I was a happy SuSE 9.1 user when Xfce 4.2Beta2 (at the time of writing this article the latest 4.2 release is Xfce 4.2RC1, which I am using) came out, and I decided to give it a go. They announced this whole new concept of GUI installer, which in case of Xfce (which has a lot of parts) is a very handy feature. I think that it would be a good thing if more developers would follow this pattern and hopefully make installers because it would be very helpfull for the newcomers.
After some tweaking and installing the goodies the revolution was laid down before me - fast, smooth, clean and simple but very good looking, different but classical, modular....
But fast being the key word, since I have a slower PC. What bugged me the most when I switched from win2k to linux is the fact that it is slower (at least KDE was), and now I had a great looking desktop which is not only faster but everyhing runs faster (which is similar to the motto of Xfce "... and everything goes faster...").
Small thing about the Xfce goodies project, goodies are in short terms Xfce panel plugins, the taskbar plugin (with which you can get the KDE/Win kinda of a taskbar), XMMS control plugin, Show/Hide Desktop plugin, system monitor, keyboard layout switcher etc. They are all small plugins that take as little resources as possible but add aditional functionality to your Xfce desktop.
For visual people, Xfce comes with a lot of themes, especially window decoration themes and I believe there is something for everyone.
Xfce has all the right to be called cutting edge software. A feature that gets a lot of attention is the compositing manager, which for those who don't know is new X Composite extension present in X.org 6.8 and above. The Xfce installer has a checkbox which if checked enables CM support, which adds a dropshadow to windows and supports transparency. Another option in the installer is also the Extensive Optimisation option, which as said may speed up Xfce but can make debugging on some systems impossible.
Just to mention the expected native multiscreen support, Xinerama support, KDE systray icons, etc...
The Xfce session manager has support for "sudo" shutdown/reboot and among others full compatibility with KDE and Gnome.
Desktop icons are I think a matter of getting used to have or not to have them, but that will most likely be implemented (as said on forums, but not before 4.4 version though).
There are many "hidden" features that can make your day and make your days, such as "toggle fullscreen", by pressing Alt+F11 it makes application that is selected go fullscreen. I found out (Xfce Forums are filled with so helpfull people - big thank you!) that you can do many things to increase the speed of Xfce. Being gtkish, I started to think about could i give up on KDE apps, could I delete all Gnome apps, could I rely development on gtk+/gtk2 applications only?
The answer was yes, I know alot of people can't, but I managed.
Using Firefox and Thunderbird as browsing/email clients. Gimp for 2D and Blender for 3D, Bluefish for HTML stuff, Gaim for instant messaging, Leafpad as ultra fast and lightweight txt editor, of course for all your media needs you are blessed with XMMS (or BMP) and Media Player, and for viewing your photos and image browsing from heart recommendation goes to GQView.
The speed of my working enviroment is the most enjoyable pleasure since I started to work with linux. Being basicly a graphic kind of a guy, currently making models/textures for a MMORPG, XFce helped me to preserve the most of my system resources and use them for productivity.
What amased me the most, and still manages to do so is the response speed and general speed of the system. Unlike KDE and Gnome which can take some time to start up, Xfce loads almost instantly and you are ready to work.
I really believe that there is a great future for XFce, as long as they stick to their current principle - small, lightweight and fast - because we don't need another KDE and Gnome. At least I don't. Believe it or not (I had difficulties believing) I don't even have kdebaselibraries installed and if I've only been a little less lazy (meaning - compiling instead of using rpms) I could have ended up without the 5mbs of Gnome stuff (which none of the apps uses actually).
With all of this being said I hope you will give Xfce a go, because it more then deserves it.
About the Author:
I am a freelance graphic designer who switched his studio from windows and commercial software to linux and open source software.
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