Is Linux finally ready for creatives?

Robin Louw


Jun 25, 2024

Screenshot of Ubuntu Linux running Blender
Screenshot of Ubuntu Linux running Blender

Linux is a generic term for free and open-source operating systems built using the Linux kernel. I’ve been using Linux on and off since the 90s as a hobby but could not switch from Windows or macOS as the tools I need (Especially Adobe’s suite of apps) do not run natively. However, some creatives are concerned about privacy and AI consent and want to cut costs. I decided to try out if Linux is ready to be a viable alternative for creatives.

TLDR: I require the “latest” and “greatest” of Adobe’s suite of apps and am firmly entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem. Switching to Linux is not feasible for me. However, I would seriously consider making the switch if I felt the need to “break free” from costly licenses and pricey hardware and do most of my work using a web browser and Linux-supported apps.

Why install Ubuntu on an old Macbook Pro?

A backlash against Adobe’s updated terms has raised concerns over Adobe training its AI on creators' work. Also, Microsoft announced “Recall” for Windows 11, which raised privacy concerns and forced Microsoft to backtrack. I was following the reaction on social media, and Linux seemed to be gaining a resurgence of interest from creatives and those concerned about privacy. My Twitter/X feed started showing me more Linux-related content, and I came across a fun Linux project I wanted to try out. This project required the latest version of Ubuntu (Ubuntu 24.04 LTS).

I had an old Macbook Pro (mid-2012) that nobody was using, and I recently upgraded it to have 1TB of storage space. However, MacOS Catalina is the last version of MacOS that I can install but it is no longer supported. The Macbook is still in good condition. Therefore, installing Linux as a hobby project made sense, as the latest version of Ubuntu will run perfectly, minus the discrete Nvidia GPU, as legacy Nvidia drivers are no longer supported (more on that later).

Installation process

Installing Linux on an older Macbook is relatively simple compared to more recent Macbooks, as the older Macbooks lack the security chip. Therefore, I could boot into recovery mode, format the entire disk, and then run the Ubuntu installer from the bootable USB stick I plan to create. I will not go over the process in detail. Instead, I will link to the guide I followed here. Also, my Apple Magsafe charger failed before I could install Ubuntu, but luckily, I found a cheap clone online that works surprisingly well.

Non-Apple magsafe charger

I downloaded the latest Ubuntu (Ubuntu 24.04 LTS) on my main Macbook and followed the guide on creating a bootable USB stick. I ran through the default install process and selected the option to install third-party drivers. Once the installation was complete, I was impressed with how well it (Ubuntu 24.04 LTS) runs on my old Macbook. Everything works perfectly, including the function and media keys, trackpad, and Wi-Fi. My only issue was that the discrete Nvidia graphics card needed to be recognized, and I was only running on the integrated Intel graphics.

Installing the Nvidia drivers

I was disappointed that Ubuntu did not recognize the Nvidia GPU. After doing some research, it turns out Ubuntu no longer supports the legacy Nvidia GPU, and the last release that does is Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. I was not willing to downgrade and resorted to installing the drivers manually. I followed this guide and, through trial and error, got the drivers installed. However, the system was unstable and glitchy. I eventually caved in, threw in the towel, and created a bootable USB stick with Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.

I ran through the installation process, which was the same. The Nvidia drivers were installed, and everything worked perfectly. One issue I ran into was windows disappearing off-screen, but I managed to fix it by following this guide.  Going forward, if I want to run the latest version of Ubuntu Linux on this Macbook without spending hours diagnosing driver issues, I will have to run it without the discrete Nvidia GPU. As this version of Ubuntu I’m running is LTS (Long Term Support), I’m not too bothered, so I will just run the software updater to ensure my version of Ubuntu is up to date.

Legacy Nvidia driver installed on Ubuntu 20.04

Apps for creatives

Linux has many Free and Open Source Software for creatives. Blender is the most popular and well-known. However, I have yet to come across any that can replace Adobe’s suite of apps. However, things are looking up if you’re comfortable using non-open source apps for Linux and web apps. Any app that only requires a web browser (Chrome for Linux may be required) and capable hardware will run on Linux. I will list the apps for creatives and designers (including web design) you can run on Linux.

Popular apps for creatives that run on Linux natively:

Popular apps for creatives that run in the web browser:

If you only want to run free and open-source software (OSS) on Ubuntu or any official version of Ubuntu, You could also try out Ubuntu Studio. I ran the installer as I am already running Ubuntu, and I can choose the type of OSS tools I want to be installed for media content creation, and it's all free.

A Macbook running Ubuntu Linux and open source apps for creatives


This project was fun because I had an old Macbook to play with. However, I do not see myself switching from macOS in the foreseeable future. I need to run some apps natively (for example, Adobe’s suite of apps) and design primarily for macOS and iOS devices. I am, however, optimistic about the future of Linux (admittedly, the learning curve may be steep for some), and I will continue to use it. I will also be trying out other Linux distributions (distros). If you are considering switching from closed-source or proprietary software and directly supporting developers and contributors, I recommend trying Linux.