Updated: June 5, 2019
The title of my article is a bit misleading. It implies that fun and productivity are not to be had in the default guise. In a way, this is true, and it sure is my stance on the matter. Gnome 3 isn't usable in its naked form, and one needs some tweaks and extensions to get the classic desktop experience. And then, you'd also want extra software and visual polish.
We did this with Fedora 29, and we will do this now with Fedora 30. Things will be somewhat similar, but then also a little bit different. Or as they say, same same but different. Have a look at my Fedora 30 review first, make sure you're happy enough to proceed, and then read on.
Step 1: Desktop customization
Over the years, I've written numerous articles on Gnome 3, including the usage of various extensions and tools to get the things that you'd normally expect on a desktop: show desktop, window buttons, a permanently visible dock with a list of shortcuts and open applications, etc. All of this starts with Gnome Tweak Tool, which lets you manage the important aspects of your desktop.
sudo dnf install gnome-tweak-tool
Launch the program, and then, under Windows, you can enable the min/max window buttons. Under Appearance, you will be able to change the system theme and icons. The drop-down lists will show any valid theme under the system folders or inside ~/.themes and ~/.icons in your home directory. For Fedora 30, I left Adwaita for the desktop and chose La Capitaine icon theme. Under fonts, I changed the anti-aliasing to Subpixel. Then, grab a nice wallpaper from the Web, and Bob's your uncle.
Step 2: Gnome extensions & desktop dock
The next step is to install extensions that restore the desktop functionality we need. First step, go to the official Gnome extensions website. If you don't have the Gnome desktop integration extension installed, there will be a notification. Click it, accept the installation prompt. Now, you can search for interesting extensions and toggle them to the ON state. What I selected is Dash to Panel, which gives you a dock with icons and a show desktop button, so it serves two purposes.
Step 3: Other extensions
You can also read my article on Dash to Dock, an alternative to Dash to Panel, or check my little compilation called the best extensions for the Gnome desktop. And then, you might also be interested in GSConnect, a really nice Android smartphone connectivity app, allowing you to control your paired phone (or your desktop). Plenty of functionality and cool features.
Step 4: Third-party repositories and proprietary software
In the past, Fedora didn't have any integration with external sources offering non-free content like media codecs, closed-source software, binary blobs for graphics cards, and alike. Fedora 29 brought about a welcome change, allowing you to use some third-party sources directly through the Software Center. This is very nice, but not trivial. Hence this section.
Step 1, when you open the Software Center, you will see a prompt telling you about these extra sources. If you click enable, you're still not done. Step 2, you will need to access the Software Repositories menu and enable specific entries there. You can do this by clicking on the hamburger menu button.
If you don't do this, you will most likely not see any entries you'd expect to see. For example, as you've seen in my Fedora 30 review, neither Steam nor VLC showed up. So this is one way of doing this. But this is not the preferred way. Indeed, Fedora 29 also had a discrepancy where the Software Center would query third-party repos but this would not be reflected through dnf on the command line, so you'd get different results.
The preferred way is to manually enable RPM Fusion Free and Nonfree repositories. The simple thing is to use the generic one-liner installer commands, which will grab the RPM packages and install them for you. Once the repositories are enabled, you can search for extra applications.
sudo dnf install https://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm
sudo dnf install https://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm
Step 5: Extra software
With the RPM Fusion sources enabled, I installed GIMP, Steam, Thunderbird, and VLC:
sudo dnf install gimp steam thunderbird vlc
Chrome and Skype are not available through the repos. I grabbed these by going to their individual websites, downloading the RPM packages, and then installing them. Double-click on each one, and this will launch the Software Center. Once the two programs are installed, they will also add their own repo entries, so you will get updates with the rest of the system.
Step 6: Files tweaks
The file manager in Fedora is Gnome Files, and it also suffers from usability problems. For example, right-click inside a folder, and the context menu only has New folder and nothing else. You can't quickly create new documents of any kind. You must create templates in the Templates folder first. A waste of time, but something you will most likely want to do if you intend to use Fedora as your daily driver. Just dump empty files in there, give them names, and that's it.
Step 7: Optional fonts
You may be interested in Ubuntu fonts - these are probably the best, most legible fonts across the Linux desktop. Download them from the Web, and then just copy them to the system folder. You can also update the font cache. Lastly change the fonts through Gnome Tweak Tool.
sudo cp "new fonts, e.g. Ubuntu".ttf /usr/share/fonts/
fc-cache -f -v
Some other Gnome 3 reading, if you like - useful for Fedora and many other distros:
The end of article is upon us, and hopefully, you now have a more productive, more fun Fedora baseline. The operating system and its Gnome desktop environment require changes if you're after the proven classic desktop formula. Specifically, you need tweaks, extensions, a dock, maybe some fonts changes as the first step. Then, you can add third-party repos and enjoy additional, often proprietary software.
Well, this ought to get you started. There's a lot more you can do, but the idea is to keep things simple and sensible, and avoid massive changes, so you can always go back to defaults if you need to, because if something goes wrong, you know where the issue might be and you can revert to the sane state. All in all, Fedora can be all right, but it needs some work. Well, there you have it. Take care.