Ubuntu LTS Releases: Everything You Need to Know

Millions of people around the world use Ubuntu as their Linux distribution of choice, and most have wondered at one point or another what’s the difference between regular Ubuntu releases and Ubuntu LTS (Long-Term Support) releases.

If you count yourself among those who are unfamiliar with Ubuntu’s release cycle, this article will teach you everything you need to know about it and explain the difference between regular Ubuntu releases and Ubuntu LTS releases.

What Is an LTS Release?

Regular Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server releases are published every six months. “That means you’ll always have the latest and greatest applications that the open source world has to offer,” Ubuntu provides a reason for its fast release cycle.

As you can imagine, having access to the latest and greatest applications is not everyone’s top priority. Many home users and most enterprise users prioritize security above everything else. For those users, Ubuntu releases a new LTS version every two years.

According to Ubuntu, LTS releases are enterprise-focused, compatible with new hardware, and more tested than regular releases. They are not feature-based releases because they focus on hardening functionality of existing features, instead of adding new ones.

How Does the LTS Release Program Work?

The first LTS release in Ubuntu’s history was Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Dapper Drake), which was released on 1 June 2006 as was Canonical’s fourth release. Until Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin), which was made available on 26 April 2012, LTS releases had three years support on Ubuntu Desktop and five years on Ubuntu Server.

Current LTS releases are supported for years, with paid technical support also available from Canonical Ltd. Upgrades to new versions of Ubuntu are and always will be free of charge. To avoid compatibility issues, Ubuntu avoids structural changes as much as possible, including changes to the default set of applications or libraries.

It’s important to note that the LTS designation doesn’t apply to all Ubuntu derivatives. Only the main Ubuntu flavors, including Kubuntu and Lubuntu, are available with extended support. Others, such as Ubuntu Studio, are typically based on Ubuntu LTS releases but supported only for 9 months.

What Are the Latest and Upcoming LTS Releases?

The latest Ubuntu LTS release was Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver), which was released on 26 April 2018 and introduced new features such as color emoji, a new To-Do app preinstalled in the default installation, and added the option of a “Minimal Install” to the installer. Ubuntu 18.04 LTS will be supported until April 2023.

The next Ubuntu LTS release will be Ubuntu 20.04, which is planned to be released on April, 2020. Because its development has just started, we don’t know much about what it will include at this point, but stay tuned.

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