Fedora has always been a popular desktop Linux distribution, but it has not always had the reputation of being welcoming to new Linux users or to those who just want it to work right “out of the box” with multimedia codecs or proprietary software. Korora is a Fedora spin that tries to provide a user-friendly desktop experience with little or no additional work needed by the user. Korora 21 is the latest release and it offers a number of improvements for users.
Note that Korora is offered in a variety of options in terms of the desktop environment. You can get it with GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon or Xfce. For this review I opted to install the Cinnamon version of Korora 21.
Before I get into the review, here’s a brief explanation about how Korora differs from Fedora:
Korora is a Fedora Remix, which means it ships with regular Fedora packages along with others that Fedora cannot ship. We also make changes to the system, so exactly how does Korora differ from Fedora?
Firstly, all our code is open source and freely available to anyone via our GitHub account. We also provide a tool called kp which will let anyone rebuild all of our packages and an entire Korora image, or modify these to build their own variation. That’s the tool we use to build all of the Korora packages and images.
We do however ship some software that is proprietary, such as Adobe Flash, and others are installable, such as Google Chrome. We don’t have source code for these as they are not open source; however, anything we create, or modify is.
The base kickstart also spells out the repositories to pull packages from. Many of these, and in particular RPMFusion, are added by most Fedora users and we can do this out of the box because we aren’t restricted by Fedora’s own project rules. They include:
RPMFusion Free Updates
RPMFusion Non-Free Updates
Korora is an open source project and we do support open source software, even though some of the software we ship is proprietary. What we have done is to put all the pieces together and try to make a Fedora Remix that is useful for anyone out there, but there’s nothing that we do that you couldn’t do yourself.
What’s new in Korora 21
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:
KDE Software Compilation 4.14.3
Korora 21 download and install
You can download Korora 21 from this page. You can get Korora 21 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. Korora 21 is a live distribution, so you can create bootable media and boot into it without having to do an install on your system. Please note that Korora’s speed might be slower in the live desktop than if you are running an actual install, so bear that in mind if you opt to try the live desktop.
Korora 21 also uses Fedora’s Anaconda installer. So if you are familiar with that then you should have no problems installing it on your system. If you’re new to the Fedora installer, don’t worry. It’s quite usable but it’s a bit different than the installers used for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and some other distributions. The Fedora Project has an install guide for Anaconda that you might want to check out before doing an install of Korora 21.
My install went quite well, I had no problems and the install itself was relatively speedy. Bear in mind, however, that I have used the Anaconda installer often in the past. So I’m quite familiar with how it is laid out and what it has to offer. Use the Fedora install guide for Anaconda I linked to above if you’re new to it as it might save you some time when installing Korora 21.
Korora 21 desktop
As I noted above, I opted for the Cinnamon version of Korora. When your Korora 21 desktop first loads, you’ll see the welcome menu. You can access documentation and support links on the menu, and you’ll also see an option to contribute to the project. Additionally, there’s a link to see the new features in Korora 21.
If you’ve ever used Cinnamon in Linux Mint then you’re in for a bit of a surprise with Korora. It has an entirely different set of desktop and menu icons that make it look much different in some ways than the Linux Mint version. Whether or not it’s better depends entirely on your own perspective. You know what they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I liked the icons but your mileage may vary.
Applications on the Cinnamon menu are laid out pretty much the same as in Linux Mint. They are broken down into the usual categories: Graphics, Internet, Office, Sound and Video, Administration, Preferences, etc. So not much is different in that sense. But visually the Korora menu icons are certainly different as you can see from these two screenshots:
Another difference between Korora’s implementation of Cinnamon and Linux Mint’s is that the panel appears at the top in Korora while it’s at the bottom in Linux Mint. If this bothers you then you can easily go into the panel settings and put it at the bottom. I rather liked it at the top so I left it there and had no problems using it.
The panel has icons to show the desktop, launch Firefox, start Thunderbird, open the terminal or access your files. You’ll also find icons to adjust brightness, the size of your display, access multiple desktops, your network connection, volume and the date and time.
The desktop itself has just three icons on it: Computer, Home and Trash. The wallpaper is quite simple and is a relatively neutral color with the Korora logo in the middle. If you right click the desktop you can change the wallpaper. The Backgrounds tab offers the biggest selection of different wallpapers.
Overall I had no problems with the layout of the Korora 21 desktop. It’s set up in a way that makes it easy and fast to use even if you’ve never used Korora or Fedora before. The icon design and colors are relatively pleasing to the eye and they offer a nice change of scenery from Linux Mint’s version of Cinnamon.
Korora 21 system settings
If you need to change your system, you can access System Settings on the menu. You’ll see sections for Appearances, Preferences, Hardware and Administration. As with the desktop and menu, the icons on the system settings have a different look than in some other distros. But everything you need to tweak your system is available in Korora’s system settings.
Linux software included in Korora 21
Here’s a sample of the software included in Korora 21.
None installed by default
OpenShot Video Editor
PulseAudio Volume Control
As you can see, Korora 21 comes with a very good selection of software installed by default. Flash is already installed if you want to run videos, and there are plenty of other applications available in the application menu for all the usual categories.
There’s enough available that most desktop users will probably be quite happy with it on their systems. And that’s a good thing because Korora really stumbles badly when it comes to adding more software.
This is the first review I’ve written of Korora, and when I first booted in my desktop I looked for the software management tool as I always do when doing a review. It’s important that it be placed in a prominent area where new users can easily find it and begin adding or removing software. I looked all over the place and I finally found Yum Extender, which seems to be the only GUI-based tool for managing software.
If you have ever used Ubuntu’s Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager then you will be quite disappointed with Yum Extender. It’s very primitive visually compared to the other two and it’s not easily found if you’ve never used Korora before. Yes, you can find software by searching for packages or by browsing but it’s not intuitive and there are no screenshots or user reviews of applications.
Frankly, I was very surprised by this since Korora’s mission is to provide a user-friendly version of Fedora. Yum Extender flat out stinks as a tool for desktop users to add or remove software. I’m not sure why the Korora developers picked it but it clearly needs to go, and the sooner it is replaced the better.
Now you might think I’m exaggerating here but if you were a newbie to Linux or just a casual desktop user which one of these tools would you pick: Yum Extender or Linux Mint’s Software Manager? See the screenshots below before you choose, I know which way I’d go.
After seeing Yum Extender, I realized that it’s a darn good thing that Korora has a good selection of desktop software installed by default. Using Yum Extender to find more applications would certainly be no fun if you were new to Linux and had no idea which applications to search for in it.
Now don’t get me wrong here, there’s nothing wrong with Yum itself if you prefer using the command line. It can be a great tool, but that’s a very different kettle of fish than Yum Extender. A GUI-based software management tool should be far easier to use and much more visually intuitive than Yum Extender. It comes across as a relic of the Linux desktop from days gone by, and it prevents Korora 21 from being on par with other desktop distributions in terms of graphical software management.
Where to get help for Korora 21
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Korora 21 resources:
Final thoughts about Korora 21
I think that Korora 21 has the right idea in terms of making Fedora more accessible to casual users or those new to Linux. It hits all of the sweet spots of a desktop distribution until you get to the software management tool. And, as I noted above, that’s where it stumbles and stumbles very badly. This is such a shame because otherwise Korora 21 is a fine desktop distribution.
If I had to make a recommendation, I’d suggest that only experienced Linux users try Korora 21. Yum Extender shouldn’t matter to those folks one way or the other since they’d probably opt to use Yum at the command line anyway. But newbies or casual desktop users would be much better served by sticking with the Linux Mint version of Cinnamon until Yum Extender is replaced by something that more closely resembles an app store.
So in the end I was left with mixed feelings about Korora 21. It’s a desktop distribution with a lot of potential, but the software management tools need a complete overhaul that put it on par with Linux Mint, Ubuntu and other top desktop distros. Until that happens Korora 21 is a desktop distribution that only partly gets it right.
What’s your take on Korora 21? Tell me in the comments below.