Why GNOME refugees love Xfce
Thunar rather than later...
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.
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.
Next page: Pimp your ride
LXDE review please :)
as you've given XFCE the runaround, please give LXDE the same treatment.
Here's me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . here's my apps
All I want from a desktop (or O/S, for that matter) is to minimise the distance / fuss / time / delay / keystrokes / clicks / resource usage that comes between me, sitting at my screen and the stuff I really want to do: i.e. run some applications.
It makes little difference to me whether the underlying display is Gnome (2, 3 take your pick), XP, 3270, OSX, Xfce or Android. All I want to do is run my apps and, most importantly - GET STUFF DONE. Likewise I simply don't care what colour or picture is on my desktop, or for that matter whether the desk itself is made of wood, plastic, laminate, glass or an upturned beer crate. Just so long as it doesn't get between me and what I want to do, I'm happy. If it does put additional steps in my way, then it's become part of the problem: to be removed, rather than a benefit that I want.
So, to all the GUI wizards out there I say: stop rattling on about all these wizzy desktop features: docks, bars, configurable backgrounds, movable buttons and all the other malarky. If what you're doing doesn't help the user to run the programs they got their computers to do, then you're wasting your time. You may well be producing stuff that may well make yourself look oh-so clever in the eyes of your peers, but it is merely an unwelcome hindrance to those of us unlucky enough to have if included in the environment we choose (or have to) use.
In GUI design and implementation less is most definitely more and simplicity rules.
Seriously, what is so wrong with KDE?
During my Linux journey, for the last 10 years, I at first switched between GNOME and KDE, mostly as each one leaped the other in features and desktop fanciness. However, for the last 4 years or so I keep using KDE and I am pretty satisfied. GNOME v2 was not as close as Windows as I'd like, and one of the good parts of KDE is its ease of customization.
Maybe I'm not a typical KDE user. I don't use many of its features: no plasmoids, and half of my default apps for basic tasks are not KDE ones. I use Firefox/Chrome and Thunderbird instead of Konqueror/KMail, althought Konq is great for some tasks. Dolphin, Digikam and Amarok are ok for me, but I use LibreOffice instead of the KOffice suite.
KDE runs ok in a not so powerful machine, integrates well with any other application you have be it Qt or Gtk based, and you can change almost everything you don't like (including the annoying single click for action default that pisses former Windows users like me) And from what I see, you can easily customize KDE and make it as simple in appearance as the LXFCE/XFCE alternatives in a matter of minutes by changing a few things via GUI settings, no command line involved.
The 3.5->4 transition was a bit painful, but the pain only lasted 6 months and was mostly an annoyance.
In summary, KDE is not perfect (neither GNOME v2 was) but together with other FOSS pieces it can be a productive DE and as simple or complex as you want without you investing too much effort on reaching that state.
The other day I was on a friend's house and he showed me his latest Ubuntu install. Both GNOME v3 and Unity are both a radical departure from the last 15 years of DE/GUI, and full of glitches and downright bugs that I was happy not to have to deal with that and switch to something else. I recommended him trying apt-get install kubuntu-desktop and left the house with him playing with KDE.
Thus, KDE seems to be a viable and workable alternative to GNOME/Unity. But for some reason, each time I see a discussion in the web about alternatives for GNOME v3 and Unity refugees, I never see KDE mentioned.
I don't want to start a flame war, but seriously, what's so wrong with KDE?