Arch Linux has become a meme for technically savvy Linux users who want to show off their Linux technical prowess. Arch also has a bad reputation for being difficult to install and configure, unstable, and not suitable for production environments. Although there is some merit to these criticisms, they greatly oversimplify the issue and hide the true reasons why Arch can be an excellent choice for many developers and advanced Linux users. Today we will look at the top five reasons I choose to run Arch Linux on my primary development machine.
1. One of the most flexible and configurable distributions
Arch is one of the most flexible and configurable Linux distributions available. Unlike most distributions who make nearly all of the choices for you regarding desktop environments, applications, daemons, etc., Arch starts off with a clean slate. This provides the flexibility to build your system with precisely the packages and software you need and nothing more. You can decide if you want to use PulseAudio, select the desktop environment or window manager of your choice, and all the applications you need without having to uninstall hundreds of packages selected for you by the distribution. Since Arch also provides most packages with few modifications from upstream, you get the software as the original developers intended, not how the distribution wants to configure them for you.
The true flexibility and configurability of Arch is evident in the fact that many other popular distributions use it as a base. Distributions such as Manjaro, ArcoLinux, and many other popular bleeding edge distributions are based on Arch.
2. The latest software is always available
Since Arch is a rolling release and prioritises getting the latest packages tested and into the official repositories as quickly as possible, you will always have access to the latest versions of packages. This means while most distributions require you to wait for their next release to get updated versions of software, Arch provides them for you as they become available. This allows you to access the latest features more quickly and helps ensure that developers can work with the latest versions of libraries without having to manually track them down and install them. If your favourite software is not available in the official repositories, you can also access the Arch User Repository (AUR) which contains just about anything you’d ever want to run on Linux.
3. Operating system version upgrades are a thing of the past
Instead of releasing a new version every six months to two years, Arch pushes out updated packages as they become available. This means that as long as you have installed the latest updates through pacman, the Arch package manager, you are always running the latest version of Arch. The days of having to install new versions of your operating system are over. It is a good idea to make sure you install updates at least every week or two to help ensure a smooth update experience. A quick “sudo pacman -Syu” every week or so should do the trick.
4. Best documentation of any Linux distributions
The ArchWiki is without a doubt the best documentation for any Linux distribution. Not only does it provide excellent detailed instructions on how to install and configure Arch, it also provides articles on a wide range of topics that are beneficial to not only Arch users, but also the wider Linux community at large. If you want to install the Awesome tiling window manager or configure the sddm display manager, the ArchWiki has a detailed article that will walk you through the process. Arch not only gives you the tools to tailor your Linux experience to your needs and preferences, it also provides the knowledge to effectively leverage those tools.
5. Provides libraries and tools for software developers
Arch is very popular with developers because it provides them with everything they need for development. While many distributions require you to separately install the libraries required to compile software, Arch includes these by default when you install an application. Arch also provides the base_devel package which provides most common development tools, so you don’t have to go hunting for what you need when its time to compile. As mentioned earlier, since the libraries are always up to date, developers always have access to the newest versions. This is critical if you want to take advantage of functionality recently added to the libraries you are using.
Although Arch does require additional effort to get started, you gain the ability to build the exact Linux system you want as a reward for your efforts. Arch is not the best choice for a beginner, but if you are a developer who wants to be on the bleeding edge or a power user who wants to setup your system to fit your workflow, there is no better option than Arch Linux.