Feeds

Why GNOME refugees love Xfce

Thunar rather than later...

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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)

The essential guide to IT transformation

Next page: Pimp your ride

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Time to move away from Windows 7 ... whoa, whoa, who said anything about Windows 8?
Start migrating now to avoid another XPocalypse – Gartner
You'll find Yoda at the back of every IT conference
The piss always taking is he. Bastard the.
HANA has SAP cuddling up to 'smaller partners'
Wanted: algorithm wranglers, not systems giants
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.