Back in April, I installed the Fedora 15 Beta release. My quick review at that time: it took a little time to get used to Gnome 3, but I liked it.
Last week, Fedora 15 was officially released. I installed a copy on my laptop, and quickly got back to work. The install process was the fastest I've seen for any Linux distro - about 15 minutes to install the complete operating system from the LiveCD installer.
The big, new feature in Fedora 15 is the Gnome 3 desktop. Read my preview of Fedora 15 for screenshots. Gnome 3 takes a different view on the desktop, based on user experience and feedback. The default Gnome Shell has a single menu bar, which lets you launch programs and quickly access settings.
The "Activities" menu helps organize everything. To start an application, click "Activities" and you can select from a "Favorites" list, or a full list of installed programs. Applications are sorted by category, or you can scroll through "All".
Instead of a separate panel to show your available applications, you click "Activities" to see what's going on, even if you have programs running on a virtual desktop. I suppose Mac users will find this "Activities" view similar to that of Exposé.
I guess Gnome 3, and specifically the Gnome Shell, is something you either love, or something you hate. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.
Gnome 3 is a change, for sure. But I quickly got over it, and after a few minutes the Gnome Shell felt quite natural.
I helped my wife install Fedora 15 over the weekend. She's not really a "techie" user, but my wife has been a big Linux fan for many years now, having dropped Windows. She has moved from Gnome 1 to Gnome 2, without much trouble. But now that her laptop is running Gnome 3, she's not so much in love with the new interface.
As I said, you either love it or hate it.
I can see why: Gnome 1 was a big step forward for the Linux desktop. Gnome 2 made major improvements on the desktop, making everything easier and more integrated. The user interface was fairly similar to Windows, making it a little easier for Windows users to switch to Linux. But Gnome always took its own spin on the "Windows" interface, moving to the "two-panel" approach: one to show things you can do, another that shows things you are doing.
Gnome 3 is a deviation from that progression. The Gnome Shell looks more like Mac OS X than Windows. That's fine if you're a Mac user looking to move to Linux, but it requires some re-learning of the user interface. Mac OS X is quite different from Windows, and a desktop environment that takes cues from Mac will operate differently than one that borrows from Windows.
I like the new interface. I guess my only complaint is that I don't like the wide title bars on Windows, and that everything looks sort of grey. I understand you can customize the Gnome 3 shell, but the process to do that requires some manual editing. I'm sure this will get easier in later releases, and Fedora is supposed to be a "cutting edge" distro. (If you are looking for long-term stability, I point you to Red Hat Linux - Fedora is generally considered to be the "testing ground" for new features in Red Hat.)
If anyone has suggestions for how to add themes to Gnome 3, specifically how to set the appearance to look more like the Bluecurve interface from Fedora 14 and previous releases, please let me know in the comments.