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The Top 10 Linux Distributions for Touchscreens in 2023

Touchscreens are becoming increasingly common on laptops, tablets, and other devices. As a result, having a touch-friendly Linux distro is more important than ever. The good news is that the Linux world has stepped up to meet this demand. Several user-friendly Linux distributions now ship with touch optimization built-in or easy customization options to enable touch.

In this guide, I‘ll showcase the 10 best Linux distros for touchscreens and help you pick the right one for your needs.

Why Choose a Linux Distro for Touchscreens?

Before diving into the top contenders, you may be wondering why you‘d want a touch-optimized Linux distro in the first place. Well, here are some good reasons:

  • Intuitive navigation – Touch makes navigation extremely intuitive. Tap to launch apps, swipe between screens, pinch to zoom – all the familiar gestures you‘d expect.

  • Faster interaction – Pointing and clicking with a touchscreen can often be quicker than using a touchpad or mouse. This leads to much faster interaction.

  • Customizable interface – Many Linux desktop environments and distros are highly customizable. You can tweak the UI to best suit a touchscreen device.

  • Touch-friendly apps – The Linux ecosystem offers many great apps optimized for touch input methods. This includes mobile-style tapped apps.

  • Works with pens/styluses too – Most touch-ready distros also fully support pressure-sensitive pen input for devices like convertible tablets.

Clearly, having a distro purpose-built for touch brings some solid benefits – especially on modern hybrid devices.

Next, let‘s look at the top contenders that get touch right.


Desktop Environment: GNOME

Base Distro: Debian, Arch

Default Interface: GNOME

First up is GNOME OS, built around the ever-popular GNOME desktop environment. It is one of the most touch-friendly options available right out of the box.

The key reasons GNOME OS shines for touch are:

  • Large app icons ideal for tapping
  • Simple uncluttered interface
  • Excellent multitouch gestures support
  • Customizable virtual on-screen keyboard
  • Touchscreen utility for calibration

Additionally, GNOME OS is very user-friendly and has a shallow learning curve for Linux newcomers. Underneath lies the rock-solid Debian or Arch Linux base offering stability and access to a vast software catalog.

For a fuss-free touch-centric experience, GNOME OS is hard to beat.

Best For: Beginners, casual users, hybrid/convertible laptops

2. KDE Neon

Desktop Environment: KDE Plasma

Base Distro: Ubuntu LTS

Default Interface: Plasma Desktop

KDE Neon provides a polished desktop experience showcasing the latest KDE Plasma release. It has emerged as a leading choice for Linux-based touchscreen devices.

Some reasons KDE Plasma shines on touchscreens:

  • Supports common multitouch gestures
  • Customizable virtual keyboards
  • Touch-friendly menu, icons and widgets
  • Settings to disable touchpad while typing

Neon offers unrivaled UI customization capabilities allowing users to optimize desktop layout and behavior exactly to their liking. From specialized media controls to custom touch gestures, the possibilities are endless.

For those wanting a flexible and touch-friendly work environment, KDE Neon is a superb option.

Best For: Power users desiring extreme customization

3. Ubuntu Touch

Desktop Environment: Unity8

Base Distro: Ubuntu

Default Interface: Unity Touch

Ubuntu Touch is a mobile variant of Ubuntu expressly designed for touchscreen devices. It boots straight into a touch-optimized phone/tablet interface – complete with taps, gestures, and vivid animations.

Key features geared towards touch are:

  • Edge gestures for navigation
  • Full-screen immersive apps
  • Touchscreen keyboard and keypad
  • Automatic display rotation
  • Touch feedback and haptics

This is one of the only Linux distros created exclusively for touchscreens. The interface bears close resemblance to iOS and Android. But underneath it retains Ubuntu‘s DNA offering ample hackability.

If you want a mobile-inspired Linux touch experience, Ubuntu Touch deliver handsomely.

Best For: Touchscreen phones, tablets, and mobile devices

4. JingOS

Desktop Environment: JDE

Base Distro: Arch

Default Interface: JDE Desktop

JingOS is a rising star in the Linux touchspace. It features the relatively new JDE desktop optimized specifically for touchscreen laptops and tablets.

Some standout aspects:

  • Fully touch-native UI elements
  • Advanced palm rejection algorithms
  • Customizable three-finger/four-finger taps
  • Automatic HiDPI scaling
  • Touchscreen profile switcher

You also get convenient fingerprint login support – a rarity in Linux. JingOS continues to add innovative features at a rapid pace thanks to active development.

For a novel Linux take on touch friendliness, JingOS is definitely one to watch.

Best For: Touchscreen convertibles and 2-in-1s

5. Feren OS

Desktop Environment: Cinnamon

Base Distro: Ubuntu LTS

Default Interface: Cinnamon Desktop

Feren OS provides a balance between looks and functionality. Under the hood it leverages Ubuntu‘s stability and huge ecosystem. On top, runs the elegant Cinnamon desktop fine-tuned for touch.

Elements that make Cinnamon touch-friendly include:

  • Edge gestures to easily switch between virtual workspaces
  • Custom on-screen keyboard with full multitouch support
  • Touchpad disable options while typing
  • App launcher suited to tap interaction

Feren also incorporates a touch mode trigger using the uTouch app. This instantly enables/disables touch optimizations as needed.

For those seeking looks and usability in equal measure, Feren OS hits the sweet spot.

Best For: Hybrid devices used in tablet mode

6. Linux Mint

Desktop Environment: Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce

Base Distro: Ubuntu LTS

Default Interface: Depends on edition

Ever-popular Linux Mint is available in three flavors catering to differing preferences. Underneath all editions lies the trusted Ubuntu LTS foundation.

The Cinnamon desktop provides first-class support for touchscreens via:

  • Edge gestures to easily change workspaces
  • Touch mode to toggle dedicated onscreen keyboard
  • Touchpads disabled automatically when typing

MATE edition also fares respectably well in handling touch interactions. Its traditional desktop metaphor UI retains familiarity while working well with fingers.

Even lightweight Xfce responds admirably to touch navigation albeit with some customization.

With solid touch support across desktop variants, Mint is a jack-of-all-trades distro to rely on.

Best For: Those wanting Ubuntu base with touch capabilities

7. Zorin OS

Desktop Environment: GNOME, Xfce

Base Distro: Ubuntu LTS

Default Interface: Zorin Desktop (GNOME fork)

Zorin OS aims to offer a familiar Windows-esque user experience while being Linux under the hood. Its custom desktop layout takes full advantage of GNOME‘s touch capabilities.

Highlights for touch users:

  • Touchscreen utility for calibration
  • Automatic virtual keyboard invocation
  • Custom touch gestures supporting up to four fingers
  • Additional navigation shortcuts in touch mode

Tablet mode triggers a full-screen Start menu tailored to touchscreens. Zorin also lets you easily create desktop shortcuts of apps or websites specifically for touch access.

For those migrating from Windows seeking a touch-enhanced experience, Zorin OS is a top choice.

Best For: New Linux converts used to the Windows interface

8. Pop!_OS

Desktop Environment: GNOME

Base Distro: Ubuntu LTS

Default Interface: Pop Shell (GNOME mod)

Pop!_OS from laptop vendor System76 is an increasingly popular pick. It takes GNOME and adds a productivity-boosting tiling window manager called Pop Shell.

Touch capabilities stem from GNOME plus additions like:

  • Improved multi-finger touchpad gestures
  • Automatic disabling of touchpad when typing
  • Full support for on-screen keyboards
  • Edge swipe actions to snap/tile windows

The tiling capabilities lend themselves nicely to touch navigation. And RGB keyboard backlighting effects look stunning on compatible laptops.

For a beautiful looking touch-friendly experience, Pop!_OS hits all the right notes.

Best For: Hybrid laptops desiring a tiling window manager

9. Manjaro

Desktop Environment: Xfce, KDE, GNOME

Base Distro: Arch

Default Interface: Varies based on edition

Manjaro Linux provides easy access to cutting-edge Arch-based goodness in three mouthwatering flavors.

The flagship Xfce edition has components like:

  • On-screen keyboard invocation via hotcorner
  • Custom Xfce panel layout suited to touch
  • Gesture support add-ons from the Arch User Repository

The KDE edition carries forward Plasma desktop‘s touch strengths discussed previously.

The GNOME edition enjoys native touch support present upstream augmented by extras like:

  • On-screen keyboard bindable to gesture
  • Shortcuts to enable touch mode

This trio combines Arch‘s power with custom touches making Manjaro a haven for touch fans.

Best For: Arch Linux enthusiasts wanting touch optimizations

10. MX Linux

Desktop Environment: Xfce

Base Distro: Debian stable, antiX

Default Interface: MX Tools (custom Xfce)

Lastly, we have MX Linux catering to fans of lighter weight environments. It takes Xfce and adds custom tools for usability.

MX Tools components that lend well to touch are:

  • MX Tweak tool to enable touch support
  • Ability to set on-screen keyboard hotkeys
  • Touch-friendly media player controls
  • Custom Xfce panel layout options

Considering its featherlight resource footprint, MX Linux holds up admirably to handle touch input.

Best For: Older/lower powered machines

Honorable Mentions

Some other solid Linux distributions with touch enhancements include:

  • Deepin OS – Custom Deepin desktop environment
  • elementary OS – Pantheon desktop looks delightful
  • Nitrux – NX Desktop focused on touch gestures
  • Lunar – Sleek Mutter window manager
  • Liquorix – Zen kernel optimized for touch

Choosing the Right Linux Distro for Your Touchscreen Device

With so many compelling Linux distro options for touchscreens, how do you select the right one? Here are some key criteria to consider:

Desktop Environment

The default desktop environment and interface plays a big role in shaping touch experience. GNOME, KDE Plasma, Unity and Pantheon are generally quite touch friendly. Traditional desktops like Xfce, MATE, Cinnamon still work well but may need add-ons. Openbox, i3 and tiling window managers require most customization effort to suit touch.

Hardware Compatibility

Pay attention to other hardware in your device like touchpad, Wi-Fi chipset, GPU drivers etc. Distros like Ubuntu, Debian and Arch have excellent hardware coverage. Also see if any special kernel is needed to optimize touch behavior.

Software Ecosystem

The richness of the software ecosystem determines how many touch-optimized programs you can install for your workflow. In this regard, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE and Arch provide immense software variety.

Customization Extent

Some distributions readily offer settings to tweak touch support and interface behavior while others need manual intervention. So factor in the degree of customization needed to achieve your preferred touch experience.

Learning Difficulty

Linux distros have varying learning curves. If new to Linux, Ubuntu with Unity desktop offers simplest transition while highly customizable ones like Arch have steeper ramp-up.

Final Thoughts

The Linux world has embraced touchscreens in a big way, as evidenced by the range of excellent touch-centric distributions.

Desktop environments like GNOME, KDE Plasma and Unity8 now feel right at home on touch devices. Meanwhile, specialized distros like JingOS and Ubuntu Touch push touch friendliness to new heights through purpose-built interfaces.

Even traditionally mouse-first desktops like Xfce, MATE and Cinnamon play well with touch through add-ons. Underlying infrastructure like kernels and drivers bring polished multitouch capabilities.

Touch support will continue gaining prominence as more mobile-first and hybrid devices ship. So Linux is well positioned to shine on such futuristic hardware while retaining its characteristic flexibility.