What Is openSUSE? Everything You Need to Know

What Is openSUSE? Everything You Need to Know

openSUSE may be overlooked compared to other major Linux distributions, but it has a unique feature set and a codebase with a rich legacy.

So what makes this Linux distro different from others, and why should you try it? Let’s find out.

What Is openSUSE?

openSUSE is an offshoot of the original SUSE Linux distribution. It’s a community-based distribution in contrast to SUSE Linux Enterprise.

The SUSE company is still a major sponsor of openSUSE. The relationship is similar to that of CentOS or Fedora to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The project even uses a gecko in its logo, to show the relationship between openSUSE and SUSE itself.


openSUSE KDE desktop

openSUSE is available in two flavors, the stable Leap and the rolling-release Tumbleweed. The latter is similar to Arch Linux as it’s more of a “bleeding-edge” distro with newer software. You can install openSUSE as a traditional Linux system but it’s also available in the Windows Store for use with WSL.

A Brief History of openSUSE

SUSE was founded in Germany and originally referred to the company that developed it. The name is a German acronym for “Software and Systems Development.” They were among the first software companies to see the potential of Linux in the enterprise in the early 1990s.

The company originally repackaged Slackware Linux and translated the documentation to German, but eventually created their own distribution. Novell owned the company for a time before it was spun back out after Novell was acquired by Micro Focus.

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With SUSE independent again, the company now continues to market its enterprise edition as well as significantly contributing to the openSUSE project.

openSUSE Leap vs. Tumbleweed

If you’re considering openSUSE, you might wonder whether to install the Leap or Tumbleweed version. The latter is a “rolling-release” distribution, which means that updates are released to the distribution as soon as they’re available, rather than to specific versions the way Debian or Ubuntu do.

This means that you’ll have newer software than a standard “long-term support” distro. A lot of developers need newer versions of drivers and libraries, so they like rolling-release distros.

Most ordinary users will prefer a stable version like Leap, especially those who want to run openSUSE as a server.

Installing openSUSE

Installing openSUSE is similar to installing any other Linux distribution: you just download the installation image, extract it to your appropriate media, and reboot the machine. This article will consider the Leap version for the installation.

Download: openSUSE (Leap | Tumbleweed)

You have the option to access online repositories during the installation to install any software you might want that doesn’t fit on the installation media.

You have a choice of the default KDE, GNOME, Xfce, a “generic desktop,” or you can install openSUSE without a desktop similar to how a server runs. You can even install a very minimal “transaction server” with a read-only root filesystem.



openSUSE installation process

After you’ve chosen your environment, you’re then presented with a boot partition, the main btrfs partition, and a swap partition. You can accept these defaults or use the guided or manual partitions to change the partition table or enable LVM.

After that, you’ll set your time zone and configure the user accounts. It’s all very standard for modern Linux distributions, but openSUSE provides an attractive graphical environment.

Once you’ve rebooted into the desktop, you’ll find a lot of the tools you’ll need preinstalled: a file manager, LibreOffice, the Firefox web browser, even a solitaire game. It would be possible for someone with no knowledge of Linux to sit down at openSUSE and be productive right away.

Configuring openSUSE With YaST

openSUSE is unique among Linux distros for the YaST menu-based configuration tool. It uses both a graphical and text-based environment, depending on if you invoke it from the desktop or the command line.


openSUSE YaST configuration tool

You can configure everything from the time zone to the bootloader from this menu. It centralizes the management of the entire system whereas other distros leave configuration to the individual desktop’s settings menu or the text-based configuration files. This means that there’s a consistent configuration tool across environments in openSUSE.

It’s also possible to export settings to other systems, which makes managing whole fleets of installations possible. This isn’t surprising since its parent company, SUSE, targets enterprise companies. This feature is useful for installing whole datacenters full of openSUSE servers.

Managing Packages With Zypper

As with other Linux distributions, it’s necessary to install software that doesn’t come with the distro. Like many other distros, openSUSE has its own package manager to do this.

You can install packages with YaST, but you can also manage packages from the command line with Zypper. It works similar to APT or DNF on Debian/Ubuntu or Red Hat-based systems respectively. openSUSE even uses the latter’s RPM format.

To upgrade your system, use this command:

sudo zypper update

It’s also very easy to install a specific package with Zypper.

sudo zypper install packagename

…where packagename is the name of the package you want to install.

While this is pretty standard stuff for modern Linux distributions, openSUSE is unusual in the way they provide packages for other Linux distros. The openSUSE Open Build Service (OBS) lets users of other Linux distributions, including APT and RPM-based distros, use openSUSE-built packages.

The idea is that all the major distros will have the same standard base of packages, resolving incompatibilities among them. It remains to be seen whether this idea will gain much acceptance in the Linux world, as that would mean one distributor effectively dominating Linux packages.

Is openSUSE for You?

openSUSE makes an excellent stable desktop or server in its Leap version. Developers and power users may want to check out the Tumbleweed version. openSUSE’s YaST tool makes configuration easy no matter what environment you’re in. It’s a very slick version of Linux for anyone who wants a system backed by a company that’s been in Linux since the beginning.

openSUSE: A Stalwart Linux Distro With Some Neat Features

openSUSE is still one of the major Linux distros because it’s been around for a long time and is very easy to manage with YaST. It’s a good choice for a reliable Linux distro for desktop or server and deserves your serious consideration if you want to get into Linux or change distros for some reason.

If you’re looking to stop distro-hopping and settle on your perfect Linux distro, read on for how to make the right decision.


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