Fedora 35, Red Hat‘s free Linux distribution (distro), is available now as a beta. From an updated desktop experience to behind-the-scenes tweaks, we’re taking a look at the Workstation edition to see what’s new for desktop users.
Red Hat’s community Linux build rolled out in beta on September 28, 2021, with the official release planned for later in October.
This version is “all about polish,” as Red Hat said in a blog post. While there is still an emphasis on a desktop PC with bleeding-edge everything, Fedora 35 focuses on extending existing features and improved support. It’s a nice middle-way update that combines all the new stuff we’ve seen in recent versions of Fedora, and GNOME desktop, as well as some refinements. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at the polish.
While Linux contemporary Ubuntu 21.10 is sticking with GNOME 40, the default desktop environment for Fedora has advanced to GNOME 41. This second iteration of the popular desktop with GNOME‘s new numbering scheme builds on what we’ve seen in previous versions.
It features an emphasis on using multiple workspaces where select apps operate in full screen on different desktops. It also doesn’t show a launcher of any kind, as we’ve been seeing in recent iterations. To see the launcher you hit the Super (Windows) key and enter the Activities Overview, or use a three-finger up or down swipe on a touchpad.
From the Overview, you can drag and drop applications into different workspaces. It’s possible to have multiple applications in a single workspace, but there are no minimize/maximize buttons to easily dismiss apps. You can, of course, add those buttons, but they’re not there by default.
You can also snap windows to one side of the workspace or another to see two apps at once, but the better approach is to drop new apps into their own workspace if they take up the entire display.
To switch between workspaces go to the Activities Overview, or use the Super key + PGUP or PGDN keys. For touchpad users, switching with a left or right three-finger swipe in the Overview.
There’s a redesigned Software store with improved support for Flatpak containers. In Fedora 35, if you enable third-party repositories (the Store automatically asks you to do this), you can get select apps via Flathub. It’s not complete access, but apps such as Zoom and Minecraft come from this source.
We expect to see more Flatpaks show up in Fedora as time goes on. Similar to what’s going on with apps in Windows and macOS, Flatpak applications run in containers that are separate from the rest of the system. This increases security since the apps don’t have unfettered access to the entire system.
There’s also a new multitasking section in the Settings app where you can set how the desktop will operate. You can activate a hot corner to open the Activities overview (the same as hitting the Super key). You can also activate screen edges to automatically resize a window. Finally, there are options to set a fixed number of workspaces, or remove unused workspaces automatically.
Power management profiles are also easier to manage in GNOME 41 just by clicking on the power button in the upper right corner. This way you can quickly switch from balanced to power saver–a nice feature for laptops when you need to extend battery life.
If you don’t like GNOME 41, you can switch to other desktops such as Fedora Kinoite, a Fedora “spin” with the KDE Plasma desktop environment. Kinoite has broader support for Flatpak applications, and it uses the Fedora project’s rpm-ostree, which handles package management as well as uses libostree for disk images.
Underneath the hood, Fedora 35 is packing a lot of new stuff. It uses version 5.14 of the Linux Kernel. That version of the kernel features improved support for ARM-based systems, if you’re into that kind of thing.
There’s improved 3D support for Nvidia drivers when using apps that don’t have native Wayland support. The default Python version is 3.10, which rolled out on October 4, 2021, and Python 3.5 is no longer supported. The Node.js interpreter is version 16, PHP is at version 8.0, and the RPM package manager is using version 4.17. Fedora 35 also now has DNS over TLS built-in, which is a more secure way to get IP addresses from the Internet’s phonebook.
Fedora 35 continues its effort to overhaul audio management. Previously, it switched to PipeWire for audio server duties, and now Fedora includes WirePlumber as the session manager. WirePlumber replaces the default session manager built into PipeWire and supports customized rules for routing streams between devices.
If you’re a Fedora Cloud user—the version of the OS designed for virtual servers—the file system has changed to Btrfs. This file system, originally designed by Oracle, allows for drive pooling, online defragmentation, and on-the-fly snapshots, as we explained in our survey of the various Linux filesystem formats. Fedora Cloud is also getting BIOS and UEFI support depending on your needs.
Fedora 35 looks like an excellent new version of the popular Linux distribution. The new audio management is a welcome change, and while the workspaces first seen in GNOME 40 may take some getting used to, it’s a nice idea and a good approach to working on a PC.
As you’d expect with the latest version of Fedora, it comes, by default, with the latest versions of Firefox and LibreOffice. These preinstalled apps help you get started working efficiently on the operating system.
If you’re a longtime fan of Fedora, or looking for a new option to replace your current distro, Fedora 35 Workstation is worth a look. Download the beta now from Fedora’s alternative downloads page.
Note: The Fedora Server “network installer” will allow you to choose the desktop Workstation edition during installation.
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