The 5 best distros for the Gnome desktop

Gnome is a great great desktop environment that offers an elegant and simplified Linux experience. These are the 5 best distros for Gnome that offer it as the default DE.

gnome bear
There are choices

Gnome 3.16 was released recently and I considered it to be one of the best Gnome releases ever. A few weeks ago we did an extremely popular story on some of the best distros which offer great Plasma experience. So I decided to check out which distros offer a similar kind of Gnome experience.

I have been using Gnome 3.16 on several machines and I am extremely impressed with the improvements, though I think there is still a lot to be improved. From among all the distros that I used, I picked those that offered the best Gnome experience out of the box.

See also:

opensuse gnome
#1 openSUSE

What makes openSUSE a great Gnome distro is the fact that it comes pre-installed with Gnome Tweak Tool and many useful extensions. As a result, users get a much more complete Gnome desktop. The openSUSE team takes extra pain to better integrate the distro with the DE, and it shows.

Gnome is infamous for stripping down many useful features, and openSUSE's YaST fills the void nicely by offering users a magnificent tool to manage their system. Just like Plasma, the whole Gnome experience is tightly integrated with openSUSE.

If you are a hardcore Gnome user, openSUSE is your best bet.

fedora fedora
#2 Fedora

Fedora offers Gnome as the default desktop environment and it is certainly one of the best distros to use Gnome due to the close relationship between the two communities (the sponsor of Fedora, Red Hat, is also the top contributor to the development of Gnome desktop).

Owing to this relationship, Fedora tends to get early access to new Gnome features and updates. For example one of the greatest software management apps 'Gnome Software' was introduced through Fedora. I consider it to be the App Store for the Linux world and wish the KDE community would also come up with a similar, lightweight and elegant solution.

As I said before, Fedora holds a special place in my heart as it was the first Linux distro I ever used for real work. Though the early experience was mixed as it was plagued by the rpm-hell.

ubuntu gnome
#3 Ubuntu Gnome

Canonical created its own shell, called Unity, after a disagreement with the Gnome developers. With that move, Gnome lost one of its biggest user-bases. Initially there was no way to try out the newly launched Gnome 3 Shell on Ubuntu-based systems as it would create package conflict and make the system unstable. Gnome Shell and Unity are like oil and water: they don’t mix.

That's when some developers come together and created Ubuntu Gnome to offer a pure Gnome experience on Ubuntu, without any Unity components. That's more like offering what Ubuntu used to be before Unity.

Gnome Ubuntu does a great job of bringing Gnome Shell to Ubuntu. But the developers are still struggling to streamline the release of the latest version of Ubuntu with the newly released version of Gnome. As a result the latest release of Ubuntu Gnome ships with the older version of Gnome, leaving the users one version behind. The upcoming release 15.04 will still be based on Gnome 3.14 instead of 3.16 which was released officially.

I think Ubuntu Gnome developers need to find a way to incorporate the latest version of Gnome to do better justice to the distro and the DE.

All things considered, it's a great distribution and a great effort to bring Gnome and Ubuntu together.

debian gnome
#4 Debian

Debian is the mother of many major GNU/Linux-based distributions. It doesn’t need any introduction or praise. Debian offers a rock solid, unbreakable Linux experience and Gnome is the default desktop environment (although Debian does offer all major desktop environments).

Debian offers a vanilla Gnome experience and is targeted at those who want a stable system, at the cost of older software packages.

cinnamon linux mint
#5 LinuxMint Cinnamon

Linux Mint rose to popularity when Gnome and Ubuntu forked their paths, leaving users in limbo between the dream state of Gnome 3 and the reality of Gnome 2.

Linux Mint paid close attention to users' complaints and created a project called Cinnamon to give users what they needed. Unlike the other distros mentioned here, Linux Mint Cinnamon is a fork of Gnome.

Linux Mint teams didn't create Cinnamon as a response to Gnome 3 Shell, they started off with extensions for Gnome 3 Shell. But since the core concept of Gnome 3 was different from what Linux Mint teams were trying to offer it was becoming hard to offer what they wanted to deliver. As a result they ended up forking the Gnome Shell and called it Cinnamon.

Cinnamon offered the time-tested WIMP interface on top of the latest Gnome technologies. What started as a fork of the shell has become a much more appealing and user-friendly project. Cinnamon forked many components of Gnome to offer a better integration with the rest of the desktop.

If you love Gnome but can’t work effectively with Gnome Shell, Linux Mint Cinnamon is the answers to all of your prayers.

These are my picks for the top 5 distros that offer Gnome as the default DE. There are many other distros that offer Gnome desktop, among those are Arch Linux, Manjaro and Mageia.

Which Gnome distro do you use?