This year's awards feature reader-nominated categories and choices. See who won!
This year's Reader's Choice issue was truly fun to put together. No, not just because you do all the work (voting), but because it's great to get a feel for what our community is buzzing about. Based on your feedback, we've given you all the data again this year, with percentages and rankings, plus we tried to include as many of your less-popular responses as possible. It wasn't that long ago Linux itself was less popular, so we have a soft spot for such things.
We also had an extra round of voting this year specifically for nominations. Everything you see below is reader-generated, including some new categories suggested by readers. Well, okay, my comments aren't reader-generated, but hey, I do read every issue, so that counts, right? We hope you enjoy this year's Readers' Choice Awards.
This year's Best Linux Distribution is a testament to choice. Although it's not a surprise that Ubuntu is in the top spot, it's fun to see how close those top spots are to each other. Just a handful of percentage points separates a dozen or so distributions, and the most popular option only has 16% of the total votes! When it comes to their distros, Linux users love choice.
Arch Linux 10.8%
Linux Mint 10.5%
elementary OS 2%
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 1.6%
Ubuntu Server 1.6%
Bodhi Linux .1%
Kali Linux .1%
Oracle Linux .1%
Zorin OS .1%
What used to be a category full of very specific distributions designed for very specific screen sizes has become far more generic. That doesn't mean small screens aren't loved, it just means that standard Linux distributions consider the smaller screens in their design philosophies. Seeing Debian at the top is pretty cool, because it's more often seen as the “foundation” for another spin-off. It's also great to see Android on the list, as a large number of smaller devices are indeed tablets or their ilk.
Arch Linux 12%
Chrome OS 5.5%
Peppermint OS 1.3%
*Popular write-ins: CrunchBang, SolydXK, Bodhi Linux, Linux Mint and elementary OS.
When it comes to raw number-crunching, we need a distribution that is easy to manage, easy to scale and easy to trust. Stability and predictability trump all the glitz and glamor of the desktop-focused distributions. Debian and Ubuntu top the results this year, with RHEL and CentOS right behind. These are the names we've come to trust, and with high-performance computing, that's what we need.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 13%
Linux Mint 7.2%
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 3.3%
Rocks Cluster 1.1%
Popular write-ins: Arch Linux and PCLinuxOS.
It's no surprise to see Ubuntu in the top spot for Desktop Distributions. It took all around favorite distro, and because it excels on the desktop, this makes sense. The results show that Arch Linux is really turning some heads as a viable alternative to the “traditional” desktop system. Linux Mint, designed with the philosophy of making things easy for the end user, logically grabs a huge percentage as well.
Linux Mint 16%
Arch Linux 8.7%
Red Hat .6%
*Popular write-ins: elementary OS and CentOS.
Oh GNOME...the Best Desktop Environment category will never quite be the same. KDE easily takes top spot this year over Unity, and GNOME (in any of its forms) is down below. Even XFCE, one of my personal favorites, comes in ahead of GNOME. That's not to say the GNOME way of doing things is gone. Several other alternatives with some decent percentages of the votes are re-creating the old GNOME concept. If “GNOME-like” were an option, we might see closer numbers, but as it is, KDE is the king.
KDE Plasma 12.7%
GNOME 3 14.1%
GNOME 2 4.5%
*Popular write-ins: awesome window manager, i3 window manager and Pantheon desktop environment.
It came as a shock to approximately zero people that Android is the most popular mobile OS. The cool part of the survey is that alternatives are available, and they got a not-insignificant number of votes. Yes, CyanogenMod is Android, but it was different enough (and got enough votes) that we thought separating it out was interesting. Plus, it's not like Android needed those votes to win! Between them, Sailfish and FirefoxOS took more than 20% of the vote, which both surprised and excited us. The mobile world is where the action currently is happening, and it's great to see the options haven't stagnated.
Sailfish OS 17.5%
Ubuntu Touch 2.6%
Ubuntu for Phones 1.4%
Ubuntu for Android 1%
As someone with a Samsung phone in his pocket, it's not a surprise to see the Korean company take more than a third of the votes. Samsung has created some truly beautiful hardware of late, and it doesn't look like it plans to stop. Will the new wave of smartwatch accessories cement Samsung's lead? Time will tell, but for now, it's certainly your favorite. Jolla took a surprisingly large number of votes this year, especially considering the lack of large numbers of units. Still, being small has never bothered the Linux community before. If Jolla makes great hardware, we'll let it know with our pocketbooks.
Golden Delicious Computers 1%
Winko Cink .3%
Google takes the top two spots this year, with the same tablet in different sizes. The Nexus 7 received a massive upgrade this year, so those votes are likely split between the two models, but more than half our votes went to a Google-branded tablet. I suspect part of their success is the early access to Android upgrades, but there's a lot to be said for delivering the stock system and not adding custom interfaces. The specialized Kindle and Nook tablets are near the bottom of the list, probably due to most of us being power users and wanting the most out of our tablets.
Google Nexus 7 37.9%
Google Nexus 10 15.4%
Samsung Galaxy Tab 11%
KDE Vivaldi Tablet 9.3%
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.7%
Ubuntu Edge 6.4%
Kindle Fire HD 3.3%
Nook HD 1%
Ekoore Python S3 .6%
*Popular write-in: Asus Transformer.
If its “Reign of Awesome” continues much longer, we're going to have to rename this category “Best Linux Gadget That Isn't a Raspberry Pi”. The tiny little ARM system blows everything else out of the water again this year. And really, no one is surprised. Heck, Kyle Rankin and I are still writing about the various uses we have for our Raspberry Pi units, and we were doing that more than a year ago! The Google Chromecast took a fair number of non-RPi votes in this category, making it clear that if you haven't given the Chromecast a try, perhaps you should.
Raspberry Pi 68.3%
Google Chromecast 5.6%
Amazon Kindle DX 5.4%
Roku 3 3.1%
TomTom Navigation System 2.5%
Parallella Supercomputer 2.2%
GTA04 Upgrade Board for Openmoko 1.4%
Sony PRS T2 eReader 1%
With just a fraction of a percentage point, the Linux-specializing System76 takes the top spot away from Lenovo this year. It says a lot about Lenovo, however, that a company who doesn't specialize in Linux is almost tied in popularity to one that does. There's a lot of big names near the top of the list this year, which is good news for everyone, because it means more and more laptops are Linux-friendly.
*Popular write-in: ZaReason.
Not satisfied with simply taking Top Gadget, the Raspberry Pi Foundation takes the second-place spot as a hardware vendor this year behind Intel. It seems like Intel has made huge strides in efficiency and speed this past year, and it hasn't left Linux users out along the way. The other big names in computer hardware ranked well on the list too, which again shows that the big companies continue to take Linux seriously.
Raspberry Pi Foundation 19%
Silicon Mechanics .2%
It's nice to see various companies excel at certain things. Dell, for instance, takes our top spot as Desktop Workstation Vendor, while it didn't make top three for laptops. This is one of the reasons I love the Readers' Choice Awards so much, because without purchasing lots of computers from lots of companies, I'd never know who is the best. You had some strong opinions on desktop computers, and the votes were split between only a handful of vendors—valuable information for any potential buyer.
*Popular write-ins: “build your own” or “custom made”.
Server hardware, much like our High-Performance Computing category, specifically targets trustworthy, rock-solid computers. Even making our lists implies total Linux compatibility as well. IBM takes the top spot in a very competitive category. It's great to see big companies on our list, proof that Linux is serious business.
*Popular write-ins: System76 and “build your own”.
Google Maps is indeed an incredible application on Android. I was personally surprised to see the Firefox Mobile browser take second place, because it's not a Google project. Don't get me wrong. I was very pleasantly surprised. If you're looking for a list of great apps to put on your phone or tablet, look no further than these results.
Google Maps 15.5%
Firefox Browser for Android 13.1%
Chrome Browser for Android 8.4%
K-9 Mail 5%
Linux Journal 2.9%
LibreOffice Impress Remote 2.3%
Kingsoft Office 2.2%
Nova Launcher 2.2%
Plants vs. Zombies 1.8%
Google Currents 1%
Moon+ Reader 1%
My Tracks .5%
Out of Milk .5%
PC Monitor .4%
Tweet Lanes .2%
*Popular write-ins: AirDroid, whatsapp, OsmAnd and Opera Mobile.
Content management systems are doing their best when they get out of our way and let us publish content. WordPress claims victory this year as your favorite CMS, and it's followed by Drupal, Joomla! and MediaWiki. If you're looking to try something new, our results show a handful of lesser known, but obviously still worthwhile projects to check out. If you're looking for proven results, however, it's hard to beat WordPress.
eZ publish .3%
Wolf CMS .1%
*Popular write-ins: Django, Plone and dokuwiki.
I found it interesting that Amazon took the number-one place in our survey this year for Linux-Friendly Web Hosting Company. Don't get me wrong, Amazon is definitely Linux-friendly, but I've never considered it a standard Web hosting company. Still, with the incredible array of Web- and cloud-based tools available, I guess it makes sense it would take the gold medal. And really, if you haven't used Amazon's services, you should!
LAMP Host 4.5%
Hurricane Electric 1.7%
Liquid Web 1.1%
Blacknight Solutions .7%
Host Media .2%
*Popular write-ins: Digital Ocean, Hetzner, Blue Host, Bytemark and Gandi.
Wow! Way to go Firefox! Beating Google's Chrome browser in both the mobile app category and this one, Firefox is proving it's not going away any time soon! More than half of you picked Firefox as best browser, so if you're one of the 47% who didn't, perhaps it's time to revisit the trusty old Firefox, you might be surprised!
The RSS category was difficult for many of us this year. Google Reader going away created a huge vacuum in the newsreader world. Thankfully, there were many alternatives that arrived to fill the void. Feedly, with its unique interface, took your top spot, followed by the more traditional RSS readers, Thunderbird and Akregator.
Tiny Tiny RSS 9.9%
*Popular write-ins: Digg Reader, NewsBlur, ownCloud news, rssOwl and this old reader.
Although it might be due to Firefox's popularity with readers, perhaps Firefox's syncing ability is what gave Firefox its edge this year. Chrome certainly got a lot of votes for Best Bookmark-Syncing Tool, but Firefox once again takes the top spot. Great job, Firefox team!
Firefox Sync 36.4%
Google Sync 9.1%
Tiny Tiny RSS 1.6%
*Popular write-in: Opera Link.
The thought that 5% of our readers are like Kyle Rankin and prefer their e-mail in a terminal window is both scary and fascinating. For most of us, GUI e-mail is where it's at, and Thunderbird grabbed almost half the votes as Best E-mail Client. Granted, the Web-based Gmail came in with 29% of the vote, but it's impressive to see how many people still prefer an actual e-mail program versus a Web site.
Mozilla Thunderbird 41.1%
Claws Mail 1.8%
Opera Mail 1.3%
IBM Notes 9 .4%
Pidgin is still top—well, top bird I guess, in our IM category. It's one of my personal favorite ways to handle IRC, so it doesn't surprise me to see Pidgin on top again. When it comes to sheer number of supported protocols, Pidgin is amazing. Skype takes a surprising second position, not surprising due to lack of ability, but surprising because it's owned by Microsoft! Thankfully, Skype is still available for Linux, so we won't sling mud.
Google Chat 11.9%
Miranda IM 1.1%
*Popular write-ins: KDE Telepathy, Google Hangouts and Irssi.
Back in my day, we didn't need audio or video to chat with our friends. We had green text on a black screen, and we liked it. Thankfully, for many of us, we're still living in my day. XChat takes top spot as the IRC-specific application, and Pidgin follows close on its heels offering incredible IRC support for a multiprotocol client.
Opera IRC 2.6%
ERC (emacs) 1.2%
*Popular write-in: KVirc.
Those of you who know me know that I tweet a lot—probably more than my employers like! I've tried just about every Twitter client available, and I agree with the vote here. TweetDeck is my number-one client as well. Gwibber comes in a close second, but for me, it's the centralized login that works between computers that tips the scale.
Remember when there was only one main office suite Linux users loved? Oh, right, that's now! LibreOffice grabbed almost 75% of the votes this year, and keeps its spot as your favorite office application.
Google Drive 11.8%
Apache OpenOffice 6.7%
Calligra Suite 5.2%
*Popular write-in: Kingsoft Office.
LibreOffice Writer 49.4%
LibreOffice Calc 15.7%
Apache OpenOffice Writer 4.8%
Calligra Words 4.1%
Apache OpenOffice Calc 1.5%
Calligra Plan .8%
Calligra Stage .8%
Apache OpenOffice Impress .6%
When it comes to editing photos, Linux has so many options. GIMP is your number-one choice for image manipulation, and with the new single-window option, it's even easier for new folks to use. Inkscape and Blender also are high on your list of graphics/design options, so if the GIMP doesn't quite do it for you, check them out.
Apache OpenOffice Draw 1%
Tux Paint .9%
I'll be honest, seeing the GIMP on the top of the photo management list did surprise me a bit. I still haven't found what I consider the perfect photo management tool, but thankfully you've provided a few I haven't looked into. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some tools to try.
Bibble/Corel AfterShot Pro 1.3%
What do you do with audio? You create, convert and listen. Those three needs define the top three spots in our survey. Audacity takes top spot, as an incredible audio creation and editing tool. Then VLC converts and plays, while Amarok is an incredible playback tool. Linux people know their audio, and we have the tools to prove it.
Format Junkie .2%
Much like the “Top Audio Tool” category showed, VLC and Amarok are incredible audio players. This category includes a plethora of other options, in case the top slots don't fit your needs or desires.
Decibel Audio Player .2%
Daum Potplayer .3%
*Popular write-in: SMPlayer.
Kdenlive has come a long way through the years, and your votes are a testament to just how awesome it's become. It's interesting that VLC took the second spot; apparently we don't all think “non-linear editor” when we think of video editing.
Whether you love or hate Google, it's hard to deny it's really done an amazing job with document collaboration. Multiple people editing the same file at the same time is...well, you have to see it to believe it. Of course, not all collaboration is editing a document, and your votes show there are other ways to collaborate with Linux.
Google Docs 50.5%
Google Hangout 16.3%
Feng Office 1.4%
Norton Zone .1%
*Popular write-in: Etherpad.
Dropbox is still the favorite cloud-based storage option, but it's great to see ownCloud nipping at its heels. No, not because I have anything against Dropbox (I use it myself), but because I love to see open-source alternatives whenever possible.
Google Drive 16.2%
Ubuntu One 7.1%
Amazon S3 4.8%
Norton Zone .1%
*Popular write-ins: BitTorrent Sync, MEGA, Skydrive and Wuala.
Okay, true confession, it's been a couple years now, and I still don't understand the popularity of Minecraft. I just don't get it. That's okay, however, because most of you obviously do! Minecraft takes more than 20% of the vote this year. Will Steam's Linux support change things up next year? We'll have to wait and see.
Frozen Bubble 11.1%
Trine 2 7.1%
Battle Field 4.2%
Warzone 2100 3.3%
Scorched 3D 1.4%
*Popular write-ins: 0 AD, Battle for Wesnoth, Dota 2 and FTL: Faster Than Light.
Databases may not be the most exciting topic of discussion, but as someone who spent the past year working in the database department of a university, I can assure you, they are important. The numbers are very close this year, but it's neat to see MariaDB topple PostgreSQL.
Apache HBase 15.3%
Redis RethinkDB 4.5%
The short version of our results: I don't care which option you use, just back up! Now! Seriously though, it's interesting to see Dropbox as a backup solution. Yes, it does versioning, but I guess I've never considered it a backup. Perhaps I'm too old.
Back In Time 5.4%
Tivoli Storage Manager 1.8%
Symantec Backup Exec 1.4%
*Popular write-ins: BackupPC, Deja Dup, SpiderOak, duplicity and rsync + tar/btrfs/ftp/cron/and so on.
Oracle VM VirtualBox 37%
Symantec Workspace Virtualization .2%
*Popular write-in: LXC.
PC Monitor 4.8%
New Relic 2.9%
NTM (Network Traffic Monitor) 1.8%
Manage Engine .6%
*Popular write-in: Icinga.
Our results here are admittedly a little different from what we expected. Although I love apt as much as the next guy (moo), I never considered it a configuration management tool. Whether it was meant as a non-answer (I don't need no stinking configuration management!) or a desire to include configuration into deployable packages, apt was an unexpected winner. It also was cool to see Subversion, as I have heard of people using it for managing configuration revisions, and it's neat to see evidence of that reflected here.
*Popular write-ins: Ansible, Chef and git.
While apt-get and Synaptic are both tools for managing the apt system, pacman is its own beast entirely. More than 50% of you chose either apt-get or Synaptic, but that 13% vote for pacman is proof that Arch Linux is popular.
Gentoo Portage 4.3%
*Popular write-ins: yum, yast and zypper.
Plastic SCM .7%
GDB (The Gnu Project Debugger) 75.8%
PuDB (Python Debugger) 13.9%
BackTrack Linux 17.3%
Kali Linux 15%
This one obviously was answered by folks who have done forensics work. All the fancy tools in the world are the second step to the venerable dd.
Kali Linux 27.7%
Sleuth Kit 10.4%
LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup) 14.9%
Symantec Endpoint Encryption Full Disk Edition .9%
It's interesting that Python takes the spot as best programming language—not just “best beginner's language”, but best language. I still recommend people start with Python, but based on this category, perhaps they never have to leave.
Shell Script 4%
Yes! My fellow nerds united and voted vi/vim the best text editor. My challenge to you is to explain vim to a high-school student who grew up with Microsoft Word. That's a tough crowd. Still, as my personal go-to for all text editing, it's nice to see vim get the love.
*Popular write-in: Sublime Text.
Qt Creator 11.9%
Sublime Text 8.3%
IntelliJ IDEA 3%
Komodo IDE 2.2%
JetBrains PhpStorm 1%
Ruby on Rails 18.9%
*Popular write-ins: AngularJS and node.js.
Based on your feedback, we're considering renaming this category “best way to get kicked in the shins”, but nevertheless, OpenJDK takes more than twice the votes of Oracle's Java this year. Now if those pesky few applications that require Oracle's Java environment would just get with the times.
*Popular write-in: “all of them suck”.
Much like the JRE question, perhaps we should rename this category “best Java-related cuss word”, as we clearly have few Java fans in our community.
*Popular write-ins: “NONE!”, “LOL” and “you're kidding, right?”
*Popular write-in: ZFS.
Although these results line up fairly well with the distribution category, it's cool to see third-party file managers on the list. My favorite answer? Bash.
Command line 10.3%
Midnight Commander 7.9%
Total Commander 2.7%
*Popular write-in: Caja.
Um. I. Um. Wow. (And with that eloquent acceptance, Shawn loses the Best Column award.) Seriously, I'm stunned and honored to get voted as the best columnist this year. Thank you so much. But really, with our columnists, it's like picking a favorite ice cream—unless you drop it on the floor, it's hard to go wrong!
Shawn Powers' The Open-Source Classroom 18.7%
Kyle Rankin's Hack and / 16%
Dave Taylor's Work the Shell 13.2%
Zack Brown's diff -u 14.1%
Doc Searls' EOF 8.5%
Joey Bernard's Science Column 7.3%
Reuven M. Lerner's At the Forge 6.4%
James Gray's New Products 5.1%
This list reads pretty much like the “autographs I want to collect” list, but regardless of the order, what an incredible group of people. (And yeah, it feels hinky to say that with my name on the list of nominations here, but even if I'm the margin of error, it's an incredible list of incredible people.)
Linux Torvalds 23.4%
Richard Stallman 13.6%
Juniper Broadcasting 10.1%
Jon “Maddog” Hall 5.2%
Mark Shuttleworth 4.3%
Cory Doctorow 2.9%
Jono Bacon 2.6%
Jonathan Corbet 2.2%
Shawn Powers 1.9%
Doc Searls 1.5%
Carla Schroder 1.3%
Sarah Sharp 1.2%
Jim Zemlin .8%
Thomas S. Hatch .7%
Zack Brown .5%
Roy Schestovitz .3%
Eric Christensen .2%
Don Marti .2%
Now now, stop laughing. We've all made mistakes. Remember how we dressed in the 1980s? (And if you're too young to remember the 1980s, get off my lawn.)
GNOME 3 19.9%
“Creating a new distro instead of creating a new application” 19.5%
Mir (Ubuntu's next-generation display server) 17.8%
“Ubuntu's going it alone” 15.9%
Liberator (3-D printed handgun) 5.9%
“Putting GNU in front of Linux” 5.7%
LibreOffice fork 4.3%
“Poetterings' ideas” 3.7%
*Write-in comments: “all of the above”, “pointless Ubuntu bashing”, “so should I vote for the one I like or the one I don't?”, “this is the year of the Linux Desktop” and “this question”.
Much like the gadget category, this may have to become “Best Open-Source Project That Isn't Raspberry Pi”. I agree with the number two spot. I'm anxious to see what happens with FirefoxOS.
Raspberry Pi 46.5%
Nemo Mobile 7.5%
Manjaro Linux 4.7%
The Parallella Supercomputer 2.5%
Rust Programming Language 2%
WSO2 Stratos 2.0 .3%
*Popular write-ins: SolydXK and Sailfish/Jolla.
Finally! Steam for Linux is real! No longer the vaporware that I keep writing about, it's a real thing, with real games. This doesn't bode well for my productivity.
Steam for Linux 74.6%
Krita Studio 5.6%
LightWorks Pro 4.6%
VueScan Scanner Software for Linux 3.6%
IBM Notes 9.0 Social Edition 3%
Clipperz (on-line vault and password manager) 1.6%
That's it. Maybe we just need to call this “The Issue Where The Raspberry Pi Wins Everything”. Still, the RPi is so awesome, we couldn't eliminate it from the running. For one thing, you'd have flogged us. For another, it's just that cool! Don't let that gold medal take your focus off the rest of the list, however, because it's chock full of awesome. It's been a great year for Linux, and it's only getting better. We can't wait to see what happens next!
Raspberry Pi 34.6%
Ubuntu Edge 8%
Google Chromecast 4.8%
Krita Studio 2%
Roku 3 1.8%