Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fedora 15 impressions

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.


  1. There are a lot of themes on GNOME-Look, and I'm sure at least one of the GNOME 3 Shell and/or GTK+ 3 themes must be like that old theme. Also, I think I have a better answer to your question about what niche this blog should fill now that you are no longer "in exile"; in addition to covering exactly what makes using Microsoft Windows so frustrating for Linux users, you could make this a spotlight for Fedora, doing these sorts of reviews of Fedora and possible Fedora derivatives (e.g. Fusion, Fuduntu) and relatives (i.e. RHEL, CentOS, Scientific Linux). You could also shine some light on what separates Fedora from other distributions (e.g. release schedule, SELinux, vanilla GNOME 3). I'm not saying that you need to do all of these things; while I think the focus should be on using Microsoft Windows from the perspective of a regular Linux user, you should consider these other topics as well. Cheers!
    a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

  2. I've been stuck with Gnome 3 Fallback on Fedora 15 and have tried to make it more like Gnome2:

  3. Nice topic!!
    But I would like to point out some flaws, in my humble opinion.

    1st: I was used to run through virtual desktops using Alt+(<- ->), which is pretty fast and easy. Now the orientation is up down. That sucked, it seems weird. The previous way was much more oriented to ocidental readers, it can flow from the left to the right, now is much more to oriental style.

    2nd: Alt+Tab function now shows all applications in all virtual desktops, it's frustrating when you pick an application that's running on your 4th desktop. It is pretty easy to mess up around with many applications when pressing Alt+tab. It should show only the apps for the current desktop, as it used to be.

    3rd: The favorites bar it is not a good replacement for the AWN. It starts to become smaller and smaller as you add new fav apps. And I use a lot. Considering not using the favorites bar is not a good option, otherwise you would have to search for your apps. I don't remember the exactly name of them (like Glade, i never now if it is Glade3 or Glade-3). And it works very similar to windows vista/7 search, which in my point of view sucks.

    So the point in my opinion is that Gnome Shell is fancy and it is the main point of F15. But it is not that much i expected. Fancy but a bit disapointing. Though I'll still use it. Better than windows or mac anyway.

  4. You mentioned it in an earlier post on F14, but here's the FedoraFAQ entry to add MP3 support:

    It's pretty easy.

  5. All I will say is that I previewed Fedora 15 and didn't feel the need to change away from GNOME 3 the whole week. However, when I tried Ubuntu 11.04, I switched to "Classic" instead of "Unity" in less than 2 days. I normally use Linux Mint, but that does indicate which new UI I probably feel most comfortable with.


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