I’ve been wondering if using Linux actually makes me more productive.  I can think of a few reasons why a Linux user may be more productive but I can also counter those reasons with ways running Linux can make you unproductive.  Ultimately, I think it doesn’t really matter what operating system you’re running, your level of productivity mostly depends on your motivation and what you choose to do with your time.

Why Linux users may be more productive

Linux offers a variety of command line and desktop applications for just about anything you’re wanting to accomplish.  There are all kinds of reasons people may argue that using Linux allows them to be more productive.  Here are a few I can think of:

  • Less gaming distractions – Though it’s not necessarily a good thing that Linux has no native computer games worthy enough of distracting users and bringing productivity levels down, it is indeed a fact; using Linux will definitely allow you to be more productive without the distraction of your favorite computer game icon sitting on the desktop.
  • Highly customizable – The Linux desktop is completely customizable to your liking.  You’re able to place things wherever you want, run multiple desktops, easily create scripts that automate simple tasks for you, etc.  All of these things can indeed boost a users productivity if used correctly.
  • Viruses – In Windows, it’s safe to say that a considerable amount of time is spent either blocking, removing, or preventing viruses and spyware.  It’s like walking down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood all alone, you have to be on the defensive and make sure nobody is going to jump out and get you.  In Linux, you really don’t have to worry about catching viruses over the Internet.  The fact that Linux is not as highly targeted as Windows allows you to go about your business without being on that defensive, which in turn allows for more productivity.
  • System Maintenance – On a Linux desktop there really is not much system maintenance that needs to be performed on a regular basis.  With the exception of security updates and recommended application updates on a distribution like Ubuntu, you really have no required maintenance that you have to perform.  On an operating system like Windows XP or Vista, if you want your system to remain running seamlessly you’re forced to do things like defrag your hard drive.  If you have a large hard drive, you know that defraging completely halts all other productivity as you really can’t do anything else while the defrag is taking place.

Additionally, here are a few tools and applications in Linux that help productivity:

  • BASH
  • Tab completion
  • APT
  • GNU/Screen

Why Linux users may be less productive

Just as there are a lot of arguments as to why Linux users may be more productive, I can think of reasons why Linux users may produce less.  Lets take a look at a couple reasons Linux users may be less productive.

  • Tweaking and Customizing – Just as it can allow you more productivity, the ability to customize and tweak your Linux desktop can also work against you.  I can count how many people in the community I speak with that are obsessed with tweaking their desktop over and over.  This is a real productivity killer and can become an addicition for some.
  • Learning and exploring – Sometimes a new Linux user can find themselves getting lost in the exploration and learning process Linux.  Once you start understanding Linux you tend to want to know more and more about how everything little thing works.  A great example of this is that you are wanting to do some scientific research for a school project, so you install an application you found on the web, open it, but it crashes.  Now you’re in investigative mode and trying to find out why it is crashing.  Checking logs, checking mailing lists, searching forums, etc.  Eventually a few hours have gone by and you really haven’t accomplished what you set out to do even if you do indeed get the application up and running.

Overall, it’s my opinion that productivity comes from the user and not the operating system.  All operating systems and distributions have the tools and the ability for you to create a producitive work environment, it’s simply up to you to do so.