Linux is also an Operating System aka OS, which if fancy tech speak for the program that hosts and runs other programs. Linux however is a bit special, as there are very few if any computers that can be bought with it pre-installed. What is also unique about Linux is that there are litterally hundreds of different versions of it, commonly referred to as distro’s which is short for distribution, each putting a different spin on what Linux is. The three names in the parenthesis in the title is three of these versions that is currently the most popular. To see what is currently the hottest distro and what is new with linux, DistroWatch is a good place to start.
The biggest myth about Linux is that it is incredibly hard to use and hard to set up. This used to be true, as you would basically have to be a low level programmer to be able to install it. These days though most distro’s really makes it super easy for you to try it out, usually it is just a small download, that you then need to transfer to a USB pen or a CD with an easy two click program. Most of these also have comprehensive guides on their pages, that holds your hand every step of the way. The biggest bonus though, is that most of them comes with what is known as a “live CD”, which basically means you can run it on your computer and test that everything works, without having to install it first.
Although Linux is very easy to use these days, it also comes with one pretty big drawback, in that a lot of your programs won’t be able to run on a Linux Operating System. It does try to make up for this with a huge Open Source selection of programs, however a lot of these are of questionable quality due to the nature of Open Source. Open Source basically means that the way the programs are written has to be visible and downloadable by everyone, this also usually means the programs are free, but it is not a given.
The three flavours mentioned in the title Manjaro, Mint and Ubuntu are as said the most popular ones, so if you want to try them out, go there and check them out and read the installation quick start guide for it. The main reason people like to use Linux in spite of some of it’s drawbacks, is how easy it can make your digital life and the speed of it. Most distro’s can run on 10+ year old computers and it still responds very snappily. On top of this, almost every distro has had an automatically updated store for 10+ years, that also automatically updates the Operating System, without a need for restarting.
If you are coming from a Mac, you’ll probably notice that the Linux flavour you picked looks somewhat like a Mac in it’s setup. It is not just random coincidence though, as Mac computers actually runs something like Linux and on top of this Apple and the Linux Foundation has been borrowing tricks from each other for years (The Mac Dock is actually originally a Linux feature). As for using Linux, although a lot of it seems familiar from a Mac, some things behave a bit differently.
The main way to control a Linux machine is usually from the activity menu (very similar to a Windows start menu), clicking this or hitting the Windows key on your keyboard will usually open this, displaying the programs available and typing will search between these. Because of the nature of Linux, the app store and the settings menu will also be in there, this is because everything on Linux is considered a program and is not necessarily integral to the Operating System. This also means that the settings menu is usually very compact, precise and easy to use, as it is not cluttered with unnecessary things, most also have a search feature indicated by the little spyglass.
The real power comes in form of the app stores though, as most of them are set up to not search for the name of a program, but more the type you want to find. This means you can search for the type of program you want, especially when new to Linux and actually get some useful candidates, that you can easily install, try out and remove again. The app store also often allows to extend itself with other sources, meaning you can expand the already large list of programs even more, it can however be a bit tricky, so it is recommended to wait until you are more familiar with Linux.