“For years, the lightweight Xfce has been a popular desktop environment for Linux distributions running on older hardware, thanks to its lower demand on resources as compared to KDE and GNOME; it’s an ideal desktop for machines with less than 256MB of memory. Until recently, however, using Xfce was a little laborious, but with its latest release last month, Xfce is a much more usable desktop environment.”
‘Xfce 4.4: the Best Lightweight Desktop Environment’
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2007-02-21 1:47 pmsbergman27
Not to trash XFCE, because I think it is an impressive piece of work, especially considering the memory footprint.
But my main criticism would be the fact that I can’t just drag an app to the panel or the desktop to create a launcher.
Sure, you can bring up the add launcher dialog and then drag an app from the app chooser into into it. But you have to make sure and bring up the app chooser *first* because once the add dialog app is up, those desktop functions are locked out.
The good news is that my main gripe seems like a pretty trivial one in the grand scope of things.
XFCE is important competition for the more popular desktops because it demonstrates, and keeps in the public eye, the fact that you can get 90% of the way to Gnome or KDE functionality using only a fraction of the resources.
Edited 2007-02-21 13:48
XFCE desktop certainly is very fast GUI and I’ve been running it in SAM Linux, Zenwalk and right now on fastest Linux distro I’ve ever came accross – VECTOR LINUX 5.8
Shame Vector Linux 5.8 is not even mentioned in the xfce.org official list of XFCE based distributions.
To be honest I always questioned Zenwalk as being fast and optimized for performance capabilities. It is based on Slackware 11.0 as Vector Linux is but VL 5.8 runs faster and seems to be more responsive on low-end systems like ones that I use to test those lightweight distros: Pentium/Celeron 400-500 MHz 128-256 66/100 SDRAM machines.
total used free shared buffers cached
Mem: 319520 231872 87648 0 15616 109948
-/+ buffers/cache: 106308 213212
Swap: 428392 0 428392
If you know how to read “free” command output you’ll see my VL 5.8 is using only 100 Mb memory (there is 213 megabytes still free).
2007-02-22 6:58 amvegai
It looks like you’re *using* 232MB and have 88MB free.
free(1) isn’t too helpful :/ Can you elaborate?
Edited 2007-02-22 07:01
I’m using the Xubuntu GNU/Linux distribution on both my desktop & laptop, and it works well for me.
2007-02-21 2:43 pmbuff
I have heard Xubuntu works well. I use XFCE4 with Fedora 6 and that combo also works well. It is interesting reading other people’s messages here. Some people make these comparisons to KDE and Gnome. XFCE is not really made for that crowd. It is for people that like a minimal Desktop or just want something nice looking to manage windows. The latest version is more desktop like but the desktop features like drag and drop are not there yet since they are not the focus of XFCE.
i started using xfce years ago because i found it to be usable. it allowed me to get on with my work, and nit fight the desktop. kde/gnome then and now were too resource intensive (though that has been impressivley improved), had too many distracting gimmicks and actually took up too much of the precious desktop real estate.
whilst the minimal desktops were a barrier in that their use was cryptic.
i felt that some thought had gone into xfce – from the point of productivity. i loved the fact that ou could roll the scroll wheel on a window title bar it would shade up getting it out of the way quickly. forget about iconising windows – which of your 20 minimised windows did you need?
in fact you can do the same on the desktop itself – scroll wheel and your wizzing through the virtual desktops, again – extremely quick and easy to get to your different work streams.
i feared the move away from he CDE-alike desktop with a new filer would nullify the reasons people used xfce. however i have been impressed. even i, a commond line file-copier, occasionaly found that using the Thunar light and pleasurable.
i was most pleasantly surprised wih the HAL/DBUS integration – plug in a memeor stick and bam! its there. plug in a printer and bam! its there (auto configured hl1450 on fedora6 in my case). pop in a CD and bam – its there. it even remembered where i moved the icons that popped up next time i inserted the same CD/DVD.
at work i use gnome due to restrictions and i can’t get it configured to be so usable. i’m sure someone will tell me how it can be done with gnome/kde but i couldn’t find it easily and that’s the point.
in summary – i was looking for a desktop that would let me get on with my work and found XFCE. and its still like that today.
2007-02-21 1:04 amanda_skoa
i was most pleasantly surprised wih the HAL/DBUS integration
They are not as visible as the larger number of GNOME and KDE developers, but the XFCE developers are really strong into the cooperation and standardization things.
For example, one of them, Benedikt Meurer IIRC, provided a lot of code for the Portland project’s xdg-utils to make them work with XFCE’s technology when run inside an XFCE session.
Besides the basic, I would recommend also xfmedia and xfburn which are not installed by default if you got the xfce sources.
Of the panel plugins, available from goodies.xfce.org, I like specially xfce4-dict, xfce4-datetime and xfce4-notes.
They help make xfce a very nice basic lightweight DE.
2007-02-21 6:01 amvermaden
I would go for Mac Menu plugin:
One annoyance: You can’t cover the panel (s) with open windows.
2007-02-21 6:28 amfsckit
Of course you can. Right click on the title bar of the app and select “always on top” and it’ll slide right over the panels.
2007-02-21 6:07 pmLousewort
One annoyance: You can’t cover the panel (s) with open windows.
Hi. One can configure both panels to “auto-hide”. I also had this gripe, but now my apps consume the full screen. Hover the mouse over the extreme top or extreme bottom, and the panel pops up.
Hope you find this useful
I used to be a Gnome user but I have completely changed to XFCE since it hit version 4.4. It’s fast, usable and nice to look at (especially with Beryl). It also supports multiple monitors a bit better than gnome (but there are a few minor bugs on this).
I’m not trying to start a flamewar but here is the way I see it:
KDE: Too cluttered (but I’m hanging for V4)
Gnome: Chews too much ram (it’s been getting better though and perhaps the next release will be better)
XFCE: Almost perfect!
I am not sure about others, but I am a little disappointed that XFCE 4.4 was not selected for OLPC.
2007-02-21 8:08 amFinalzone
XFCE simply does not meet the OLPC human interface criteria as mentionned on
because OPLC aims at a different target.
Since the hardware is open, nothing can stop you to port XFCE yourself.
2007-02-21 9:09 pmPriest
“Since the hardware is open, nothing can stop you to port XFCE yourself”
I refuse to accept OLPC being called “open” until they allow people like me to purchase them. Maybe it is open to some people, but certainly not me.
XFCE is very light out of the box but it can be even lighter.
Without Composite, without icons on desktop and several other parts it can be really cut to its minimum and look great at the same time:
the only 3 processes that need to run to get most functionality are:
Great for old boxes and also for those who do not use/do not want to use all features.
I have even wrote short howto to easy achieve that:
If your looking for an awesome light-weight desktop, give Fluxbox a try.
The same applies if your simply looking for an awesome desktop
2007-02-21 11:50 amdrynwhyl
> If your looking for an awesome light-weight desktop, give Fluxbox a try.
Fluxbox is not a “desktop”. Its function is to manage application windows _only_. It also is able to start programs, but thats mostly it. As a window manager it can be used _within_ a desktop, or without it, but only if you dont care for desktop features.
There is more to a desktop than managing windows, firing up applications and setting a background picture.
Following your logic minimal windows managers like mwm, twm, ratpoison or even a pure X+Xterm session without a window managers could be called a “desktop”, since they are as capable for those three tasks as is fluxbox. A window manager ist not a desktop.
2007-02-21 2:28 pmdindin
I very much like the philisophy of FluxBox, but it lacks any kind of UTF-8 rendering (internationalization).
The panel got better compared to 4.2, but dealing with launchers is still awkward. It is possible to drag-n-drop a lanucher from the AppFinder to the desktop, but not to the panel. And it’s a pity, because this feature is really helpful and has been in KDE and Gnome panels since ages…
If one needs more features still needs something like KDE. If the speed and low memory usage is needed, IceWM, WindowMake, AfterStep, Blackbox and others are needed. XFce is just a compromise.
XFCE is a happy medium for me – I have an IBM T21 (800MHz, 512Mb) and Gnome/KDE are too resource hungry. Some of the lighter WMs are just a little too spartan. So XFCE ticks all the right boxes for this particular machine. One thing I haven’t been able to find is the ability to browse Samba shares though, I had to just manually mount them at startup.
2007-02-21 10:55 pmDoc Pain
My first contact with XFCE 4 was the use of the FreeSBIE live system CD. I used it several times to impress and “convert” people to use it. 🙂
“XFCE is a happy medium for me – I have an IBM T21 (800MHz, 512Mb) and Gnome/KDE are too resource hungry. Some of the lighter WMs are just a little too spartan. So XFCE ticks all the right boxes for this particular machine. “
We use it at work at a 300 MHz P2 with 128 MB. Even my boss (who is mostly compulter illiterate) is able to use it. Almost no instructions were needed, just a simple slap on his head to remove his complicated concepts about how things should work. 🙂
XFCE does not deliver 100+ different styles, but the ones included are fine. Same for colour palettes. Personally, I like the “Default-4.0” and the “Trench” style together with the “Stellar” color scheme. Set mouse focus = input focus and everything is fine. I like the function of doing a rightclick on the titlebar to roll up the window (use it more than minimizing).
At home (for gaming, development, entertainmend etc.) I prefer WindowMaker because I found it more appealing. Furthermore, the integration of the keyboard is better (from my personal experience).
On customer systems, I usually install a preconfigured XFCE 4. Needless to say that the internationalisation for german text is good (just setting LC variable). Until now, I got no complains. Maybe it’s Thunar which makes the whole XFCE thing looking so good? 🙂 (Personally, I prefer the Midnight Commander with a good mc.ext.)
“One thing I haven’t been able to find is the ability to browse Samba shares though, I had to just manually mount them at startup.”
Maybe this workaround is for you:
1. Create entry in /etc/fstab, maybe something like this:
//ADMINISTRATOR@BLA/C$ /smb/bla/c smbfs rw,noauto,noatime 2 2
2. Create button / menu entry for xfmountdev call:
As it can be used with CDs, DVDs (or any DASD), xfmountdev performs the mount operation, then launches xftee; after quitting xftree, it persorms the umount operation. Read more at “man xfmountdev”.
3. Ensure access and ownership for mountdir.
I can’t tell you if this works with XFCE 4. It works with XFCE 3. I’ll check this at work for you tomorrow. There we still have XFCE 3 because it’s completely serving all purposes. And runs fast.
Edited 2007-02-21 22:58
2007-02-22 9:45 amDoc Pain
It’s me again! 🙂
The line in /etc/fstab should be like this:
//Administrator@NTWS2KXX/c$ /smb/c smbfs rw,noauto 0 0
It’s not “2 2”, it’s “0 0”. I don’t know if the “drive letters” are case sensitive… If the permissions (target dir and vfs.usermount) are set correctly, xfmountdev should work.
If you know how to set up an /etc/fstab, don’t mind reading this posting. 🙂
2007-02-22 10:53 amtimefortea
Thanks for taking the time to write this up
I had actually come up with a half-solution, which was to create entries in fstab like so:
//machine/mount /mnt/media smbfs domain=xxx,username=xxx,password=xxx,noauto,user 0 0
But I couldn’t mount it unless I was root – I tried setting suid on /bin/mount but it didn’t like that either, so I just su to root to mount whatever drives I need (I don’t want to mount them until I need them!)
I used xffm before in XFCE and it allowed me to browse the Samba network, I thought I must be missing something to be using 4.4 and lose this ability. I found xffm a bit hard to use though, so I don’t really miss it!
2007-02-23 5:03 amDoc Pain
“I had actually come up with a half-solution, which was to create entries in fstab like so:
//machine/mount /mnt/media smbfs domain=xxx,username=xxx,password=xxx,noauto,user 0 0”
There’s a file called /etc/nsmb.conf which can be used to set the SMB lookup data.
“But I couldn’t mount it unless I was root – I tried setting suid on /bin/mount but it didn’t like that either, so I just su to root to mount whatever drives I need (I don’t want to mount them until I need them!)”
This is due to access permissions to some means of the differentiation between user and system administrator (which most desktop environments usually override.
First, the user has to have permissions to run mount_smbfs:
% ll /sbin/mount_smbfs
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root wheel 8996 Sep 26 2003 /sbin/mount_smbfs*
This should be no problem because mount_smbfs is x for o,
The user has to be in the wheel (or at least in the operator) group to perform mounting. I found something like a “mount” group, but I did not see what it’s designated for.
The mount target directory has to be owned by the user. This could automatically be done by some entry in /etc/X11/xdm/GiveConsole:
chown $USER /dev/console
MOUNTTARGETS=/cam /cdrom /dvd /floppy /jaz /mnt /pcd /pd /stick /writer
for DIR in $MOUNTTARGETS; do
if [ -d $DIR ]; then
chown $USER $DIR
And /etc/X11/xdm/TakeConsole has to undo this (return ownership to root).
Furthermore, the user has to be allowed any mounting (/etc/sysctl.conf: vfs.usermount=1).
(I’m telling from FreeBSD, but Linux surely offers something similar. From my experience, it’s easier in Linux to avoid root operations for mounting than it is in BSD.)
“I used xffm before in XFCE and it allowed me to browse the Samba network, I thought I must be missing something to be using 4.4 and lose this ability. I found xffm a bit hard to use though, so I don’t really miss it!”
I found all these single window file managers confusing because most operations (copy, move, symlink) are source – target operations. So the two window approach (as implemented by the Midnight Commander) is more appealing to me. I don’t like he concept of using something like a clipboard (^C, ^X and ^V) for file operations. 🙂
I quite fancy a play with this. I sorta liked an earlier version I tried (dunno the exact version – the one that shipped with Slackware 10.2) but didn’t get on with its file manager (and didn’t know you could tell it to use Konquerer instead).
Well done XFCE devs, I’ll have a go as soon as I can make time :o)
Eye candy usually falls into two categories for me – either it’s total useless crap that wastes resources better used getting WORK done – like rendering in the background – or getting in the way making the computer HARDER to use – transparancies making text impossible to read, oversized elements getting in the way of content, or just fancy ‘visual’ task switching that makes it impossible to actually tell any of the running programs apart (compiz, expose – for **** sake just show me a damned LIST OF PROGRAMS AND FILENAMES! there’s a reason I keep my taskbar in portrait mode)
As such, XFCE is my favorite environment: It lets you get WORK done without chewing up resources better used elsewhere and without presenting so many options out of the gate you spend months of dicking with settings instead of just using the bloody thing (sorry Linus).
Sure, it has its shortcomings, the lack of integrated SAMBA discovery standing out (what, is parsing the output from SMBClient that hard? No common framework my ass… fuseSMB is a decent workaround though) – but so does everything else.
Again though, I’m amazed at what total bloated pigs file managers have become when they STILL seem to be playing catchup in a lot of areas to the ‘explorer’ from win95 or even the old DOS program XTree.
But as I’ve said before, spatial navigation can suck my ****, lands sake show me a blasted TREE. (hmm, gee, wonder why he likes Thunar)
Edited 2007-02-21 16:16
2007-02-22 11:58 amdennis
You know it all so well? So what do YOU do to improve things? Or are you just a winer? For your record: fuseSMB is NOT a decent workaround since XFCE is made for more OS’s then only your beloved Linux. So please first think and then shout!
2007-02-22 1:23 pmdeathshadow
>> So what do YOU do to improve things?
File bug reports, make suggestions in their forums (http://forum.xfce.org) and in the mailing lists (http://www.xfce.org/community/lists) – but yes, unlike a lot of college kids having life paid for by mommy and daddy or career educators/lecturers I don’t have the time to contribute actual code to open source projects because I actually HAVE a day job…
>> Or are you just a winer?
Ooh, name calling; how quaint… Much less with the common spelling mistake. Lemme guess, you like “mute points” and “oh the humanity”… /fail/ at intarnet. I say, I say, that’s a joke son
BTW, above that’s whiner, moot and inhumanity respectively up above… just for those of you who didn’t get the joke.
>> For your record: fuseSMB is NOT a decent
>> workaround since XFCE is made for more OS’s
I said decent, NOT perfect. If it was perfect I wouldn’t have LISTED integrated SAMBA as a want in the first place, or mention the simplest of solutions in them just having Thunar call smbclient for discovery and setting up connects. You did READ the post, right?
>> beloved Linux
Oooh, now THAT’s funny. Putting aside the fact I’m NOT a big linux fan (as a desktop OS *nix on the whole is nuetered to the point of being crippled for getting REAL work done – I can use it when I HAVE to, it’s not by choice), that little ‘beloved’ comment REEKS of sour grapes – lemme guess, you are one of the fill in the blank BSD fans? If it bothers you that much, how about YOU port it to ____bsd since it IS open source! (turnabout is fair play – thanks for opening the door)
>> So please first think and then shout!
Or how about READ and think before replying… and not making knee-jerk wild assumptions about a persons skills and habits… much less making comments that could be turned back on yourself. (like bitching about an open source project not even being available on your pet BSD of the month)
Just wondering, What are some distros that have 4.4? Any that aren’t beta releases? thanks
2007-02-21 8:50 pmlucke
Archlinux for sure.
Is it just me or is the Terminal app extremly slow in 4.4.0? the updating is awful, the older version (the one that came with xubuntu behaved nicely
As Andy said to Lou…..
“Yeah, ah know”
I really like XFCE a lot, but sometimes it may still feel a bit too Spartan for me after having used the bigger desktop environments like KDE and GNOME a lot. It is not so much the lack of essential features (XFCE has plenty of those, some even lacking from the bigger DEs)) but some small details related to usability and looks.
I’ve just gotten (too?) used to small nice details like the window manager showing hover effects when I move my mouse over the window manager buttons (it does enhance usability a bit too).
Maybe such features are not needed by most XFCE users although I do remeber to have seen that particular feature hoped for on the XFCE feature wishlist webpage too (so probably some others would like it too). Anyway I wonder if XFWM might get get those mouse over effects some day, or if there are some hacks that would allow such things in XFCE too? Would enabling such a feature be possible? Probably it wouldn’t make the window manager any more resource hungry?