The little Linux desktop that could: Xfce 4.6 released

The little Linux desktop that could: Xfce 4.6 released

Summary: One of the questions I get asked pretty frequently by non-Linux users is "why are there so many desktops?" Mac and Windows users don't have to choose between desktop environments, why should Linux users?


One of the questions I get asked pretty frequently by non-Linux users is "why are there so many desktops?" Mac and Windows users don't have to choose between desktop environments, why should Linux users?

GNOME and KDE get all the attention these days, but Linux users looking for a lightweight desktop environment would do well to consider Xfce. The project has come a long way since the days it was a clone of the hideous Common Desktop Environment (CDE), and is still going strong, and came out with the 4.6 release today with a ton of improvements. Xfce is a prime example of why duplication is sometimes a good thing in the FOSS arena.

Common wisdom, usually outside the Linux community, holds that the Linux desktop would be in much better shape if everybody worked on a single desktop rather than several alternative projects. Of course, this is sort of like assuming nine women could produce a baby in one month. Even if one of the desktop projects disbanded, there's no reason to assume that the developers would all fall into another desktop project and become as productive as they'd been in the previous project.

Each desktop has its own personality, goals, strengths, and weaknesses. Xfce doesn't try to be as full-featured as GNOME or KDE, but instead focuses on being a lightweight desktop -- and does so very well. GNOME and KDE may be more mainstream (in as much as any Linux desktop is mainstream at this point...) but having choice is more important than uniformity to the larger community.

This is where commercial interests and community interests diverge a bit, since most ISVs and vendors want to have a single target, and certainly not three or more. However, it's better for the community as a whole to have the options, and the Xfce folks have done a good job of ensuring that apps written for KDE (those utilizing Qt) and those written for GNOME (GTK) run just fine on Xfce.

It's good to see Xfce still chugging along. I can't wait to fire it up on my openSUSE 11.1 system and give it a whirl.

Topics: Software, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems

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  • The little Linux desktop that could: Xfce 4.6 released

    Inaccurate headline. XFCE is not just for linux. It works on other platforms as well. Besides, there is no such thing as a linux desktop.
    Loverock Davidson
    • You're correct on one thing

      [i]Inaccurate headline. XFCE is not just for linux. It works on other platforms as well.[/i]

      That's true. It can run on most *nix platforms(BSD, OpenSolaris, etc.), so the headline should read "The little *nix desktop that could: Xfce 4.6 released". The same can be said for Gnome and KDE.
      Tony Agudo
      • Just curious about *nix usage.....

        doesn't that exclude Li<u>nux</u>? <br><br>
        What is the conventional thinking on using that wildcard combination, which obviously would not pick up "Linux" if used as an actual search term on a document that contains that string. <br><br>
        Is it because linux is derived from the *nix OSes, such as Unix and Minix?
        Just curious.

        • No *nix includes Linux. Linux is a clone of Unix. In any case, they are all

          "Unix like", and thus the port is easy.
  • RE: The little Linux desktop that could: Xfce 4.6 released

    Joe, you've got the common wisdom part a little backwards there. The common wisdom is that if all the projects that make apps that go on Linux only had to worry about developing for, testing on and supporting on one desktop, those other projects (as well as non-OSS apps for Linux) would all be much more productive.
    • I guess "common wisdom" is different with Linux.

      If I switch desktops from KDE to Gnome, I don't have to download and install "Gnome" versions of my applications. Same thing with Xfce. Where do you get your misinformation?
      • Dependencies

        If you are using GNOME, you can't just install Amarok (the KDE music player). You have to install a bunch of KDE code to support it. And even with that, the program just won't look and feel the same.

        But you CAN do it, because KDE and GNOME are just different desktops running on the basic Linux underneath.
        • bunch of code to support

          Huh??? Ubuntu/Kubuntu has an application menu that adds or deletes them AND handles all of those little code programs that come with them. No problem, as its a smart *nix. It handles all of those nasty little details. And without any restarts.
        • If you are using Gnome.

          And you want a KDE app, the Package Manager will grab whatever it needs from KDE which will happen to be the much of the KDE desktop. The reverse is true also. If you have KDE, Gnome and Xfce installed it won't matter what desktop you're in, any application will be available on all three desktops. The only place where I draw the line is if a Gnome app needs to use Mono. Mono is crap. It's Microsoft's way of trying to weasel into Linux to plant their IP flag in the Community's back. "Game over, give Microsoft your money."
  • Confusing projects with brainstorming

    The multiple ideas, personalities, etc come into play during brainstorming. After the brainstorming is done, everyone needs to fall in line and pull in the same direction to make the best use of resources.

    That's the way every corporate project works. You pool your ideas, make compromises, and deliver one product.

    Linux has always painted the "anyone can do their own thing" as a strength - and it is. But there is a liability to that, and it is that resources and talent are being spread thin in favor of feeding people's egos.
    • Diverse direction is way more of an asset rather than liability

      The reason we have Linux Beowulf clusters, netbooks, 5 Wat servers, etc. is because everyone can do their own thing. Linux is extensible
      • Which explains why most people don't have personal Beowulf clusters . . .

        Which explains why most people don't have their own personal Beowulf cluster or 5 watt server in their houses ;).

        Sure, some diversity is nice, but he's absolutely right about talent getting spread thin to lots of projects that most people don't care for.
        • You are missing the point

          You do not know where the next big innovation will come from. Microsoft focused on PCs and got bit by Netbooks, which were originally running linux because Microsoft's OS and it's PC licensing was incompatible with the netbook concept. Microsoft was forced to adopt, and they lost a lot of money in the process.

          Also, not everyone had an oil tanker but society needs oil tankers just like it needs Beowulf clusters.
  • Xfce has become heavier in the last year or so

    At least in Xubuntu. Not much difference with Gnome, when you switch off the visual effects.

    I hope Xfce 4.6 has become leaner than it's predecessor. Otherwise Fluxbox and IceWM are the only really lightweight alternatives, and those are a bit too Spartan for me. A little eyecandy is nice...

    openSUSE I only use with Gnome. openSUSE is a BMW that's intrinsically too heavy for lightweight purposes anyway. A fine BMW, but not a featherweight...

    Ubuntu on the other hand is more like a Volkswagen; better suited for lightweight desktop environments.
    • I prefer LXDE over XFCE

      On Ubuntu Intrepid just install the "lxde" meta-package and for a touch of eye candy without needing a graphics card, install the xcompmgr package(gives a nice fade and shadow effect, and works on any desktop environment). About the only thing LXDE needs, IMHO, is a way to extend the file manager's capabilities via scripting(like Gnome's Nautilus scripts, KDE's service menus and XFCE's user customizable actions).

      It turned my Ubuntu "Volkswagen" into an Indy 500 race car :)
      Tony Agudo
      • Note to Suse users...

        You can use the "1-click install" feature to install LXDE via this URL:

        <a href="">Susegeek</a>
        Tony Agudo
    • Re: xfce

      I always have to have one distro with xfce as the main desktop.

      If I want polished I use:

      If I want light I use:

      I used to use blackbox a lot years ago but now it's fluxbox. I probably use frequently about 6 different desktop environments.
      Arm A. Geddon
    • BMW, huh?

      [i]openSUSE I only use with Gnome. openSUSE is a BMW ...[/i]

      What's the difference between a rose and a BMW?

      With a rose the pricks are on the outside.
  • XFCE is great and I use it on my laptop, but...

    ...I find that using when gnome it is much easier to find help and find instructions when I need them just because GNOME is more widely used.
  • Delete please