Debian vs Ubuntu : Which one should I use as default OS for development?

I know that it might not be comparable as Ubuntu has been built on top of Debian OS.

What I want to know is that Can I use Debian as my default OS for development?

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Tracy Phillips's photo

If you are new to Linux, use Ubuntu. If you have been around Linux for awhile (and I suspect you have), use Debian.

I use Debian Jessie on my Lenovo X1 Carbon and just needed to enable the non-free repository after install and then installed my WiFi driver. Everything else just works.

I have a killer Gnome environment setup, but I spend 80 percent of my time in A tweaked out Gnome Terminal using vim (also tweaked out).

For servers, I also use Debian Jessie. Rock solid. But then again, when Debian releases a stable version, its stable. At least from my experience.

Show +2 replies
Richard Gomes's photo

I had bad experiences with Ubuntu in 2004, moved to Debian and I'm happy ever since. Debian in past was lacking several things but at the moment it is pretty polished and functional from end-users' perspective.

For better and faster results (I'm impatient!) I suggest installing Debian from a special build which contain additional [non-free] firmware and drivers. It will recognize your wireless card and eventually other uncommon pieces of hardware you may have.

You may also be interested in my post installation scripts. In particular, I'm consolidating all useful stuff into a single script, which is meant to be executed first thing after you install Debian:

Other useful stuff you may or may not be interested:

I hope it helps.

Tracy Phillips's photo

Thanks for the reply! I totally agree with you. Nice set of scripts you have there.

Put your post install scripts into an Ansible role and never look back my friend.


Jan Vladimir Mostert's photo

You can use any Linux distro as a desktop OS for dev, I've used Gentoo for 2 years and then got tired of all the hassle of having to compile my own packages from source the whole time and then waiting 20 minutes for my latest firefox source code to compile so I could browse.

Desktop: Ubuntu / ElementaryOS / Mint / any of the ubuntu clones are perfect, they mostly work out of the box for a desktop environment. Server: Debian, it's geared towards servers and doesn't have a window manager installed by default, so perfect for servers.

Debian on the desktop would mean you have to do a bit of work to get it slick and usable as a desktop, that time is much better spend writing code instead of fidgeting with your OS.

Vaibhav Mule's photo

I do agree, My concern is to have lean and lightweight OS in my machine. I have tried Debian once in Live USB and my wifi is not working. But I don't, I wanna give a try to Debian.

da Tyga's photo

In my experience Debian is as good as Ubuntu (which is based on it) and in some cases better. The real difference is that Ubuntu is a bit easier to get going if you not experienced with Linux. If you have limited Linux experience, then you might be better off dipping your toes in the water with Ubuntu. Otherwise, read up and give Debian a spin. Since both are free, your only investment is your time and you will certainly learn either way.

As far as development goes, I would dare suggest that Debian might actually have a slight edge over Ubuntu. Of course YMMV !

Andy's photo

Ubuntu is to Debian, as your local restaurant is to the local farmer's market. Chef Ubuntu goes to the Debian farmer's market periodically, finds the best fresh ingredients, mixes them with his own special blend, and produces food for his intended audience. For people who enjoy cooking, they can, and do, just go down to the market and get what they need.

Duane Avery's photo

This has to be the most brilliant analogy I've seen comparing OS versions. Been using Ubuntu for many years on VMWare, and just switched to ESXi 6.5 and have had nothing but issues. Default crap in Ubuntu server for containers that I don't give a crap about, and iSCSI, which I don't want. So, I decided to go to the market myself, and I though, wow, Ubuntu with blue install screens ;) These articles are encouraging me to continue, and conclude it might be my path forward.

Vasan Subramanian's photo

I have always used Ubuntu, and never thought of using Debian till I had to take Google Compute Engine for a spin, and the only image that they had were Debian images (at that time ... now they have Ubuntu images as well). So I used a Debian image and found myself quite at home. I suggest you go with Ubuntu if you are relatively new to Linux, as there is generally more support and material out there to help you. If you want better flexibility, maybe Debian is better, but I cannot vouch for that. Either way, you can't go too wrong.

But I am assuming you are running a server, not the GUI desktop. If, on the other hand, you are looking for an appropriate OS for your laptop, there's no doubt in my mind that Ubuntu is better.

Vaibhav Mule's photo

Thanks for your thought, I'm mostly looking for lightweight OS, also I don't my if any of the driver is not working or I will fix it and if I have to compile package from source, then I would make debian package and try to publish in apt-get repositories.

Demwunz's photo

I came from Mac OS, and I prefer Fedora, it's very stable, works and the Gnome skin is awesome. People harp on about Ubuntu, but Fedora is just as easy to pick up and use.

Samuel Oloruntoba's photo

Both are very capable and Linux based, that's a plus. But I have heard lots of people say Ubuntu has more packages than any distro. But since Linux packages are cross-compatible, eliminates the fact that ubuntu has more packages. As usual,​ it comes down to preference.

Hippo's photo

Till recently I've been using Ubuntu; now I've switched to Xubuntu because I find XFCE more customizable than Unity.

But whichever distro I use (and I've tried quite a few), I always immediately go and download a whole lot of other packages before I start using it anyway. Since Debian and Ubuntu are pretty similar that way, I guess the only deciding factor for me will be how it looks 😉

Vaibhav Mule's photo

Yeah, I can see, you like tweaking the UI. I personally would care that my terminal looks good :P

Shreeraj Jadhav's photo

The thing I like about Debian-stable is that it runs updates occasionally. Hence, it is statistically less likely to breakdown. Ubuntu updates a little too frequently for my taste. On the other hand, I have found that it is easier to install things in Ubuntu as compared to Debian. I still use Debian with gnome3 as my primary OS for the simplicity and reliability.

Rueben Ramirez's photo

I care less about the base OS and more about the tools that help me get work done. That said, Ubuntu has never let me down in supporting even the latest hardware right out of the box.

I run terminator for my tmux + vim dev sessions and chrome DWM ( ...all setup through my .dotfiles ( The readme on there is a little dated; I moved over to Thinkpads for most of my work. If you're interested in automating your development environment config, give the Makefile a read.

Andrea Brandi's photo

If you wanna try newest technologies when they're available, maybe Ubuntu is a better idea. I'm a lover user of Debian, but in my opinion it's more indicated for a server, where ubuntu fits a desktop more.

Juib Morrowind's photo

If you are looking for a light-weight option, may I suggest Lubuntu or LXLE. Both are super light on resources. I have tried LXLE on my 2010 macbook air. Works pretty well. My main reason for choosing LXLE was its low memory footprint. My laptop has 2GB RAM and with any modern browser, it gets slow very quickly.

Nick Reiner's photo

Sure, you can use Debian for development too. Actually, for me personally, Debian is better for development, but I usually recommend Ubuntu to beginners and new Linux users. I actually did a quick Debian vs Ubuntu comparison on my website and went into further details, but at the end of the day, it always boils down to personal preference. Everything can be configured to your liking on both distros.

Nick Reiner's photo