suit your needs you can move on to the next without suffering any real penalty aside from the time it takes to install it.

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