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back to article Why GNOME refugees love Xfce

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 …

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Anonymous Coward

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?

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In my rather limited experience I see KDE as being Windows like and Gnome as being more Mac like.

I used to run KDE as Gnome was a bit simplistic (even more so than OSX).

People want different things sometimes.

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KDE is great. It was the first DE I used (I hated Gnome 1) and I always enjoyed using it. The only issue is that, aside from Amarok and the KDE disk burner, all the apps I preferred were GTK and I sometimes found they didn't fit into with the desktop quite as nicely as I would like them to. More of an issue with some distros than others though.

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take your pick!!

And that's the beauty of the Linux desktop. One can select the default Ubuntu 11.10, and install additional desktop environments. Or pick an XFCe based distribution and install some of their preferred GNOME utilities (like the new Nautilus). In theory everyone wins.

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@AC

My main gripe with KDE is that it continues to try to mimic Windows while in fact its not.

And while it once started with a motivation to do certain things better than Windows it now has also fallen into the same kind of mudhole. Meaning that it easily changes options and configuration aspects and moves them around to completely different places, sometimes even making things much harder to perform.

Example; the control centre. You used to be able to change everything from there, nowadays they removed the option to (for example) set the wallpaper of a desktop. It used to be so good; one place where you could set the desktop for all virtual desktops you had. Now you'll just have to go over them one by one and on every desktop right click to select the customization option.

This is but one example, there is plenty more. That's become my gripe with KDE. People complain heavily that Windows moves stuff around (which they do) while totally ignoring that there are usually more ways to reach your goal. Example: in XP I opened control panel and went to "internet options". In Windows 7 I can no longer change the icon appearance in control panel and dislike it so much that I left it categorized. So, internet options? "Network and Internet -> Internet options". More clicking? Nah, I now use: run program -> inetcpl.cpl and /wham/. I'm there.

KDE otoh leaves you with 1 single way to a certain option. It doesn't have this niftyness where you can simply manually start a part of the control settings. So when they decide to move it you'll /really/ have to start looking for it because there's no other way to reach it.

I hated this behavior on Windows (so I learned how it really worked in order to overcome it), so why would I like this behavior on KDE ?

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KDE3 was just fine...

KDE3 was a bit ugly, but it worked fine. Then along came KDE4 and they had to 'simplify' and rename all their programs. Amarok 2.x (for KDE4) was a useless iTunes clone last time I bothered to run it, wheras Amarok 1.4 (From KDE3) was almost exactly what I've always wanted in a music program. KPDF got renamed to 'Okular,' KView is now 'GwenView,' and both of them are slower and harder to interact with.

That said, I don't even recognize Gnome 3 any more, and have zero desire to try it out. I've been running Fluxbox on all of my machines (the ones with displays, in any case) since Gentoo and Fedora Core were the cool distros of choice, and there's just no reason to run anything else. Similar to XFCE, the Flux developers don't rush anything, and aren't adding features just for the hell of it. It's light-weight and pixel-thrifty enough to run on my netbook, and works similarly just fine on my more powerful desktops. And I get to customize everything in text files, no messing with wizards or configuration widgets, and when I need to provision a new machine, I just have to copy my prefs directory and all of my keyboard shortcuts and app-specific settings are ready to go.

But XFCE seems neat, if you're into that kind of thing.

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Devil

Spot on

The wrong thing with KDE4 is that it is is buggy, slow and totally incompatible with 3.

I used to run 3 on a PowerMAC G4 and it was perfectly usable. 4 made it into an unusable brick until I chucked it out and went to XFCE. Add to that stupid bugs, main panel crashing and unrecoverable, etc. Okular is slower than kpdf, gwenview is considerably slower than the good old kuickshow, in fact everything is slower and buggier.

Things go even worse on a proper "enterprise desktop" setup. KDE4 has idiocies like running a local MySQL server per each user which just does not go along with having your $HOME on NFS on a NAS somewhere. Granted it is not the sole offender there - mozilla's move to SQL-lite had the same effect. While you can get around some of that by moving to NFS4 a lot of the bottlenecks will still be there and so on. All in all it is an appaling CPU hog and tickles all kinds of bugs in underlying graphic drivers especially on older Radeons.

I tried to use it for one month when Debian moved to 4 in Squeeze and ended up migrating all of my users to XFCE

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I use XFCE becuase it's lighter in weight than the others and I have a sh*tty laptop...

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LXDE review please :)

as you've given XFCE the runaround, please give LXDE the same treatment.

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ql
Meh

Must agree

The leap from KDE to gnome was hard when KDE lost its way. Now we're having to do the same from gnome, which is a pity, though I have to say I've enjoyed XFCE for some time.

Interestingly, I'm talking to someone who sees the gnome3 issue as fair and square at the door of Canonical and is wanting to move away from Ubuntu, whether the XFCE variant or not. He sees Unity as an attempt to resolve the gnome3 issue by replicating them. I don't think this is fair, myself, but it's an interesting perception and that sense of having been let down probably speaks volumes for what Ubuntu/Canonical has achieved.

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Boffin

Of Power and Word Processors...

If you wanted something more powerful than AbiWord, you should be looking at something like LyX. But you didn't really want that at all, did you? You actually wanted something more *featureful*.

The same might be said of the difference between XFCE and Gnome.

Regarding lightweightness, I can certainly verify that Xubuntu runs significantly more smoothly on older hardware than KDE4 Kubuntu. I don't really care about the relative size of the two platforms. Storage space is easily upgradable for most old consumer hardware, processing power not so much. Even if KDE didn't ship with a whole raft of applications, the window manager would still be a real resource hog.

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Linux

XFCE was better than Gnome 2 never mind 3

Well, for me anyhow.

I use a dual head set up. XFCE actually knows about both monitors, allows you to configure wallpapers separately, specify which monitor you want panels on etc, which is more than I could ever get gnome to do.

I also love XFCE's ability to show your main menu on a desktop right click. Not too useful on a small screen where windows will tend to be maximised, but when you've got lots of screen real estate I find it faster than having to find a panel launcher.

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Happy

I switched

I switched to xubuntu a while back and am very happy with it. It's not that I set out to hate unity or Gnome 3, it's just that I found them very frustrating to use. XFCE is fairly clean and simple and just allows me to do the things I want without fighting my way through the user interface.

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story is a bit mostly advertorial

How about a proper desktop comparison, much like the recent Phone OS shootout?

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Why? they're all freely available so you can try before you buy, except that you don't need to buy either.

It's different with phones since you need to buy the phone and often get locked into a contract.

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How abotu not doing this.

Because it's pointless. No matter what is said, someone will disagree. and they are right... For a given amount of right. Because each one fits the person who chooses it. And will be awkward, unfamiliar, and annoying to someone who can't give it a good week or two.

I recently switched from Gnome to KDE. And it took a week or two to get my bearings. Now I like it.

Use what you like, be open to trying a new one every now and then, and you can make your own mind up. Each one is a yum/apt/what ever away. Go see for yourself.

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Facepalm

Thunar rather than later...

You should be shot for that pun.

(Thor? I wath in thodding agony)

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XFCE is a very nice desktop.

I've been using it for a while. I started with Xubuntu on my first laptot, which worked nicely on the small, 800x480 screen. I stuck with it on my main laptop because it always felt faster than Gnome or KDE. Since Unity was introduced I've swapped my desktop to Xubuntu, too.

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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.

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Lighter means faster

I recently installed LXDE on my healdess server at the recommendation of Reg commentards. Seems great: pretty and light.

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Paris Hilton

If it has a GUI desktop

how is it headless?

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@Goat Jam - Headless + VNC

I'm guessing anyway, I have a small ARM box that I occasionally VNC into, for some reason. There's no real need I suppose...

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Anonymous Coward

re: If it has a GUI desktop how is it headless?

X

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Best of both worlds

For me anyway, I had a full gnome system that updated to Gnome 3 in the last upgrade. I just installed XFCE 4 on top and hey presto - Gnome 2 style panels and menus and all the applications I was used to.

It really is a godsend and allowed me to get back to work instead of fighting with enforced "paradigm shifts" (cockups).

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Linux

Choice, not fragmentation

I don't like Unity. I gave Gnome 3 a go, but even with mods to make it more like Gnome 2 I couldn't bring myself to enjoy it; mostly because of the lack of wobbly windows ;)

As much as I didn't like these two new offerings, I didn't start having a tantrum about how unusable Linux is these days because, and here is a point which people keep overlooking and which I think this article is helping to address, if you don't like it, don't use it.

There are other desktop environments for Linux, and switching between them doesn't mean (as this article suggests) that you need to reinstall your current distro.

A visit to Synaptic or Software centre or a one line command with yum will download a new desktop environment for you and you can log out of the current one and then log into your new environment.

I think that this is what Shuttleworth meant when he talked about 'different ways to skin Ubuntu', though I think he's not being proactive enough in telling people how to avoid Unity if they dislike it so much.

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the one irritation I had with Thunar is the inability to mount sftp (and smb/other I believe) and have it incorporated seamlessly. But for sure gnome 3/unity are both a steaming pile for most linux users today I would imagine. They better hope their gamble pays off and get the desktop users they are targeting otherwise they'll end up with no one in the long run!

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You can mount sftp/smb in 4.8

Although adding a shortcut to the sidebar seems a little pointless - it disappears when the connection is closed (well, it does on my LinuxMint version, anyway).

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Anonymous Coward

"inability to mount sftp (and smb/other I believe) and have it incorporated seamlessly"

Can get the code and modify it.

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The best thing about XFCE...

...is that it just works as a simple interface to control the windows on my screen. Unlike KDE4, it doesn't try to do all kinds of ridiculous things that just use resources and don't actually provide any useful functionality. Seriously, who needs crap like Nepomuk, Strigi and all the other stuff KDE4 depends on?

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Anonymous Coward

Is that complicaed to disable those?

I also use KDE and don't find all that semantic stuff/search useful. Turning it off is done from the KDE control panel and is way faster than installing another DE.

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One problem is, half of it gets restarted again even if you think you've disabled it. And with more recent releases, such staples as Kmail don't even seem to be able to work without Nepomuk.

Though actually, since Kmail's functionally useless because they screwed up kaddressbook, so that was another reason to dump it.

And all in all, KDE4 gets in the way of me getting things done. XFCE (like KDE3) allows me to get on with my work.

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Best of both for me

I like the XFCE GUI more than unity, but I like the default packages that come with Ubuntu, so I install Ubuntu then the xubuntu-desktop package and select XFCE at login. As it remembers the last selection that only has to be done once. This means I get Libre-Office, Shotwell, Nautilus (with Dropbox) easily and quickly.

Works a treat and if I need to use an old machine then a xubuntu is a good starting point,

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Ubuntu + Xfce, not Xubuntu

This is what I’ve done too. Starting with Ubuntu and adding Xfce. The first attempt was to start with Xubuntu and add what was missing. That didn’t go very smoothly.

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Go

Just a FYI

https://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora-options

Gnome, KDE, LXDE, Xfce. Take your pick.

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Facepalm

for foot injuries

I have XFCE installed for the inFrequent occasions when I shoot off my foot, trying to "Improve" the gnome or unity desktop. Until recently, wifi required a graphical desktop to start, so I would have to find the ethernet cable to run a command line when I had improved the system too much.

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I love the phrase...

"improved the system too much"

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Happy

agree on LXDE

mint linux LXDE was the least painful install i ever did, it just works right out of the Box, looks fantastic and brought an old celeron M 1.5 gig based laptop into the modern age!

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Unity ruined Linux for me

And I was a solid user (work and home) for 6+ years. I even ran Ubuntu as the only OS on my macbooks.

Unity is worse than Linux in the old days. At least back then, when you had to configure stuff manually, the end result was a productive desktop.

If I ever return I'll try Xfce. Thanks for the good review.

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Anonymous Coward

strange

A "solid user" who cannot distinguish a windows manager from an OS.

Can I recommend MS Windows? I think you will be happy there.

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FAIL

@enigmatix

Your are the cancer. Leave the civvies alone.

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Linux

Unity OK on a netbook

But it's now causing issues for my father in law who inadvertently dist upgraded his Ubuntu desktop system. I switched from KDE to Gnome about 3-4 years ago when KDE broke my audio and I couldn't figure out how to repair it any other way.

I've used XFCE in the past to keep ancient hardware useful. But I'll be looking at XFCE again (probably Xubuntu) as neither Gnome 3 nor Unity seems to be the way to go for larger displays.

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Anonymous Coward

Another Gnome refugee

What the hell did they think they were doing? I 3.2 installed to keep tabs on what they're up to and rather than addressing the core issues - it sucks - they're putting lipstick on the pig.

Anyway, XFCE. Light, easy to use, but the menu editing is a pain in the arse. Also the first load of the menu is painful to watch on my Atom powered netbook.

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Xfce putting the close button on the left of the window by default = FAIL. The demise of Ubuntu started around the same time as they idiotically moved things this way round.

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Is this a problem from previous versions? I installed my first XFCE desktop a few months ago and the buttons are all in the order I expected them to be. Though a lot of window-manager themes allow them to be re-ordered.

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Happy

Openbox and ROX filer for me. Simple, highly configurable and fast.

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CDE

XFCE, which I use exclusively, reminds me a lot of the old CDE (Common Desktop Environment) Sun and HP (maybe others) used to ship with their workstations. I used CDE quite a bit back in the day and got very used to it. Even the default SunOS desktop became more CDE-like in its latter days.

I developed a lot of ``muscle memory'' for CDE or a similar desktop so I have found XFCE particularly easy to use. On my old Celeron-based laptop, Xubuntu 11.04 (Natty) runs a treat (don't ask about 11.10 -- that sucks big-time).

YMMV

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Anonymous Coward

memory lane

CDE - i remember it well. right, Xfce it is then

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stacks!

I haven't really seen much need for OS X's Dock stacks. They aren't anywhere near as good as CDE's equivalent.

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The real question otoh...

I think many people like XFCE4 because its much smaller, much more basic and still manages to get its job done. Its a very decent yet complete desktop manager.

Funnily enough I think its a bit bloated, in comparison to what it once was. Then again, back then (several years back) I started using it because it most closely resembled Sun's CDE desktop, which I've always quite liked (for a server anyway).

Still, I think the question here shouldn't be "why Gnome users like XFCE4". I think the real question is "How long will people still like XFCE4 ?".

It wouldn't be the first project people flock to because its suddenly "cool" and before you know the project heads into directions which the average user never anticipated for nor really wanted.

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Just for the record...

...I'm quite enjoying Gnome 3. Have used Gnome (for years), LXDE, xfce, but have never really got on with KDE for some reason. Granted Gnome 3 is still pretty raw and lacking quite badly in some respects, but hopefully will improve, but even so after using it for the last two months, interspersed with a comparison with xfce, I just like it, simple as that!

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