If I plan to contribute to the GNOME project, am I advised to use THAT distribution as my primary development platform or does my choice remain a simple matter of taste?

EDIT: I'm a Linux user and my question concerns only Linux distributions.

3 Answers 3


By lines of code, the answer is unequivocally Red Hat, as shown in last summer's Gnome code census. That means Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or else Fedora.

But, that metric isn't necessarily completely fair. Other companies like Canonical contribute in other ways that are also valuable. There was a huge controversy with much yelling and flaming, and good and bad points on both sides.

As for your own use, I don't think this is necessarily a compelling reason to choose a distribution, even if you're developing for Gnome. The desktop environment is portable enough that it shouldn't matter (and, in fact, cross-distro development differences can help make the project stronger).

  • 1
    I'm a Ubuntu user my self and Canonical used to have a heavy gnome dist, but right now with since they are not going with gnome3 I'm not sure what they are doing... but you are right there is a lot of flaming going on...
    – Johan
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 16:20
  • It can be useful to see what other developers are using, though. I wanted to make some modifications to yum, but the only systems I have that support it run CentOS, and it's pretty much impossible to get a recent version of yum running there. Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 23:35

As mentioned, Red Hat develops more of GNOME than any other company. Since Fedora is a bleeding edge sort of distribution, it happens a lot that it receives GNOME updates real fast, many times even before tarball releases (priorities). So if you are a GNOME developer, chances are you want to be running the development branch of Fedora.

Alternatively, and if you don't mind working hard, you can resort to choosing a distribution based on taste, and build GNOME by using JHBuild. This is a powerful tool that can build all of the various GNOME suites, either from tarballs or from GNOME VCS, git. This implies that more often than not, you'll be having a fresher version of GNOME than if you go the Fedora way. Note that there's hardly a build of JHBuild that goes without trouble but the bugs you'll expose on various GNOME modules (equivalent of a distro package) and the learning you'll do along the way will help make you understand GNOME even better. You'll want to be chilling on #gnome-love channel on GimpNet for you'll need the help.

Another kind of GNOME developer is one who is interested in a very specific GNOME package, as in my case. That is, I always run the VCS version, so I don't even bother using JHBuild. Note that this way I have to deal with a variety of issues, for example sometimes it requires a later dependency than is available in my primary OS, Debian, and am forced to also get either an upstream tarball or a VCS checkout. This could mean that you'll have to risk the stability of your system, at least as vetted by your distro developers, and this can bite you here and there, especially if you are going to be playing with important technologies like GLib and DBus. For me this isn't a big issue since a re-install is cheap, and I separate my "/home" dir and the rest via partitioning. One other option is to install this custom stuff in "/opt" which is maybe what I must do :)

  • All valid points, but if you are confortable with one distribution, and moreover have other machines to tend to running that, don't switch. It probably won't be worth it. And running Gnome on a "different" distribution helps in smoking out bugs...
    – vonbrand
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 19:57

If you're contributing to Gnome, what distribution (or even OS, as long as it supports Gnome, FreeBSD and Solaris being examples) you use is irrelevant. Distributions supporting Gnome generally do so either by having employees/official developers dedicating time to Gnome development or by funding (or more likely both, for commercial distributions).

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