Thoughts on XFCE 4.10
So I was playing with multiple desktop environments and decided to experiment with them on a pure way.
Testing started with an Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Minimal (CLI) install, added the xubuntu-dev PPA, then installing a barebones XFCE 4.10 desktop environment.
Download and installation was notoriously quickly compared to KDE (a review of that might come later).
As I said earlier, I wanted to see the most barebones XFCE I could get, I was surprised when I got a screen with just some icons for mountable media, a classic blue background with the typical XFCE4 mouse logo, and a empty gray panel.
Plugins for the panel were missing, and my todo list escalated somewhat quickly.
- Get a terminal to work on xserver. (Since I could only work from the getty without it.)
- Install synaptic and then XFCE plugins.
- Start initial polishing of the system.
- Add must-have applications.
- End polishing.
- Work on interface.
One thing I like from the XFCE terminal is that is very lightweight-yet-customizable when you compare it to Konsole (KDE) or Gnome Terminal.
However, from the very terminal I found out an annoying issue on the whole XFCE environment; whenever I boot it once again, some settings will get back to their defaults, as if I only set them up temporarily. I found out this when I tried to hide the menu from the terminal. If I close it, then open it again, the menubar will appear again.
(I know this is Linux, everything can be set or has a workaround, but I’m searching for something where this is not neccesary, if you have the option, why can’t you just keep it?).
One of the biggest flaws found on this desktop environment is lack of GTK+3 integration. Only two themes look good with GTK3, that being Bluebird and Greybird. However, I am not a fan of not anti-aliased borders as found on Compiz or in Greybird. Bluebird was nice, but I started to find its colors a bit not in my interest.
Getting onto the applications, I installed some must-have for my uses. That being Chrome, Audacious, GIMP, and VLC.
Chrome and GIMP have GTK2 integration, so I thought they would look nice on whatever the theme I selected.
GIMP was ok. Chrome was not so good. Practically only Greybird and Bluebird rised once again to my calls.
VLC is QT-based, so no surprises were found on the default GUI. (Only KDE made a show off when using VLC, since system themes were tightly integrated).
Audacious was the rock on the path. A GTK3 application only well dressed by a GTK3 theme. So between Greybird and Bluebird, Greybird got some gradients on the interface, which were appreciated, however, Bluebird lacked this, which made Audacious very simply looking compared on how superb it looks on Ubuntu’s Ambiance theme.
On performace, we should clarify somethings first. All testings were made on a 8GB MicroSDHC card. That means some fast application openings and faster bootime, However, I noticed some lag while performing multiple reads, which will be the most useful thing you will find on a SSD drive.
I optimized some things to get better speeds while having a system installed on the SD card. (An article about that might come later.)
XFCE was clearly faster than most DE like KDE or Gnome-based environments (such as Gnome-Shell, Cinnamon, Unity, etc.)
Still eyecandy was better than the “just be a something usable” enviroments like Razor-QT or LXDE.
Logging-in times where practically instant with the exception of the panel plugins, which appear to open more in a chain way rather than being independent.
XFCE did not crash at all on the week used, being fairly stable to my likings.
The environment is fully customizable, being it worst enemy the theming support, which would make it a very nice option.
Once polished, (and by that I mean customized to my needs), it can be perfect to introduce it to a Linux new-comer, and on hardware-levels, I think it is more suited for netbooks, basic interfaces for home-servers, aims well at old hardware (but that winner price is for LXDE), or a lightweight GUI for people who want more FPS while gaming on Linux.
Multitasking productivity was not enchanced like it is on shells, like on Unity, Gnome-Shell or KDE’s Plasma Desktop.
Still I found it very pleasingly, and I might use it if by 4.12 they get GTK3 support.
Up to now, it is just not for me.