The strength of the Linux and FOSS ecosystem is its breadth and depth, and ability to fill important niches large and small without worrying about profitability. My top 7 picks for 2014 are nowhere near comprehensive, but they highlight important work. As always you are invited to share your own picks in the comments.
Most Beautiful Distro: Bodhi
This is an easy choice: Bodhi Linux. Bodhi Linux uses the Enlightenment window manager, which has always occupied a unique niche. Enlightenment is beautiful, lightweight, and extremely customizable. Its flexibility has worked against it in the past, because when you install the stock Enlightenment it takes a fair bit of work to set it up as it's more of a framework than a finished desktop environment. The Bodhi team have done a great job of taming Enlightenment and giving users a beautiful, ready-to-use implementation.
Bodhi is based on Ubuntu LTS and takes a minimalist approach: minimum system requirements are 300+MHz CPU, 128MB RAM, and 2.5GB hard drive space, and it installs with a bare minimum set of packages. Then you make it your own. Sharing artwork is a big part of the Bodhi community, with something for everyone.
Best Desktop Distro: Xubuntu
People seem to forget that Ubuntu is much larger than the Unity desktop, and judge all of Ubuntu by that alone. I don't much care for Unity, but I do like the whole *buntu ecosystem. You can reliably upgrade to new releases, which is not true of a lot of desktop-oriented Linuxes. It's engineering brilliance to support multiple distros like Xubuntu, Edubuntu, Kubuntu, Ubuntu Server, and all the rest from a common core and common repos, and the only distro with bigger repos is Debian, so you can almost always find what you want. If you can't then you have the giant thundering herd of Ubuntu PPAs (Personal Package Archives) to get software from.
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