Linux Desktop Gets a New (X) Face

The term Linux desktop is a bit of misnomer since there are actually many Linux desktop environments, including KDE and GNOME.

Xfce is another Linux desktop option.

Xfce 4.4 is now available, boasting new features that will change the way that its Linux desktop looks and works.

Both KDE and GNOME have been known to be resource-intensive desktops that limit their use and practical functionality on
low-end hardware.

But Xfce is a stripped down graphical environment that will run on low-end
hardware and run faster due to its reduced resource requirements.

The reduced footprint doesn’t necessarily translate into reduced usability, especially when it comes to Xfce 4.4. Among the new features in Xfce 4.4 is the new Thunar file manager.

“Along with Thunar, comes the ability to place launchers and documents on the desktop,” Xfce Project Lead Olivier Fourdan told “Users have asked so many times about it, that it’s great to have it.

Fourdan said users can also choose to have iconified applications placed on the desktop, or nothing at all,

Though KDE and GNOME represent the majority of Linux desktop installations, there is sweet spot for users that find uses for Xfce.

“It would be hard for me to imagine just how people use Xfce, it’s a very versatile and customizable environment,” Fourdan said. “It can be tweaked to run low end systems, or take advantage of the latest compositing capabilities of Xorg.”

After KDE and GNOME, there are other desktop window managers such as Fluxbox, Icewm or Window Maker, though Fourdan argues they are all much simpler than what Xfce provides. According to him, Xfce is not just a window manager (though it does include a window manager), so it’s necessarily more resource-demanding than a simpler window manager.

“Xfce is in between the heavyweight desktops such as GNOME or KDE and the simpler window managers,” Fourdan said. “It tries to be faster and lighter than the two big ones, without sacrificing usability.”

Competition, however, isn’t Fourdan’s goal. For Xfce developers, it’s all about
making an environment that they enjoy developing and using.

Moreover, distributions such as the Xubuntu, which is Ubuntu (which uses
GNOME) but with Xfce as the window manager and Zenwalk (which also has Xfce
as the default), are helping to grow the user base for Xfce.

“Using a distribution that ships Xfce by default, such as Xubuntu or Zenwalk, is definitely the easiest way to try Xfce,” Fourdan said. “But thanks to the graphical installers, anyone can try Xfce with minimal knowledge of source compilation.”

What’s in store for the future of Xfce?

For the short term, the community will likely create bug fix improvements to Xfce 4.4 as they pop up, though discussions have already begun for the 4.6 release.

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