Touchscreen laptops are all the rage these days, and each month we see more and more 2-in-1 and convertible laptops hit the market. Now all of these laptops are powered by Windows 10, which has been optimized to provide both a traditional desktop experience as well as a touchscreen experience that is much more in line with a tablet. Even in desktop mode, Windows 10 is pretty easy to use with touch. But what if you don’t want to use Windows 10?
Linux is, of course, your main alternative to Windows on a PC. This operating system is free and open source and there are hundreds of different versions, known as distributions for you to choose from for your laptop. But which one of these are optimized to work with touchscreens? That’s what I hope to answer for you today. Today we will look at a few of the best Linux distributions for touchscreen laptops so you can choose the right version of Linux for your touchscreen laptop.
A Few Things You Should Know
Before we get into discussing specific Linux distributions, there are a few things you need to know.
- First, pretty much any Linux distribution will work with the right GUI, but there are some that are designed to work better out of the box.
- The setup will take a little work. No Linux distribution is designed and optimized for touchscreen without a few tweaks and software additions on your part.
- Your mileage may vary. In the end, it will come down to the type of laptop you have and what drivers and support are available for your particular hardware in Linux.
Remember, sometimes things take a little more work on Linux to get right, but it’s so worth it. In the end, you will get the satisfaction of setting it up and I’m betting you will learn a thing or two along the way, and learning something is always a good thing. Just don’t give up. There are tons of resources online that can help you along the way. If you are lucky, you may even find a specific guide for your device, and that will make things much easier.
It’s All About the GUI
At the end of the day, it really all comes down to the graphical user interface. It is here where all the commands for both your mouse and keyboard as well as your fingers are controlled. The great thing about Linux is that you can install almost any GUI on any version of Linux.
In my experience, there are two graphical user interfaces that work best for touchscreens. They are:
Gnome 3 has been around for quite some time now and is very mature and stable. It includes an interface that is built with touch in mind while still working great in a traditional keyboard and mouse setup. It’s also found as the default GUI on many different distributions, so any of these would make a great option for you.
KDE Plasma is another GUI that has been around for a while now, but only more recently has started improving to support touchscreens. While it doesn’t hold up quite as well as Gnome on touchscreens, it does a pretty good job and with a little tweaking it can be your go to solution. KDE also feels a little more like Windows, in my opinion, which makes it a much easier GUI to begin using when you first switch to the Linux platform.
Best Linux Distributions for Touchscreens
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at a few distributions that will work great on your touchscreen laptop.
Fedora is one of the most advanced Linux distributions around today. Strongly affiliated with the Red Hat group, Fedora is often a test bed for new software. Because of this, it often features cutting edge technology. But it does emphasize open source code only, so you won’t find any proprietary drivers included with it. That doesn’t mean you can’t install it yourself. Fedora includes Gnome 3 right out of the box, so you won’t have to worry about manually installing it, and it includes all the software you need for a good touchscreen experience, minus some swipe gestures.
Kubuntu provides all the features and ease of use that you have come to expect from Ubuntu, but with a KDE flavor. Instead of Gnome, Kubuntu ships with the KDE plasma desktop
Visually, it’s tough to beat Deepin Linux. Perhaps one of the lesser known versions of Linux, Deepin has spent a lot of time improving the visuals and usability of its desktop. Many even compare it to macOS. On top of these amazing visuals, it also comes ready to handle touchscreens, making it one of the better options for users looking for a version of Linux for their touchscreen enabled laptop. It is a touch resource heavy, however, so don’t expect to install this on an aging laptop. But, if you have the resources to handle it, it’s definitely worth a look.
Another Tool You Should Consider
Multi-touch gestures is almost a must have if you want a seamless, cohesive experience when using your fingers for navigation. While Gnome and Unity do a good job optimizing the look and feel to be very touch friendly, sadly they lack multi-touch and gesture support out of the box. For that, I recommend grabbing Touchegg. Touchegg is a multi-touch gesture application that runs in the background. It allows you to setup your own gestures and multi-touch commands, and customize them in many different ways. For a complete touch experience on Linux, i recommend grabbing this application right after you complete your installation. While you can tweak all the settings yourself, there are tons of config files floating around the Internet to help you get started much faster.
While I wish I could give you a specific distribution that will just work right out of the box without any work, I just can’t. That being said, there are a few distributions in existence that will work better than others. The ones in this list provide you with most of what you will need for a decent touchscreen experience on your laptop. However, for best results, you may need to tweak a few drivers and settings here and there and you will definitely want Touchegg.
With a few tweaks and the addition of a little software, you can create an amazing touchscreen experience using Linux. By installing Linux on your touchscreen laptop, you get all the power and security of Linux while getting to keep your amazing touchscreen interface. So why wouldn’t you want to?
Have any of you out there tried to create a good touchscreen experience in Linux? If so, what was your experience like? What tools did you use to get the job done? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.