The Fedora website doesn’t do a great job of calling attention to this, essentially burying the link near the bottom of the page.
I’m not sure why they do this but, once you find the link, you are greeted with a number of options for alternative desktops on Fedora.
In my experience, all of these are well implemented versions of each desktop environment, each with some slight customizations to fit the Fedora aesthetic.
Table of Contents
- KDE Plasma Spin
- XFCE Spin
- LXQt Spin
- MATE Compiz Spin
- Cinnamon Spin
- LXDE Spin
- SOAS(Sugar on a Stick) Spin
- Honorable Mention – Fedora Design Suite
Fedora 31 Spins
The spins all do a good job of being consistent in terms of look and feel and inclusion of Fedora-specific tools like the dnfdragora graphical package manager (very similar to Synaptic) and the Red Hat firewall-config front-end for firewalld. They all, not unexpectedly, use the Anaconda installer.
As with all editions of Fedora, they only include FOSS software by default. You can easily add support for multimedia codecs and other patent-encumbered software via the RPM Fusion repository.
KDE Plasma Spin
According to the Fedora KDE Plasma Desktop page:
The Fedora KDE Plasma Desktop Edition is a powerful Fedora-based operating system utilizing the KDE Plasma Desktop as the main user interface.
Fedora KDE Plasma Desktop comes with many pre-selected top quality applications that suit all modern desktop use cases – from online communication like web browsing, instant messaging and electronic mail correspondence, through multimedia and entertainment, to an advanced productivity suite, including office applications and enterprise grade personal information management.
All KDE applications are well integrated, with a similar look and feel and an easy to use interface, accompanied by an outstanding graphical appearance.
The Fedora 31 KDE Plasma Spin is running Plasma 5.16.5. The appearance is very close to stock although they do include a custom Fedora item under Look and Feel which is essentially the Breeze theme with a few customizations.
The spin favors KDE-specific applications, ones you would expect to find included with most distributions such as Okular, Gwenview, Kate and so on. The KDE PIM suite is also included (KMail, Kontact, KOrganizer) as is the Falkon and Konqueror web browsers.
The Discover software center integrates well and easily incorporates flatpak support by following the setup instructions on flathub.org.
This is a very solid implementation of KDE’s Plasma desktop and core set of KDE-specific applications.
According to the Fedora Xfce Desktop page:
The Fedora Xfce spin showcases the Xfce desktop, which aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and user friendly.
Fedora Xfce is a full-fledged desktop using the freedesktop.org standards.
The Fedora 31 Xfce Spin comes with the latest version of Xfce, 4.14 as well as the standard set of applications and tools you would expect on a standard Xfce desktop. The theme is set to Adwaita and a number of alternatives are available such as the standard Xfce themes and Arc.
Not really much else to say other than, as with all the spins, this is a solid implementation of the Xfce desktop, very close to stock with minor Fedora-specific tweaks.
From the Fedora LXQt Desktop page:
Fedora LXQt provides a lightweight, well-integrated LXQt desktop environment. In addition to LXQt itself it provides a small, well selected collection of applications like the QupZilla browser, which combines Chromium’s rendering engine with a nice Qt experience. Other applications include the Trojita mail client, the qBittorrent client, the Yarock music player and a set of some more commonly used applications. As all applications use the same Qt5 toolkit and the Breeze theme known from KDE, the desktop provides a unified and well-integrated style and theming. In addition breeze-gtk is provided to allow the user to integrate GTK applications too.
Fedora 31 LXQt is running 0.14.1 and, having looked at Lubuntu 19.10 recently, seems to be a much more bare-bones offering. The default set of applications is rather limited with only the Falkon web browser, no email client, music app, video player and so on. That’s probably a benefit to some who like to choose their own software but to others it could seem like an oversight. The system is nicely themed and consistent as you’d expect but otherwise feels very sparse.
I don’t use LXQt enough to provide a credible opinion on how well it is implemented here but it does seem to have all the basic components you’d need as a starting point.
MATE Compiz Spin
The Fedora MATE-Compiz Desktop page describes it as:
The MATE Compiz spin bundles MATE Desktop with Compiz Fusion. MATE Desktop is a lightweight, powerful desktop designed with productivity and performance in mind. The default windows manager is Marco which is usable for all machines and VMs. Compiz Fusion is a beautiful 3D windowing manager with Emerald and GTK+ theming.
If you want a powerful, lightweight Fedora desktop with 3D eyecandy you should definitely try the MATE-Compiz spin.
The MATE Compiz spin comes with MATE version 1.22.2 and a rather robust set of default applications. Most things that a majority of users would expect to have installed is here. Firefox, Hexchat, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Exaile music player, Parole media player and Gnote are among the standouts.
There is a customized theme using a mix of Blue Menta and MATE components that is very pleasant although people preferring dark themes will probably want to tone down the very light aesthetic.
It does not come with the MATE Tweak tool that you’d find in Ubuntu MATE although, as the name suggests, full Compiz support is baked in so you have access to a vast array of effects and utilities accessed via CompizConfig. There’s a lot to see and do here and I can imagine users who like to tweak their desktop finding much here worth investigating.
I’m not generally a huge fan of the MATE desktop however I recognize and appreciate the amount of effort put into this spin and imagine that regular MATE users would find a lot here to like.
According to the Fedora Cinnamon Desktop page:
Cinnamon is a Linux desktop which provides advanced innovative features and a traditional user experience. The desktop layout is similar to Gnome 2. The underlying technology is forked from Gnome Shell. The emphasis is put on making users feel at home and providing them with an easy to use and comfortable desktop experience.
Cinnamon is a popular desktop alternative to Gnome 3 and this spin provides the option to quickly try and install this desktop.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop. The implementation of it on the Fedora spin is one of the most complete I’ve seen outside of Linux Mint itself. Things like the Login Manager configuration tool, normally absent or not fully working in other distros, is installed and works as expected.
The Mint themes and icons come pre-installed and set as default which I contend provide the best visual experience. Cinnamon, being GTK+ based, is able to use other GTK+ themes as well if you prefer.
Cinnamon is at version 4.4.2 and the install includes all of the essential apps you’d need to get started. If you like Cinnamon you will most likely appreciate this version of it.
From the Fedora LXDE Desktop site:
LXDE, the “Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment”, is an extremely fast, performant, and energy-saving desktop environment. It maintained by an international community of developers and comes with a beautiful interface, multi-language support, standard keyboard shortcuts and additional features like tabbed file browsing.
LXDE is not designed to be powerful and bloated, but to be usable and slim. A main goal of LXDE is to keep computer resource usage low. It is especially designed for computers with low hardware specifications like netbooks, mobile devices (e.g. MIDs) or older computers.
The LXDE spin comes with LXDE version X. As with most of the other spins, it comes with a spartan set of applications that provide just enough to get started. The desktop is appealing, using the Adwaita theme and Fedora icons.
LXDE is known to be lightweight and that holds true here. A fresh boot puts me at just over 300 MB memory used so this would be usable on modest hardware.
From the Fedora SoaS Desktop site:
Sugar on a Stick is a Fedora-based operating system featuring the award-winning Sugar Learning Platform and designed to fit on an ordinary USB thumbdrive (“stick”).
Sugar sets aside the traditional “office-desktop” metaphor, presenting a child-friendly graphical environment. Sugar automatically saves your progress to a “Journal” on your stick, so teachers and parents can easily pull up “all collaborative web browsing sessions done in the past week” or “papers written with Daniel and Sarah in the last 24 hours” with a simple query rather than memorizing complex file/folder structures. Applications in Sugar are known as Activities, some of which are described below.
It is now deployable for the cost of a stick rather than a laptop; students can take their Sugar on a Stick thumbdrive to any machine – at school, at home, at a library or community center – and boot their customized computing environment without touching the host machine’s hard disk or existing system at all.
The Sugar on a Stick learning environment was an integral part of the One Laptop Per Child initiative. It is very specialized and purpose-built for children to learn to use a computer in an easily accessible way. It is intended to run from a USB stick where activity and data stored and retrieved and can be used on any computer.
Honorable Mention – Fedora Design Suite
From the Fedora 31 Design Suite page:
Looking for a ready-to-go desktop environment brimming with free and open source multimedia production and publishing tools? Try the Design Suite, a Fedora Spin created by designers, for designers.
The Design Suite includes the favorite tools of the Fedora Design Team. These are the same programs we use to create all the artwork that you see within the Fedora Project, from desktop backgrounds to CD sleeves, web page designs, application interfaces, flyers, posters and more. From document publication to vector and bitmap editing or 3D modeling to photo management, the Design Suite has an application for you — and you can install thousands more from the Fedora universe of packages.
If you are familiar with Ubuntu Studio then you have a pretty good idea of what the Fedora Design Suite is. It essentially provides a version of the main Fedora Workstation release with a bundle of creative applications included. I haven’t had a chance to test this much but the app selection covers most areas of design and content creation, from digital art and video editing to 2D animation and 3D modeling. I’m not the most creative person so most of the tools are beyond my abilities but it seems to be a great option for those looking for a solid out of the box experience.
Hopefully this familiarizes you with the impressive variety of alternatives to the standard Fedora Workstation offering. You get all the benefits of running the excellent Fedora base with the desktop of your choice.
It’s obvious that the maintainers of these spins have spent quite a bit of time and effort to provide very polished experiences. I’d like to say thank you all involved who make this possible. Great work!
If you have run a Fedora spin let me know in the comments. I’m curious to see what you think.