Along with Arch and Debian, Fedora is one of the “big three” Linux distributions. Its lineage goes back to Red Hat Linux, the original RPM-based distribution.
Fedora is known for its cutting-edge technologies, the latest software, and frequent updates. It is also one of the few major distributions to adopt the GNOME standard. Lately, the distro has become more user-friendly, with a splash screen, Flatpak support, and the ability to enable third-party repositories in the settings.
Basic information and specifications
Here is a breakdown of basic Fedora information and the relevant modern specifications:
|packages||RPM*, flat pack, application image|
|release cycle||Six months|
Fedora has a number of notable defaults that users of modern distributions should be aware of, including PipeWire, Wayland, and Btrfs.
The history of Fedora is inseparable from the history of Red Hat. The distribution was originally known as “Fedora Linux”, then “Fedora Core”, before finally settling on just Fedora.
Fedora Linux was a third-party repository for the original Red Hat Linux, while Fedora Core was a free, community-maintained version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Today, Fedora sits atop Red Hat Enterprise Linux and serves as a good preview of what’s to come in the paid workstation version.
Although it is a community project, Fedora is obviously funded by Red Hat, which is now owned by IBM.
Notable Fedora Features
With such a long history, Fedora’s achievements are countless. Fortunately, this distro has a lot going for it right now, so there’s no reason to go back to ancient history for highlights.
1. Ships with Stock GNOME
One of Fedora’s biggest draws is its use of a mostly standard GNOME desktop.
One would think that GNOME is one of the “big two” Linux desktop environments and so many distributions ship it, that standard GNOME would be common, but no. Today, most distributions that ship GNOME include a bunch of mods that try to make GNOME conform to 90s-era GUI conventions.
Fedora doesn’t do that. Instead, it provides one of the cleanest and most up-to-date examples of GNOME outside of the VM-only GNOME OS development snapshot.
2. Easy to use
While many distros go above and beyond to help new users with graphical installers and splash screens, no one really expected the open source Fedora stalwart to join in. But he did. Fedora supports Flatpak out of the box as well as RPM files.
Also, you can now enable third-party repositories during setup. Upon installation, you are greeted with a helpful linear welcome screen that explains the basics of the user interface, gestures, and shortcuts.
Traditionally considered a distro for Linux users, the modern Fedora is close to getting top recommendations, with some people even calling it the new Ubuntu.
3. Offer state-of-the-art software
Fedora is updated every six months, with no LTS release, so you always get the latest updates and the latest version is always the flagship edition.
Beyond frequent updates, Fedora is beating most of its rivals in shipping next-gen open source software as default. It was the first major distribution to switch from ext4 to Btrfs, from X11 to Wayland, and from PulseAudio to PipeWire.
4. Fedora is reliable
While you don’t often see a distribution known to be innovative and reliable, you also don’t often see distributions sponsored by IBM.
When Fedora introduces fundamental changes, like the examples above, it’s a good sign that those technologies are finally ready for prime time. Then you start to notice that other distros are slowly following suit.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, there are development releases of Fedora like Rawhide that are not covered here.
Fedora offers three regular editions and two official “emerging editions.” However, only two of those five are for desktop use. We will skip the server-centric and IoT flavors.
Fedora Workstation is the project’s flagship desktop edition. It features a mostly standard GNOME desktop and Flatpak support out of the box.
Discharge: Fedora Workstation (free and open source)
2. silver blue
Fedora Silverblue Emerging Edition is an immutable variant of Fedora Workstation. The main difference is that users are likely to have trouble installing RPMs, as Flatpak is Silverblue’s native package format.
Discharge: Fedora Silverblue (free and open source)
Kinoite is a promising edition of Fedora that is not yet listed on the home page. Kinoite is simply a KDE Plasma flavored alternative to Silverblue.
Discharge: Fedora Kinoite (free and open source)
Like many distributions, Fedora offers a variety of alternative downloads that include a variety of desktop environments. Fedora calls these variants “Twirls”.
1. KDE Plasma Desktop
Fedora’s KDE Plasma Spin leaves most of the KDE defaults intact, only changing the wallpaper and application launcher icon, and allowing double-click to open/launch.
Discharge: Fedora KDE Plasma Desktop Spin (free and open source)
2. XFCE Desktop
Fedora XFCE Spin uses the traditional BSD/Mac style interface design. It looks pretty good for a light desktop environment.
Discharge: Fedora XFCE Desktop Spin (free and open source)
Without stopping at the “big three” desktop environments, Fedora also offers LXQt. This Qt-based alternative to LXDE provides a simple Windows XP-like experience.
Discharge: Fedora LXQt Desktop Spin (free and open source)
4. MATE-Compiz Desktop
Trapped in time, Fedora’s MATE-Compiz Spin is perfect for those longing for the glory days of GNOME 2 Ubuntu and flashy desktop effects.
Discharge: Fedora MATE-Compiz Desktop Spin (free and open source)
5. Cinnamon Desk
Surprisingly, Fedora offers a twist with Cinnamon, Linux Mint’s internal desktop.
This Cinnamon iteration features Fedora branding, a blue accent color, a slim taskbar, and notably lacks Mint’s XApps. Despite these changes, it’s refreshing to see that Cinnamon is used differently than it is in Linux Mint.
Aside from SOAS, this is the only Fedora twist that doesn’t include the default Fedora 36 wallpaper.
Discharge: Fedora Cinnamon Desktop Spin (free and open source)
For those who prefer the original GTK-based version of LXQt, Fedora has you covered with a twist. LXDE is another lightweight desktop modeled after previous versions of Windows.
Discharge: Fedora LXDE Desktop Spin (free and open source)
7. SOAS (stick sugar)
After running out of every desktop environment you’ve heard of, Fedora continues to impress with the SOAS twist. She may know him better as Sugar on a Stick, which as her name implies is Sugar on a bootable USB stick.
The early learning desktop environment became widely known when it was chosen as the operating system for the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) project.
Discharge: Fedora SOAS Spin (free and open source)
8. i3 Mosaic Window Manager
Yes, Fedora even has a tiled window manager, so now you can post to r/unixporn as well. Jokes aside, i3 is one of the most popular Mosaic WMs and a perfect starting point to enter the world of keyboard controlled Mosaic WMs.
This class of sub-desktops offers superior display efficiency, lower system overhead, and faster user interaction through keyboard-driven shortcuts.
Discharge: Fedora i3 Tiling WM Spin (Free and Open Source)
Who is Fedora for?
Fedora is not only an original distribution, but it has also become quite easy to use in recent years. That’s a weird combination, as Arch is definitely not user-friendly, and Debian just added a graphical installer a couple of years ago.
If you’re a fan of GNOME, Fedora is the only major distribution that offers an updated version of standard GNOME. Mac users and youngsters who grew up with mobile devices may also appreciate GNOME. And laptop users will fall in love with Wayland’s touchpad gestures to control the workspace.
Fedora is a leading choice among Linux desktops, and cases can be made for new Linux users and even gamers to choose it.