In the ever-changing world of high-tech gadgets and gizmos, a whole load of jargon is thrown our way that many of us don’t necessarily understand.

In our regular series What is… we tackle a tech term or object and explain what it means so you can understand it a bit more.

Here we explain Ubuntu, an alternative operating system that works across PC, tablet and more.

What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is a free, open source operating system, run by a community of developers from across the globe.

Ubuntu’s creators Canonical use the Linux operating system as the foundation for their software. There are different versions of Ubuntu to suit everyone too, from personal desktops to schools and businesses. Ubuntu Desktop is the version for home users.

Canonical has also released a cloud-based operating system, but that’s aimed more at developers.

What does Ubuntu include?

The interface itself is different to Windows. Notably, the navigation you’d expect to see along the bottom of your screen can be found along the left and top of the display instead.

Users have access thousands of mostly-free apps which let you do pretty much everything you can do on a Windows PC.

These apps include web browsers like Firefox and Chromium, email apps like Telegram, Office software like LibreOffice and image editing tools like Gimp. Check out the full list here.

Firewall and virus protection software are built into the OS.

How can Ubuntu be free?

Ubuntu relies on voluntary developers to build software, which allows Canonical to make it available for free.

Canonical funds Ubuntu by selling other IT services to businesses such as cloud products and management tools.

Continued development of Ubuntu is helped by voluntary donations too.

What if something goes wrong?

If you need help, you can access free support documentation from Ubuntu’s website or try the technical answers system.

Alternatively, you can get free community support forums.

How do I get Ubuntu?

Getting hold of Ubuntu is simple enough – click here to download it now.

Your machine needs a 2Ghz dual-core processor, 2GB memory and 25GB hard drive space.

What’s great is that you can even try Ubuntu out before even installing it, so you can give it a test run.  All you need is a CD or spare USB stick to download the installation files onto and you’ll be able to boot your PC using Ubuntu in future (you can even run it side-by-side with Windows if you want). Find out more about how to try Ubuntu.

But remember, as with any software change of this kind, always back up your data first to ensure you don’t lose anything.