Feeds

Why GNOME refugees love Xfce

Thunar rather than later...

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

GNOME 3 has become something of a polarising moment for the popular Linux desktop. In chasing visions of tablets, touchscreens and the mythical "everyday user", the GNOME 3 Shell has left many Linux power users scratching their heads, wondering why the GNOME developers decided to fix a desktop that wasn't broken.

The problem for those that dislike the new GNOME is not so much the underlying GNOME 3, which is in many ways a step up from its predecessor, but the GNOME Shell specifically, which looks and behaves like something much more suited for a tablet than a 30 inch desktop monitor.

Ubuntu, which is at least partly responsible for making GNOME as popular is it is, decided to cast off the new GNOME Shell in favor of its own Unity desktop. But sadly, if you're trying to get away from the look and feel of GNOME 3, Unity is no solution since it's more or less the same thing with a few distinct quirks.

If KDE isn't your bag and GNOME 3 leaves you feeling cold there is another Linux desktop worth considering: Xfce. Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux, recently went on record to call GNOME 3 "an unholy mess" and announce that he was switching to the Xfce desktop. Several other developers in the same thread chimed in to echo their support of Xfce.

Just what is it about Xfce that's drawing in the GNOME refugees? Well for one thing Xfce can easily be customised into something that's visually no different than good old GNOME 2.x. It takes a bit more work to make Xfce behave just like GNOME 2, and in the end you might end up installing quite a few GNOME dependencies, but in fact Xfce can be a capable GNOME replacement.

Perhaps more important to GNOME 3 refugees, Xfce isn't planning to try "revolutionising" the desktop experience. Development is historically very slow – the recently released Xfce 4.8 was two years in the making – and the Xfce project tends to pride itself on the lack of new features in each release. The focus is generally improving existing features, polishing rough edges and fixing bugs rather than trying to out whiz-bang the competitors.

Xfce running Opera browser (click to enlarge).

The resistance to new features has earned Xfce a reputation as a lightweight desktop, but it's not significantly smaller than GNOME or KDE (if you're looking for lightweight, check out LXDE). Xfce did, in my testing, start up much faster than either GNOME or KDE and using the desktop environment feels much snappier. However much of that is due to Xfce's very minimalist default apps rather than a significantly smaller code base.

The Xubuntu desktop (click to enlarge)

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Next page: Pimp your ride

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.