posted by Rahul Gaitonde on Mon 10th May 2004 18:41 UTC
IconBefore we begin, here's what XFce's website has to say about itself: XFce is a lightweight desktop environment for unix-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and easy to use. It's based on the GTK+ toolkit version 2.

1.) About XFce

XFce consists of a number of components that together provide the full functionality of the desktop environment. They are packaged separately and you can pick and choose from the available packages to create the best personal working environment."

In its earlier versions (right upto version 3), XFce used to look a lot like CDE, the commercial desktop environment still used in Solaris. From version 4, though, its begun to develop its own look and feel.

But if you've got GNOME and KDE as fantastic, complete desktop environments, why use XFce? The simple answer to this is - it's lightweight, and very fast. For users like me, who're stuck with 6-year-old Pentium IIs, KDE and GNOME seem more or less sluggish (depending upon how much RAM you have). But XFce is blazing fast. It gives even KDE 3.2 a run for its money. (For those of you not in the know, KDE 3.2 is way faster than any of its predecessors - except for the 1.x series!) And having a small memory footrpint doesn't mean it's sparse. XFce4 has a lot of features and plugins, which we'll be examining in the next few sections.

2.) How to get and install XFce:

The easiest way is to get RPMs for your distibution. For Fedora Core, go here.

Use wget, a really cool command-line based download manger that's also scriptable.

To get the XFce4 rpms from the location above, use something like:

$ wget -nH -c -m --cut-dirs="6" -R "*.src.rpm"  http://www.moongroup.com/.../XFce4rpms/

This will put all the rpms (and not the source rpms, if any) in the directory from which this command is run.

To install XFce4, as root, type

$ rpm -Uvh ./*.rpm

Of course, if you've got any dependency problems (missing packages), a simple search on google for "++rpm"should do the trick. If there are any dependencies among packages, go straight ahead and use the --nodeps --force options for rpm. The purists might scream blue murder, but it works for me!

3.) Logging into XFce:

XFce is made up of a number of components, each of which must be started up individually. This is done in a shell script: /etc/XFce4/xinitrc.

You can create your own XFce4/xinitrc file too. Put all your user-specific XFce-related initialisation stuff in ~/.XFce4/xinitrc. If this file exists, it'll be executed instead of the global file in /etc/XFce4. In fact, it might be a good idea to create this file. If you snip away all the superfluous checks and variables in the global startup file, you end up with a very very simple script. My own XFce4/xinitrc file looks like this:

#!/bin/sh
# Rahul Gaitonde's XFce4 startup script

XFce-mcs-manager
xfwm4 --daemon
#xftaskbar4&
gnome-panel&
xfdesktop&
XFce4-panel

I'll explain in just a while why there's the strange gnome-panel line among all the other XFce-like commands. This is a severely trimmed-version of the XFce4/xinitrc that shipped with the Fedora RPMs I use.

So what executes this script in the first place? It's another shell script: /usr/bin/startXFce4. All this script does, is check if X is already running, and then executes either the user's local XFce4/xinitrc file (if it exists), or the global one.

What all this means, is that to start XFce4, you need to have this line at the end of your ~/.Xclients file (for users of non-Redhat-based systems, this might mean your .xsession or .xinitrc file):

exec /usr/bin/startXFce4 || exec xterm

The last bit ensures that if XFce fails to load properly, you'll have at least a humble xterm to work with.

Here's how a default XFce desktop looks like (only the panel's had some changes made to it).

Most of XFce's settings can be changed graphically via the Settings Manager. This app can be launched by clicking on the "Setup" button on the default panel, or simply typing XFce-setting-show in a terminal window.

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Table of contents
  1. "XFce review, Page 1/3"
  2. "XFce review, Page 2/3"
  3. "XFce review, Page 3/3"
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