back to article Four more years! Four more years! Svelte Linux desktop Xfce gets first big update since 2015

In contrast to the frenetic pace of updates now typical in the software industry, the team behind Xfce, a lightweight desktop for Linux, have released version 4.14 nearly four-and-a-half years since the last stable release, 4.12. Xfce aims to be fast, consume minimal resources and embody the UNIX philosophy of modularity. Its …

  1. Wyrdness

    Fedora 30 already has it. I updated this morning and there it was.

    1. Steven Raith

      Pretty sure Manjaro got it the other day too (at least, I saw lots of Xfce updates from .12 to .14) and noticed the power manager app icon had changed.

      Otherwise, it's still fast, smooth and keeps itself to itself. Just how I like my desktop environments.

      Steven R

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        People forget that a desktop manager should be completely invisible.

        You buy an OS to run programs on. You don't buy it to coo at the pretty sliding animations, wow at the alpha-fading of the windows, and be astonished at the "take over everything you want to do" uncloseable windows.

        A desktop manager should be functional and utilitarian.

        I would argue that we haven't seen a really decent one since the days of Windows Program Manager, and even that's only allowed because *at the time* it was amazingly functional.

        1. Marco Fontani

          I disagree with the premise; a desktop manager should be as visible or invisible as you want it to be.

          I use i3wm, and my windowing manager is pretty much invisible... but I also long for some desktop manager features, like a notification system and a system tray which doesn't suck.

          Rather than reinventing the wheel, I've usually opted to use the XFCE or the LXQt desktop environments / desktop bars, which give me the right amount of desktop management I need; no more, no less.

          XFCE was lagging behind quite a bit, so on my last reinstall I opted for LXQt.

          Unfortunately for Debian Buster the ship has sailed, as it ships with 4.12.15 and I'm unlikely to want to end up with a Frankendebian any more than I already have.

          The day I'll switch to testing again, I'm very likely to again try it out. It looks good!

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          You buy an OS to run programs on.

          You and I might. I suspect these days most people buy a computer (but more likely a tablet) to "surf the net" and read mail on and they run apps one at a time rather than programs.

          A desktop manager should be functional and utilitarian. I would argue that we haven't seen a really decent one since the days of Windows Program Manager

          SunView. I really liked SunView.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            No love for Fusion on Irix?

            Ok, ok...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Lotsa love for 4Dwm on IRIX.

        3. vtcodger Silver badge

          "I would argue that we haven't seen a really decent one since the days of Windows Program Manager"

          Nothing against xfce. But if you want minimal and use a Unix, how about one of the boxes -- fluxbox, blackbox, openbox? I've used fluxbox for years with no real aggravation. Does workspaces. Supports wmctrl, etc. I assume that the others are fine as well.

          1. s2bu

            It’s a DE not a VM

            The *boxs are Window Managers. Xfce itself is a Desktop Environment, although it does come with its own Window Manager (Xfvm).

            You can usually mix-and-match WMs and DEs.

          2. Steve Graham

            Yup. I've used XFCE but abandoned it for being too heavyweight. I use Openbox.

            I don't have a "desktop environment" or "session manager" because I've nerver worked out what use they are.

        4. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Arm and a leg.

          I'd give an arm and a leg for an OS to coo at the animations and special fading windows... eye candy is eye candy (and on Linux, and even Windows, *optional*).

          However, we get the trash that is Win 10 nagging. (Or the Ubuntu Unity GUI update/render?) XD

          So yeah, don't knock the good with the bad. Just knock the bad. :P

  2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    I prefer XFCE above the rest, it is minimal, frugal with RAM and does the job just as well as the others out there.

    It is my default choice by now.

    1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Agreed. Xfce is fast, clean, and runs well on almost any hardware -- even the ancient "Made for Windows XP" ThinkPad that I fished out of an e-waste bin.

    2. s2bu

      I love Xfce, but I’m really starting to prefer LXDE these days.

      1. Liam Proven

        LXDE was all right, and did the important stuff, but it was less customisable -- or harder to customise, life's too short to find out which.

        E.g. I want the Windows key to open my app menu, and Ctrl-Alt-T for a terminal. Xfce makes those easy. I couldn't work out how to do them on LXDE.

        But it's irrelevant now, because LXDE is dead. LXQt has replaced it and LXQt sadly is not finished yet and misses functionality I find important, like changing my wi-fi credentials from inside the GUI.

        But neither LXDE nor LXQt is significantly lighter than XFCE. Whereas all of them use about ½-⅓ of the memory of say GNOME, the LX?? desktops use maybe 10% less RAM than XFCE. That, IMHO, is not worth worrying about.

        A desktop that does everything I want, is quicker, and uses half the RAM? I'll have that. One that saves a further 50MB of my 16GB but doesn't do stuff I want? Not worth it.

    3. hugo tyson
      Go

      Yep, xfce via xubuntu for me every time, for years. Works fine on older smaller laptops, but I don't know of anything I'd want from it on bigger machines.

  3. m4r35n357

    Debian?

    I can't believe they backed out of this as the default desktop.

    1. Marco Fontani

      Re: Debian?

      Unfortunately the Debian Buster freeze was already underway when XFCE released this new version. If they released it ~6 months earlier, it might've ended in Buster.

      Alas, there's not much to do about it now.

      1. PaulFrederick

        Re: Debian?

        You can always build the source code yourself. Which is something to do about it.

        1. Marco Fontani

          Re: Debian?

          That doesn't change the new version appearing in Buster, which was my point.

          Compiling (and installing) it myself is also something I'd rather avoid, as sooner or later I'd be left with Yet Another Frankendebian, which is what I'd really like to avoid having :)

          On my computer, the WM, DM, etc are all OS-provided; "personal apps" are what I can compile myself/track development & security bulletins for, but I most often than not run those in containers.. and it's not _that_ easy to run a DM in a container (but browsers run "fine", for large variations of "fine").

          So, I'll just wait for it to hit testing and I'll get it if and when I'll next move to testing.

    2. Lomax

      Re: Debian?

      I'm running XFCE in Devuan, which works beautifully. Pretty close to the ideal desktop OS combo IMO. Now if only Firefox could be coaxed into resurrecting the ALSA audio backend... Being stuck on FF Quantum ESR is my only gripe with this setup, everything else is pretty much perfect.

      1. Marco Fontani

        Re: Debian?

        Best I can tell, Devuan ships with 4.12, not 4.14 :/

        https://ci.devuan.org/job/xfce4-session-repos/

  4. present_arms

    It's all ready in the PCLinuxOS repos as well

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    19.10

    Xubuntu 19.10 includes xfce4 version 4.14 at least the beta version does.

  6. gcla72
    Happy

    Good news

    I switched when Gnome went weird and Unity appeared on the scene. I have hardly fiddled with any settings as does a job as it is. I'm on Devuan now so I suspect I won't see the new version straight away.

  7. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    If it ain't broke...

    the team behind Xfce, a lightweight desktop for Linux, have released version 4.14 nearly four-and-a-half years since the last stable release

    That's a testament to the quality and stability of 4.12. Other developers would do well to learn from that.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: If it ain't broke...

      One of the best features of XFCE is that it doesn't add features all the time. Going up to 4.x was fairly traumatic : I haven't got over that yet.

  8. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Linux

    Better than a tablet? Disposable?

    I bought a mint condition Toshiba NB100 (one of the original XP netbooks) for £30 and put Xubuntu on it. Everything worked OOTB! Later on I put a cheap SSD in it and it's a very usable piece of kit. The battery is knackered but I've just seen a battery on eBay for £9! Also today on eBay some NB100s for between £70 and £80. (rip-off!)

    Of course I would never dream of installing macchanger on it and hanging around coffee shops wearing my Groucho Marx disguise.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Better than a tablet? Disposable?

      Installed MX Linux on a 1Gb RAM/160Gb HD Acer Aspire One ZG5 (aka AOA150) that I bought for €20 last week, runs pretty well with the default XFCE and came with a decent battery too. I could upgrade the RAM and install an SSD but it's a bitch to disassemble/reassemble, by all accounts.

      1. sbt

        Re: Better than a tablet? Disposable?

        Reassembly's not bad at all. Releasing the keyboard and the zif connector for the SSD is fiddly, though. Have been using one of these for the last 11 years as headless e-mail/web server using jails. Upgraded to 1.5 GB ram and added 16GB SD card, running FreeBSD for those multi-year uptimes. I bought two for redundancy, but the primary one has run without a hitch on a UPS, save every 5 years or so I had to de-dust the fan.

        On-topic; Dev and test for this environment is all VMs running XFCE, arguably the best choice for BSD desktops.

      2. NATTtrash

        Re: Better than a tablet? Disposable?

        Same here, although my ZG5 came from the back of a friends cupboard where it was weeping, alone, and forgotten. I too upped the RAM to 1.5GB (cheap of FleaBay) and replaced the (horrible) original Intel SSD which died with a Kingspec ZIF (!) 32 GB one. Had to do some "creative sawing" to make room for the SSD (detailed info available online, even more detailed than David Yin's one), but that's quite easy and straight forward. I put Xubuntu on it, never misses a beat, refuses to die. Family uses it as a cesspool kodi box and I myself still take the old girl on travels to destinations "where zero'ed first, then fresh install" boxen are preferred...

        1. eurotrash

          Re: Better than a tablet? Disposable?

          "where zero'ed first, then fresh install" boxen are preferred..."

          Those very rare North Korea white hat conferences?

  9. nerdbert

    Not one to follow fashion

    Why would you use Xfce? The main reason would be either because it runs better on old or low-end hardware than systems like GNOME Desktop (used by the main Ubuntu distribution) and KDE, or because you prefer its performance and minimalist approach.

    I run xfce on the highest end of high end of Xeon processors, on machines not equipped with less than 1T of RAM, and it's not for any of those reasons.

    I use a chip design program that's regularly updated to whatever is a reasonably recent version of CentOS. That means I get updates at least annually, and have been for the last 20 years. I've seen window managers come and go, but it's been more painful to see them evolve. That's one of the reasons I like xfce. While I can't be sure how the latest version of KDE or GNOME will affect me, xfce doesn't change. So all I'm left is figuring out how the blasted CAD tool has screwed things up rather than trying to figure out if it's some new interaction between the desktop and the program.

    So in summary, I'm an engineer and I use my machines to get work done, not for eye candy. And if a desktop makes it so I can get my job done easier, I'll use it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not one to follow fashion

      I do something similar. Every FLOP not being used on bullshit window decorations is another FLOP that CalculiX can use for aerodynamics processing. I have 512 GB of RAM, 64 EPYC cores, and 4 TB of NVMe storage. Xfce and the whole OS, and FreeCAD are small enough to run on a single core and fit easily into a gig of RAM and less than that on the disk.

      XFCE runs quite well on top of Busybox and fits quite well in a tiny amount of space. In fact loading the if I were to load and run the whole thing into RAM uses less than running a minimal Ubuntu from disk. I've been just booting from a 2 GB USB device plugged into the machine, then copies everything to RAM and runs from there. Once the copy is done, the thing just flies. I am up and running FreeCAD's FEA/FEM workbench in less than a minute after pressing the computer's power button, most of which is before the kernel loads, after that, ts kind of a blur.

    2. Lomax

      Re: Not one to follow fashion

      +1, though in my case I need those FLOPs for Blender. Oh and I can only dream about having 1TB of RAM - that's the size of my boot drive!

  10. keithpeter
    Pint

    Slackware current and Robbie Workman's mirror

    https://rlworkman.net/pkgs/current/

    Just to keep Slackware in the party,

    Been using xfce4 on and off for ages (since around 4.4 or 4.6)

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    My second choice

    My fave. is Openbox with RoxFiler, but I can't remember the last time either of those was updated. I'm dreading the day either of them breaks!

    1. karlkarl Bronze badge

      Re: My second choice

      Basically they will break as soon as the Wayland kids get released and start shiteing over themselves and your desktop workflow.

      You might want to start preparing for a life within Xwayland (or Xweston) now before an update to your distro catches you by surprise. Or switch to OpenBSD where I am pretty sure X/Xenocara will live on for many many more decades to come.

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Happy

    Tempted

    I've tried XFCE but decided Mate suited better. However you can easily have both (or more) on Linux and select at Log In. So I have the previous version and Mate on my main laptop and one of my Netbooks.

    Mint package Manager still offering 4.12

  13. tempemeaty
    Thumb Up

    The better multi screen stuff is all I needed

    THANK YOU! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❗️

    XFCE has been the most reliably stable and dependable thing for me. No matter how new or old my PCs or what combinations of gear, XFCE blows away everything else I've used when it comes to things just working. I wont tell the Mint, Gnome or KDE developers what to do but I also don't want go back to those either.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The better multi screen stuff is all I needed

      Agreed. Love the way XFCE does its thing without fuss and clutter, and the next version just has some minor, sensible tweaks plus bug fixes. Excellent job by the team

    2. jilocasin

      Re: The better multi screen stuff is all I needed

      I am _really_ hoping they've gotten support for a *left* secondary monitor figured out in this version. I was a long time XFCE user until I got a second monitor that was forced to be on the left. Then I had to move to KDE. Not the best support, but much better than; XFCE, Gnome, Unity, etc. at the time.

  14. rcxb Bronze badge

    XFce hasn't fallen into the trap of "Let's pretend your desktop is a tablet".

    Also, the UI has been consistent for a decade, and with just a little customization, it looks like good old Windows 95, but also integrates and works well with GNOME and KDE environments and programs.

    It has a proper locked-down kiosk mode for shared systems and/or dangerous (to themselves) users.

    The question should be: Why would anybody NOT want to use XFce?

    1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      I love the consistency of the configuration files. I've been using the same config files since 4.0, which were just minor changes from my 3.x series installs. The configs are even compatible across versions and OSes, I have a bunch of system where my home directory is a simple NFS mount and I can trust my customization are present across all my systems.

  15. Jason Hindle

    Another reason for Xfce

    Performs nicely in Virtualbox, especially where the lab consists of multiple running VMs. That said, the GUI is basic - my dev VM is standard Ubuntu.

  16. DanceMan

    My XFCE story

    I've used Mint Mate and Cinnamon briefly on a changing assortment of old Thinkpads, from T40 on to T410's. One of the last installs had issues with some program features not running properly, possibly after hibernating. Because I use Pale Moon as a browser and it's not in the Mint repositories I decided to try a distro that did have it, thus MX Linux. It's on a T400, it's fast, it does not use Systemd, (it has it for those programs that need it) and all my regular programs work. The only exception is Pale Moon which needs to be shut down and restarted when I hibernate. And it does that quickly. MX Linux has brought me to XFCE. I'm very happy.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: My XFCE story

      I'd be interested in your Pale-Moon problem. I use xubuntu and from time to time when after a screensaver I cannot type into the url bar or search engine. I have found that if I switch to another desktop and back then it works again.

      1. DanceMan

        Re: My XFCE story

        @Tom 7

        I think the problems were right-click functions such as reload tab, etc. not responding.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boatloads of Bugs!

    They've moved to a new library. That means that boatloads of bugs are automatically replaced with boatloads of new bugs :)

  18. Christian Berger Silver badge

    XFCE comes from the time...

    ...when GUIs were tested on people and usability was measured. Unlike the GUIs of today which come out of the minds of some deranged people trying to shove down something down your throat they saw on Android/iOS/Blackberry/WinPhone.

    XFCE may not be at the optimal position with that, but at least it still tries to be usable.

  19. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    Pint

    XFCE usability

    A pint, I think, is in order.

    As the "go-to" computer guy in a family with several rapidly aging members, all of whom are starting to struggle a bit with cognitive function, XFCE on Xubuntu has been a real blessing.

    All they want or need to do is email, browse the web, do their online banking, and do some light writing. I find it trivial to configure XFCE and a few other bits and baubles from Xubuntu to meet their needs, hide the dangerous bits, and keep things as simple as possible.

    It is lightweight enough that even a modest laptop performs very well indeed. XFCE's look and feel is stable with time, critical for this population.

    Outstanding software!

  20. FatGerman

    Splendid

    That's how it should be. Small incremental updates coming out at long intervals. I'm so fed up of the 6-monthly changes that happen on everything else when I just want to get some work done. I switched to XFCE way back when KDE4 first appeared (remember that mess?) and have never looked back. Can even customize it so it looks like macOS, which keeps me happy :)

  21. src

    If I wasn't using Gnome Shell (for 8 hours a day) I would use XFCE. On CentOS 7 I find Gnome provides a more complete desktop environment that works out-of-the-box.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I find Gnome provides a more complete desktop environment that works out-of-the-box.

      Haha, good one!

  22. JohnHMorris

    OpenSUSE

    Running XFCE for 2GB cloud instances for OpenSUSE Leap. Works great and lower RAM usage.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't say I've noticed any bugs or deficiencies with 4.12... so I guess when Debian 11 releases in a couple of years time it'll be nice to have whatever bug fixes are apparently in 4.14 but tbh I don't really care... xfce just works.

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