NsCDE is a retro but powerful UNIX desktop environment which resembles CDE look (and partially feel) but with a more powerful and flexible framework beneath-the-surface, more suited for 21st century unix-like and Linux systems and user requirements than original CDE. NsCDE can be considered as a heavyweight FVWM theme on steroids, but combined with a couple other free software components and custom FVWM applications and a lot of configuration, NsCDE can be considered a lightweight hybrid desktop environment. It also contains themes for Qt, Gtk, and more, to ensure a consistent CDE look and feel. NsCDE 2.2 has just been released, and it contains a ton of improvements. This is such a cool and fascinating project.
Window Managers Archive
Joshua Strobl, the lead developer of Budgie, the (currently) Gtk+-based desktop, posted a lengthy article about the state of the project and the future it’s embarking on. Budgie had been in a feature-freeze and maintenance mode for a long time, but now that Strobl is no longer involved with the Linux distribution Solus, Budgie has become truly independent, and development can pick up again. The article touches upon a lot – such as the way the Budgie developers intend to lead the project, how they want to involve the community as much as they can, and similar things. They don’t want to mandate defaults or force distributions into “stock” Budgie. They intend to take this pretty far. We have made technical decisions for Budgie 11 and beyond that focuses on a clear separation between the “data layer” that enables complex Budgie functionality, and the visual / “presentation layer”. This reduces our reliance on any one given upstream for a toolkit or related libraries, allowing us to potentially explore different models for achieving the presentation layer, and even enabling other developers to build on top of Budgie’s data layer with their own presentations. As for actual plans for future versions – they intend to first nip and tuck Budgie 10.x, the current version, before diving fully into Budgie 11. The idea is that they want Budgie 10.x to be a solid base for distributions to work with while Budgie 11 is being developed. When I created Buddies of Budgie, my first priority was “unlocking” Budgie 10.x so everyone from Ubuntu Budgie to GeckoLinux, myself and other independent contributors – could get it into a state we were all happy with, and that users would be even happier with. I was not happy with the state it was in and there was a lot of catching up for us to do on fixing a thousand papercuts. Some of the major points that need to be addressed is adding full Wayland support to Budgie, since Budgie 11 is intended to be Wayland first. They also intend to remove a whole bunch of GNOME technologies they’re currently relying on. Budgie 11, meanwhile, will be a big change. Budgie 11 will take this much further. All data-related logic, collating, and reformatting possible will be in daemon, allowing the presentation layer (panel, applets, Raven, and more) to be much simpler. We will likely be leveraging protobuf to create more structured messages that is supported in more programming languages.. Not only that but this actually minimizes the impact that the toolkit choice will actually have and will even pave the way for other developers, should they choose, to leverage the data layer of Budgie and build their own “presentations” on top of that and in the toolkit of their choice! Budgie / its libraries / window manager will be written in a mix of Rust and C – with Rust being the choice for aspects of Budgie that are more mission critical (like the window manager, which may leverage smithay). Budgie Desktop itself will always be designed for the “desktop” metaphor. I’m getting mild KDE vibes from this. There’s definitely room in the market for a Gtk+ desktop that embraces more of the user choice first mentality of KDE, especially now that GNOME has forced that ship to sail. It’s fascinating to read all of these musings, and it provides a great insight into a project trying to reinvigorate itself.
The Trinity Desktop Environment, a fork of the KDE 3.x codebase, has released its latest version. This release comes with a new D-Bus based polkit authentication agent, new markdown document viewer, support for HTML5 in Quanta, support for Let’s Encrypt certificates, some improvements to GUI options, better cooperation between tdm and plymouth, fix for ICEAuthority ownership stealing when using sudo, various other bug fixes and improvements. It also adds support for Ubuntu Jammy while it drops support for Debian Jessie and Ubuntu Trusty. C++11 is now allowed in the code base. I doubt the audience for a KDE 3.x desktop is massive, but thanks to the wonders of open source – the people that want it, can have it.
Unity 7.6 will be the first major release of Unity in 6 years (the last release was in May 2016). We have restarted the active development of Unity7 and will be releasing new versions with more features regularly. I was never a fan of Ubuntu’s Unity, but I’ve seen quite a few people over the years who miss it. Your call has been answered – this first release has a a lot of visual touch-ups and updates to make it look a bit more modern, and there’s bugfixes in here, too, of course.
LXQt 1.1.0 has been released. As its version number makes clear, this isn’t a major release, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the changelog – there’s a lot in here. The biggest improvement is better integration of Gtk+ applications into the desktop environment, so that, among other things, applications like Chromium and Firefox can call LXQt’s own file picker. There’s a lot more, so be sure to read the release notes.
EndeavourOS is an Arch-based Linux distribution, and in and of itself not something I’d write about here. However, at the very end of the release notes for its latest release, there’s this: This release is also shipping with a brand-new Window Manager developed by our community editions team member Codic12 and we are more than proud to present you this WM that was developed a little bit under our wing. Codic12 decided to develop this WM to satisfy his need for a lightweight window manager that worked well with both floating and tiling modes and had window decorations with minimise, maximise and close buttons in any layout desired and that could run on a semi-embedded system like the PIZero. Worm is written in Nim and is based on X11, a Wayland version isn’t in the pipeline in the near future, according to him. There’s been a surge of interest in tiling window managers lately, with tons of articles and howtos about things like i3 and Awesome, and System76, too, made tiling a prime feature in Pop!_OS. Heck, even Windows is in on the game. Tiling isn’t for me – I’ll manage and resize my window manually, like an animal, thank you very much – but there’s no denying there seems to be a huge demand for tiling features.
A few months ago, System76 announced that they would be developing a new desktop environment based on the Rust programming language called COSMIC. Their idea is to create a desktop environment that is similar to the one that is currently available for the Pop!_OS operating system, but with a different focus. System76’s objective is to create something that is faster, more customizable, and free of the limitations of the GNOME desktop environment, and let’s face it, we’re all curious how this desktop will look. This post will explore how this new desktop environment is shaping up. There’s not a ton to see here yet, and it’s clearly very early days. Still, it’s interesting to see the beginnings.
I’ve been keeping an eye on MauiKit for a while now, and over Christmas, they surprised us with their brand new convergent desktop environment – Maui Shell – targeted at both desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. After developing a whole set of applications, as well as a Linux distribution to use them, their next step is now a complete desktop environment. The objective of Maui Shell is to deploy a convergent desktop shell with different form factors, from mobile phones and tablets to desktop computers. Maui Shell will adapt to various form factors, and there’s no need for multiple versions targeting different form factors. Maui Shell is still in early development, but they’ve published a tight schedule with the first complete release scheduled for late 2022, with several preview releases in between then and now. In fact, the next release of Nitrux will include the first test release as an alternative shell for users to log into. If you’re interested in a modern take on the Linux desktop, phone, and tablet – these are the projects to follow. They’ve got some good stuff under their belt already, a proven track record, and a clear vision of what they want Maui Shell and its applications to be.
Enlightenment 0.25 is here more than one and a half years after Enlightenment 0.24 to introduce a flat look to match the new flat theme, new gesture recognition bindings for touchpads, fingerprint support in desklock via the libFprint library and a new tool to configure fingerprints, a new binding action that lets users switch profiles, as well as palette editor and selector tool to help you set up custom colors. There are a lot more changes in here, and I’m actually interested in trying it out – it seems more grown-up and less over the top than it has in the past, and I’m curious to see what else has improved over the years.
LXQt, the lightweight desktop environment based on Qt, has hit its 1.0.0 release, with tons of changes and improvements. Going through the changelog, we can see it’s based on the final LTS release of Qt 5, Qt 5.15, and sports new features across all of its components. The file manager has seen a lot of work, there’s now a do-not-disturb mode, there’s the usual Wayland improvements, and a lot more.
System76’s Pop!_OS Linux distribution already has their own “COSMIC” desktop that is based on GNOME, but moving ahead they are working on their own Rust-written desktop that is not based on GNOME or any existing desktop environment. Stemming from a Reddit discussion over the possibility of seeing a KDE flavor of Pop!_OS, it was brought up by one of their own engineers they are working on their “own desktop”. With GNOME curling up on itself more and more, this was inevitable. I’m curious to see what System76’s developer come up with, because interacting with some of them on Twitter has taught me they’re good people with good ideas. Since I’m not a developer I’m not going to make any comments on their use of Rust – I’ll leave that to our readers – but I like that it’s indented to be distribution-independent.
While playing around with the GUI on OpenVMS I was looking for CDE documentation and I found out CDE is still being developed and can be installed on modern linux. This quick post shows you how to install CDE on Debian 10 and includes a bit on compiling GENERIC TETRIS, the same program I installed on OpenVMS. I will forever stand by my article from 14 years ago and you can put on my gravestone that I truly think CDE is one of the best graphical user interfaces ever conceived. CDE was released as open source software about nine years ago, and is still being developed.
This release comes with improved support for user sessions on high resolution displays, new TWin styles (SUSE2 and DeKorator), some other new applications, improvements to ffmpeg support and video support in Kopete, a revamped weather bar for Konqueror, a working KNemo backend and various minor improvements and fixes to several long standing annoying bugs and crashes. It also adds support for Debian Bullseye, Ubuntu Impish, Fedora 34 and 35 and Arch distributions. We’ve been talking about Trinity for a while, but for the uninitiated – it’s a fork of the last KDE 3.5.x release, with upgraded bits, fixed bugs, and new features, made to run on modern distributions.
The theme for this release has been adding new functionality to the MATE Desktop while maintaining the look and feel that we all know and love. While all the added features are surely quite exciting we also did not forget to do tons of bugfixing, modernising the code base and optimizing the performance. MATE is one of the two great alternatives for people who find GNOME 3 and later unpleasant (the other being Cinnamon, my DE of choice).
CuteFishOS’s stated goal is to “make a better experience desktop OS”. To do that they’re building a new desktop environment (‘CuteFishDE’) using KDE Frameworks, Qt, and KDE Plasma 5. This desktop will sit at the heart of a new Linux distro called CuteFishOS. The desktop experience caters to “beginners”, rather than power users. As such, the devs have no (current) plans to add complex, edge-case, or convoluted settings and features. Like Ubuntu, the aim is to provide a basic set of sane defaults that “just work” for most users. There’s room for a polished, stripped-down Qt alternative to KDE, but I’m not sure if this one is going to be it.
We’re providing a honed desktop user experience in Pop!_OS through our GNOME-based desktop environment: COSMIC. It’s a refined solution that makes the desktop easier to use, yet more powerful and efficient for our users through customization. The new designs are developed from extensive testing and user feedback since the Pop!_OS 20.04 release, and are currently being further refined in their testing phase. As we finalize these new designs, read on for some preliminary info on a few of the major changes COSMIC brings to Pop!_OS. With some users deeply unsatisfied with GNOME 40, it makes sense for System76 to make this move now. One of the most basic changes in COSMIC compared to regular GNOME is that it will come with a dock – one of the most popular GNOME extensions. The fact you have to go into a special overview mode just to deal with running applications has always been a headscratcher to me and many others, and if System76 can do a good job listening to community input, this could be a real winner.
IceWM, the venerable window manager, has finally seen a new release – IceWM 2.0.0. It seems development has been taken over by a new team. Today looks like a fine day to turn a page of history and do some long overdue system upgrades. To begin, here is IceWM 2.0.0. We have two major changes:We remove support for the old and obsolete _WIN_PROTOCOL properties.We add support for the Imlib2 image rendering engine as an alternative for the gdk-pixbuf-xlib rendering engine. The Imlib2 image rendering engine is now the default, but this can be set at configure time. IceWM’s website has more information.
LXQt, the lightweight alternative to KDE, has released version 0.16.0. It’s not a major release with big new changes, but the changelog is still a fairly long list of improvements.
This release comes with new styles providing better look and feel (Baghira, Domino, Ia Ora), new widgets (KoolDock and TastyMenu), new utilities (KXMLEditor, Mathemagics, Qalculate) and new applications (Codeine, TDEDocker, TDEPacman). It also adds support for Xine 1.2.10, improves compatibility with PulseAudio, fixes various bugs, adds support for brightness control from keyboard and integrates CVE-2020-17507 to prevent buffer overflow in XBM parsers. I both want and do not want to run the Trinity Desktop Environment. It harkens back to simpler times, but I’m not entirely sure that’s what people actually want.
Even without the Samsung OSG support these days, the Enlightenment project continues making nice progress. Enlightenment DR 0.24.2 was released today and with it comes several fixes, much faster thumbnail loading for pager, fixed the preloading of icons, various BSD fixes, and a variety of other fixes. Enlightenment keeps on trucking.