5 specialized Linux distributions with unique features

As you peruse the cartoonish long list of existing Linux distributions, the different flavors and offshoots of offshoots all start to blur with one another. To remedy that, we’ve put together some distros that really stand out from the crowd.

These are not necessarily the most popular distributions, but they are for specific purposes or address niche demographics within the Linux community. These are also all of the distributions that are seeing active development at the time of this writing in July 2021. Hannah Montana Linux is long gone, and so is the joke.

Training to become Arch: ArcoLinux

There are many distros like Manjaro out there that seem intimidating Arch Linux Operating system-friendly and usable for laypeople. ArcoLinux, however, a slightly different approach to the same problem. There are several different ISOs that you should go through, each with a little less holding your hand on setup and maintenance. At some point you should completely give up Arco in favor of pure Arch.

ArcoLinux also emphasizes choice, offering you three different desktop environments (DEs) that you can switch between at the beginner level. As you move up to the next level, ArcoLinuxD, you will be offered more than 20 DEs and window managers to choose from. These include favorites like Gnome, Xfce and Cinnamon, but also lesser-known ones like Spectrwm, i3 and Deepin.

How to install and use a different desktop environment on Linux

After completing the ArcoLinux “course” you should have the skills necessary to create Arch from scratch and customize it with your refined range of preferred applications, environments and utilities.

Sim Network: Live Raizo

Live Razio desktop for network management

Are you a budding network administrator? Live razioThe main purpose of ‘is to simulate a network that you can manage. Using GNS3 (Graphical Network Simulator-3), the Debian-based distribution lets you drag-and-drop virtual machines and real devices onto a virtual network and gives you the tools to manage it.


Live Razio was developed by a French network training center and was intended to be a learning tool for network administrators. It is specially designed to run as a live boot, so you won’t find this distro as a daily driver. However, if you are interested in network management, this may be worth getting started.

Linux with a Mac skeleton: GoboLinux

GoboLinux desktop environment

GoboLinux describes itself as “an alternate Linux distribution” because it eschews the traditional Linux hierarchy filesystem for a more Mac-like structure. What does that mean for you? Well, mostly it becomes easier to find your way around app files.

In most Linux systems, when an application is installed, the files are stored in different locations for different purposes. Under GoboLinux, however, all of the application’s files are stored in a discreet, locked directory within the /Programs Folder. That means no more chafing /usr/share Folder for an obscure symbol file.

Linux for people with disabilities: Accessible-Coconut

Accessible Coconut Linux desktop

Modern operating systems place great emphasis on accessibility, and Linux is no exception. Many accessibility-focused distributions have come and gone over the years, such as Vinux and Talking Arch, but we only know of one that is experiencing active development: Accessible Coconut. It was developed by Zendalona, a group that works to ensure that people with disabilities have as much access to free open source software as everyone else.

Accessible coconut is based on Ubuntu-MATE, and has several additional accessibility features, including disabled-friendly desktop profiles, a screen reader with a single toggle key, a magnifying glass, support for Braille input, DAISY and e-book speakers, and non-sighted games. Many popular applications are also preinstalled to reduce the search and setup effort after installation.

Linux for the earth: Bodhi Linux

Bodhi Linux 6 desktop

Describing himself as “the enlightened Linux distribution”, Bodhi Linux is among the most aesthetically pleasing distributions you can find. Named for a Buddhist term for “wisdom” or “knowledge”, Bodhi adopts an earthy, organic theme with custom, animated background images.


The Bodhi developers value minimalism and individuality. It is based on Ubuntu, and you will find several options in the project Download page:

  • Default: A stable, minimal installation with just the basics so you can only install what you need.
  • Hwe: Like standard, but with a newer, updated kernel for better hardware support.
  • AppPack: A stable installation with a plethora of preinstalled apps for you to try.
  • Heritage: A minimal installation with an older kernel for 32-bit machines.

Which one you choose, of course, depends on your preferences and your application.

As you can see, it is not difficult to find distros that are bucking the trend. There is a whole class of systemd-free distributions waiting for you to join their movement.

The best Linux distributions without systemd

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