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Fedora is one of the largest Linux communities in the world. But it doesn’t have quite the name recognition as Ubuntu. Even among many who know of Fedora, the distro has a reputation for being hard to use. Is this true, and if so, why do so many people continue using Fedora year after year?

I’ve written much about Ubuntu and other Ubuntu-based distros. Thing is, I’ve done so using a Fedora-powered laptop. These are some of the reasons why I find myself embracing this distro over all others.

First, Some Background

The first version of Fedora launched in 2003, after the final release of Red Hat Linux. Going forward, Red Hat would focus on Red Hat Enterprise Linux instead. Fedora was born as a community-supported option, one used to produce future Red Hat Enterprise Linux releases.

While Red Hat sponsors Fedora and some of its employees contribute to the distro’s development, Red Hat doesn’t create Fedora the way Canonical, for example, produces Ubuntu. Fedora stems from the Fedora Project, a massive community made mostly of volunteers around the world. A board called the Fedora Council governs the project, though as sponsor, Red Hat does employ a few roles.

The first six releases went by the name “Fedora Core.” Since then, “Fedora” has sufficed. New versions come out roughly every six months and maintain support for little more than a year.

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While Red Hat is a US company, the Fedora Project is a global community. Nonetheless, the distro’s sponsor being in the US does affect a few decisions, such as the first one on this list.

1. Fedora Only Distributes Free Software

Linux is widely regarded as a free and open source desktop, but that isn’t 100% true. While the vast majority of what you run on a Linux machine is free software, some is the kind of proprietary code you find on commercial operating systems. Other is open source but saddled with licensing issues, such as multimedia codecs Why Your Music & Video Files Don't Play on Linux, and How to Fix It Why Your Music & Video Files Don't Play on Linux, and How to Fix It You've switched to Linux, but your video or audio files file won't play! Simply, your Linux version didn't come with the necessary codecs, so let's find out how to install them. Read More .

The distro you use determines how easy it is to stumble across proprietary software. Each one has varying stances on how to treat non-free applications.

Ubuntu has gained its reputation for being user-friendly in part by making proprietary or restricted software easy to come by. The distro highlights multimedia codecs, closed display drivers, and plug-ins like Adobe Flash. These help users listen to music, play games, and browse the web — but they’re also not free software.

Fedora takes a principled stand here, one that also avoids opening Red Hat up to lawsuits. Non-free software isn’t allowed in the repositories. The distro won’t stop you from installing such applications, but it won’t help you either. Users have to turn to third-party resources Need Help Installing Chrome and Codecs in Fedora Linux? Try Fedora Utils Need Help Installing Chrome and Codecs in Fedora Linux? Try Fedora Utils Get Fedora set up how you want it, quickly. Fedora Utils makes otherwise tedious setup steps simple. Read More , such as the popular RPM Fusion repository. This is part of why Fedora is considered more difficult to use.

But if you only want to use free software, Fedora offers peace of mind. Unless you go out of your way to install an .RPM manually, such as by downloading Chrome from Google’s website, you know your computer will only run free software.

WhyUseFedora-GNOME-Shell

Well, almost. There are closed binary bits in the Linux kernel itself. If you want a pure system, you don’t have to install a different distro 4 Linux Distros That Are Completely Open Source 4 Linux Distros That Are Completely Open Source Linux is the distro of choice for freedom loving software hippies, but not everything you see is open source! Let's take a look at four Linux distros that are totally open source. Read More . Try using the Linux-libre kernel inside Fedora instead.

2. Fedora Offers the Best Implementation of GNOME

The GNOME desktop environment is my favorite across any operating system. I especially became a fan with the introduction of the GNOME Shell in version 3.0. To me, it felt that Linux finally had an interface that felt unique and modern at the same time 5 Surprising Reasons Behind The GNOME Resurgence 5 Surprising Reasons Behind The GNOME Resurgence Today, GNOME 3 is finally regaining users, and there are less people who go online to voice their hatred for the desktop environment. What happened to make GNOME slowly come back? Read More .

GNOME draws developers and contributors from around the world. Besides the desktop environment, the community has created dozens of apps. These days GNOME software can handle most desktop functions 10 Awesome GNOME Apps that Didn't Come With Your Distro 10 Awesome GNOME Apps that Didn't Come With Your Distro The GNOME desktop is one of the most complete and accessible desktop environments in the Linux ecosystem, but the apps don't come preinstalled. Here's a list of several great GNOME apps to install. Read More .

Many distros provide the GNOME environment, but many introduce their own tweaks. Fedora provides a pure GNOME experience. Whenever you see a new feature hit the next version of GNOME, you can count on it landing in the next Fedora release exactly as it looks in the video.

3. Fedora is Easy to Use

GNOME developers design the desktop to be simple and intuitive. Since Fedora ships the environment in an unaltered state, it benefits from these design decisions.

Much of the software in GNOME 3.x is simpler than it was in the GNOME 2.x days. This is especially visible in Files, the default file manager also known as Nautilus. Launching the app shows you a sidebar, your folders, and a few buttons. Compared to Windows Explorer, it looks downright basic.

WhyUseFedora-Files

GNOME’s text editor (gedit), photo viewer (Photos), and web browser (Web) all share that same simplicity. Even advanced tasks, such as managing virtual machines, is easy to do with the Boxes app Gnome Boxes: An Easy Way To Set Up Virtual Machines in Linux Gnome Boxes: An Easy Way To Set Up Virtual Machines in Linux Gnome Boxes is a simple virtualization tool that prefers ease and convenience over numerous customization options. Read More .

With GNOME Software, the new package manager, getting new apps is as easy as it is on your phone. And starting with Fedora 24, you can upgrade to the next Fedora release from within GNOME Software.

4. Fedora Developers Benefit the Broader Linux Community

The Fedora community prefers to develop software that benefits the entire open source ecosystem. It does this by pushing changes upstream rather than focusing downstream.

Put another way, Fedora works with the original creators of software to make changes that impact everyone, rather than patch the software to provide changes only to Fedora users.

This is why most desktop environments in Fedora aren’t differentiated from other distros in any meaningful way, aside from occasionally changing the default wallpaper.

WhyUseFedora-Wallpaper

Fedora often develops or embraces new technologies early on. Take the PulseAudio sound server, the systemd init system, and the Wayland display server. These creations aren’t always popular at first, but they do tend to make their way to other Linux distros.

5. Fedora Strives to Embrace New Technology First

This makes Fedora a great place to try out software before it gets introduced to other distros. For example, GNOME 3 arrived in Fedora before Ubuntu or openSUSE Fedora 15 - Bringing You The Latest In Linux Fedora 15 - Bringing You The Latest In Linux It's another great day in the world of Linux. Fedora 15 was finally released yesterday, and this new release brings a massive amount of changes compared to Fedora 14. In fact, there's so many changes... Read More . Fedora is aiming to use Wayland by default in the next release.

Fedora 24 launched with GNOME 3.20, while Ubuntu GNOME 16.04 offers 3.18. Both launched after the latest release arrived in March. Meanwhile, openSUSE Leap 42.1 comes with an even older version, 3.16.

The same dynamic can be found with the Linux kernel, libraries, and apps. Fedora doesn’t always offer a newer version, but chances are it isn’t lagging behind.

WhyUseFedora-Freedom-Friends-Features-First

Changes don’t come as quickly as they do in rolling release distros What Is a Linux Rolling Release, and Do You Want It? What Is a Linux Rolling Release, and Do You Want It? Read More , but the six-month release schedule offers a good balance for folks who want a balance between updates and stability.

What Do You Think of Fedora?

Fedora doesn’t strive to be a distro for everyone. The focus on free software may frustrate users switching to Linux for the first time. The short support window means Fedora probably isn’t the best option for servers, or enterprise use.

On the other hand, Fedora is one of the most usable free software-focused distros you can download. I’ve run Fedora for years with a consistently reliable experience, and I look forward to what the next one brings.

What distro do you have on your computer? Have you used Fedora? What was your experience? Tell your story below for others considering giving Fedora a shot.

  1. Daniel
    July 29, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    My only problem with Fedora (other than having to learn to use Gnome 3 when you come from Windows) is that the font rendering on the Web is painfully ugly. I'm a Web developer so I spend most of my time in a browser and it just kills me. Ubuntu derived distros have a rendering comparable to Mac OS and even Windows has a better font rendering. Were I a C coder I would be glad to get Fedora. But unfortunately that's not the case so I stick with Ubuntu deviratives.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      July 29, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      The font rendering is one of my biggest issues with Fedora, too. Fortunately the situation does appear to be better than it was a few years ago, at least to my eyes.

      • Daniel
        July 29, 2016 at 4:35 pm

        I'll have to check it out again (I've looked at it maybe a year ago last time).

        • Stephen Gallagher
          August 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm

          One of the major features in Fedora 24 was a significant improvement in font rendering (as well as a major update to the default font, Cantarell). It's definitely worth another look.

    • Prasad
      August 20, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Have you tried using Fedy? to correct your font rendering in Fedora?
      This is link for Fedy: http://folkswithhats.org/

    • prasad patil
      August 20, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      hi

  2. Ted
    July 28, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I've tried Fedora MANY times over the years. I actually started off with Red Hat 5 back in college. For the past several years, I've been using Linux Mint. I love Gnome and Fedora's implementation of it. But dnf/yum is soooooooooo painfully slow compared to apt.

  3. Read and Share
    July 28, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Each to his or her own, of course, but just what is so great about 'pure open source' software to the typical, non-anal-retentive user? And why just the hang up on software/ Why not go 'pure' on hardware too? Maybe the Fedora, etc. communities need to forge their own chips and machine their own drives? Seems almost everything out there that we buy/use are proprietary this day and age -- our clothes, our cars, our food even... so again, what is the big hangup on software?

    • Read and Share
      July 28, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      I should add I am not trying to muzzle anyone or any article... but just genuinely curious what the infatuation is all about...

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      July 28, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Good question!

      I can't answer for everyone, but here are some reasons that matter to me:

      1. Software isn't static. An app can work today and disappear tomorrow. Or it can fundamentally take a different shape, inject ads, or change in some other way. The only real guarantee that an app I use today will be available years from now is if it's open source. That way even if the software gets abandoned or undergoes drastic changes, the source code being available means someone can keep the old version alive.

      By comparison, holding on to an old binary (such as an .exe on Windows) only guarantees that software continues to work on the version of the OS that it currently works with. It may not be compatible with future versions.

      2. I only feel as though I have ownership over software when it's free and open source.

      For example, I own proprietary baby bottles, and if the company goes out of business five years from now, those bottles will still work (though getting replacement nipples might be a problem). With software, a company going out of business often means an application goes away.

      I don't want to spend years using an app to perform a task (such as map my family tree) only to have to start over when the app goes away. Even having the option to export my data doesn't always mean another app exists that can import it properly, if at all. Having the source code means someone with the technical know-how can keep the program running (and make it available to others).

      3. Using software requires more trust than most other "products." When I write with pen and paper, I know there's only one copy of what I create. The pen and the paper don't have a connection to the Internet that sends data (identifiable or otherwise) to a company's server somewhere. A paper planner isn't using my calendar entries to learn about me. My clothes aren't monitoring my weight and health to sell me ads.

      Using proprietary, closed source software requires I trust that the developer isn't doing anything with my data that I disapprove of. With physical products, I have to trust that the manufacturer didn't use dangerous materials or unethical business practices, but that's usually where the risks end.

      - I view these issues of control, privacy, ownership, and trust as questions we need to create answers for as we do more things on computers and online. To me, free and open source software already offer a solution.

      I hope this helps.

      • Read and Share
        July 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

        Thanks, Bertel. Very thoughtful. While I am not terribly tied to the notion of open source, your post reminds me that options are a good thing because there are all kinds of valid reasons for different approaches; and the importance of keeping an open mind.

  4. Tony
    July 28, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    If you want to try Fedora, but some of the 'non-free' pieces that are missing, check kororaproject.org. I've been running some sort of Fedora-based OS on my primary (and secondary) systems for over five years and Korora is my favorite distro.

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