If you're looking for that perfect beginner version of Linux, look no further. The three distributions outlined here are intuitive, mature and functional. Use your favorite disk creator software to burn the ISO image to a CD, or USB stick, and you're off and running. You certainly don't have that option with other operating systems.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distributions around. It is available in community and professional (fee-based) support versions. They strive to support as many local languages as possible and believe that people should have the freedom to change their software, however they like. The newest version has a new “heads-up” display that superimposes information on the desktop and a streamlined application center. I personally like an Ubuntu variant called Xubuntu. It runs the lightweight XFCE window manager and has all the computing goodness of regular Ubuntu. It's hard to go wrong with Ubuntu.
Mint is actually based on Ubuntu and includes browser plug-ins, media codecs, DVD playback support and other components not found in regular Ubuntu, because of licensing issues. It has a custom desktop and a Web-based package installation interface. Needless to say, you can use the regular Ubuntu software repositories to load your applications. Quite a few people I've talked to like Mint and it seemed pretty popular at the recent OSCON conference. They must be doing something right, because it's ranked No. 1 on DistroWatch.com.
Puppy is a very small, fast, full-featured version of Linux. It uses a ram-disk, so all operations are done without the need to access the CD or USB stick. It can also boot from a flash card, Zip disk, floppies, or internal hard drive, making it suitable for use on older (and really older) machines. It's been around for a long time and I used to use it for recycling old PCs. The desktop is basic, but functional and you certainly have to be amused at their choice of logo. Nevertheless, it's a solid distribution and works well for people just starting into Linux. I highly recommend Puppy.
One of the great things about Linux is that you have all kinds of variety and the freedom to have things your way. You can freely download these distributions from the Internet and start putting them to use immediately. And, since most major distributions are mature and have great community support, they tend to just work. The distributions that are out now are vastly better than the ones from even just two years ago. Give one of these versions a try and start your journey into useful, Open Source software. You'll be glad you did.