Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Xtra Fine Computing Environment: xfce4.4 beta 1

Filed under
Software
Reviews
-s

In my spare time last several days, I've been test driving the latest xfce4.4 beta1 desktop enviroment. It's pretty nice. For those who don't know about xfce4, it's a wonderful graphical interface that I think of as falling somewhere in-between Fluxbox and KDE in ease-of-use and functionality. Many aspects of your xfce4 desktop can be configured by graphical tools with menus, drop down boxes, icons and all. However, many aspects are hard coded and aren't adjustable even through configuration files. But it's getting there and we can see a major step forward with xfce4.4.

Install

There were two methods for the install of their 4.4 b1, either download the tarball and do the ./configure dance or download their installer and let it do all work. I downloaded the tarball first, forgetting how many packages they've split their desktop into. Here's a list:

Terminal-0.2.5.1beta1.tar.bz2
orage-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfce4-mixer-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
Thunar-0.3.0beta1.tar.bz2
xfce-4.3.90.1.md5
xfce4-panel-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
exo-0.3.1.6beta1.tar.bz2
xfce-mcs-manager-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfce4-session-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
gtk-xfce-engine-2.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfce-mcs-plugins-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfdesktop-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
libxfce4mcs-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfce-utils-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfprint-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
libxfce4util-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfce4-appfinder-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfwm4-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
libxfcegui4-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfce4-dev-tools-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
xfwm4-themes-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2
mousepad-0.2.4.tar.bz2
xfce4-icon-theme-4.3.90.1.tar.bz2

Given that many packages, I wasted no further time before downloading the installer. This is one of your easier desktop installs. I realize KDE has Construct, but does that really work? Last time I tried it, it didn't really go as smoothly as one might hope and the setup was quite involved. But I've used xfce's installer more than once and it always works good. You just start it up (I did as root, but users can install into their home directory if preferred). It runs some dependency checks and asks for an install location. Default as root is /usr/local and that was a good choice since I have gentoo's version of 4.2 in /usr. Then it does the compiling for you. Easy peasy.

        

Xfce4

One of the good things about xfce4 is its support for twinview and/or xinerama set ups. Fluxbox supports it to a point, but I'm still having to splice wallpapers together for it. KDE handles those setups very nicely and xfce4 isn't too far behind. One of the important settings for a desktop in twinview is the panel/kicker placement. You don't want that thang spawled out across two or three monitors (which is what happens with desktops that don't support twinview). I usually want to place that at the bottom of the main monitor either 100% or whatever. I'm not picky about the size, as long as it's big enough to get the job done. Xfce4 gives you the choice as to which monitor to use, any one of 9 positions around it, and how big it should be.


And the 2nd most important is background/wallpaper handling. It's nice to have a configuration for using the multitude of 1280x1024 wallpapers I've collected over the last 5 years. Even now, it's hard to find 2880x1200 wallpapers. Xfce4 allows you to choose between using a wallpaper on both, a seperate one for each monitor, or stretch one out across both. I usually try to find two wallpapers that go nice together, or sometimes I'll just have to run the same one on both screens. I've only seen one or two wallpapers that looks good stretch out across both.

    

New Panel Configuration

The panel configuration is a bit different for the new xfce4 release. Previously one would click the "add launcher" option to add an application launcher, or some other pre-configured options such as "time and date" or "panel". It was mostly dialogue and had a number to adjust for placement in your panel. It was a functional and adequate add-to-panel configuration tool. But now, it's become quite fancy. For starters, it looks very much like KDE's equivalent that showed up in 3.5 in that you have a nice list with lovely icons and you just highlight your choice and click add or you can drag your selection to the panel if you prefer. Then if it's an application launcher or other item with configurations, it opens that dialogue box. Another nice change is how one moves their panel items around. As stated, once upon a time, you adjusted the number of its placement, but now one right clicks that item, and clicks "move" just as found in KDE.

    

    

New: Desktop Icons are now Possible

Also new in 4.4 is the long awaited support for icons on the desktop. It's still not drag & drop or right-click > make new icon, but there is preliminary support for icons on the destkop. Uniquely, one can set these icons to either show for minimized applications, file launcher icons, or none at all.

    

For launcher icons, your ~/Desktop directory is used. So, if you already have your desktop icons setup in KDE, they will also show up in the new xfce4. Making new icons can be done in konqueror the way you might already be accustomed. But what if you don't use or have KDE installed? I've found that making symbolic links works as well. There is no configuration of icons with links though. But I also found that the icons set using konqueror or making them from right-clicking on the KDE desktop didn't always show up in xfce4 anyway (probably requires full path). You could theoretically make one from right clicking in the Thunar file manager through the create new document option if you knew what entries might be required. Once in place, the desktop icons can be dragged around the desktop for exact placement. An example for Firefox.desktop might contain the following:

[Desktop Entry]
Exec=/usr/bin/firefox
Icon=/usr/share/icons/mozilla-firefox.png
StartupNotify=true
Terminal=false
Type=Application


New: Thunar

Thunar is their new graphical file manager. To quote the devlopment site, " Its user interface is clean and intuitive, and does not include any confusing or useless options. Thunar is fast and responsive with a good start up time and directory load time. Thunar is accessible using Assistive Technologies and is fully standards compliant." The interface does seem cleaned up and less busy, although I have heard it said that browsing samba shares is now harder or not supported in Thunar as it was in xffm.

    

New: Orage

Another new feature in 4.4 is the Orage calendar. It has some advanced features not found in the previous calendar found in xfce. I have a problem with it in that it starts the week with Saturday, and I can find no way to adjust this*. By default, orage is open and in the way when one starts xfce4, but that behaviour can be turned off in it's configuration. Some features of Orage include:

  • Time-based events
  • Data stored in ical format
  • Recurring appointments
  • Reminder up to 2 days before the event starts
  • Possibility to choose your alarm sound
  • Repeating the alarm sound until you close the reminder window
  • Possibility to duplicate an appointment
  • Archiving system for keeping your history in different files for avoiding overloads in the main working file

    

Misc

It has always amazed me how many window and icon themes are available for xfce4 and even moreso, how many that ship with xfce4.

Some other observations from within xfce4.4 are that I can't locate how to turn the date on at my clock. Although that's a bit of a downer, I've found that KDE application support seem improved. Previously a kde application window would open at precisely the size and position from which it was last used in kde. This usually covered my xfce panel and required resizing of the window. It seems now that kde applications windows are adjusted automagically so as to fit onto the desktop without overlapping the panel(s). That's nice.

In the past I've had trouble with xfce remembering my customization to the panel. That was always quite annoying to spend time getting it just the way you like it, just to log out and back in to find it default. This was actually the main reason I didn't use xfce more. It was suggested that this behaviour could be avoided by starting the desktop in one particular way each time (exact details escape me now), but it was inconvenient given I began using a graphical login several months back. I haven't seen this behaviour since upgrading to 4.4, as all customizations remain after logging out and back in. I might begin to use and explore all the possibilities of XFCE4 more often now.

Conclusion

xfce has always been a capable and viable option for a desktop environment. It was the desktop of choice of many distribution developers as it is light weight, fast, and yet had many nice options and graphical configurations. It has many features of KDE, but can run on older or lower spec systems that KDE can overtax. Things are only getting better with xfce4 4.4. Updated interface configurations, new options, and new applications make this release an exciting prospect. If you've never tried xfce or haven't tried it recently, you owe it to yourself to test it out.

My xfce4 desktop ended up looking like this:


*UPDATE: May 03, A kind reader pointed out that "Orage uses the first day of the week as reported by glibc" and further investigation reveals an upstream bug in glibc en_US locale.

More in Tux Machines

digiKam 7.7.0 is released

After three months of active maintenance and another bug triage, the digiKam team is proud to present version 7.7.0 of its open source digital photo manager. See below the list of most important features coming with this release. Read more

Dilution and Misuse of the "Linux" Brand

Samsung, Red Hat to Work on Linux Drivers for Future Tech

The metaverse is expected to uproot system design as we know it, and Samsung is one of many hardware vendors re-imagining data center infrastructure in preparation for a parallel 3D world. Samsung is working on new memory technologies that provide faster bandwidth inside hardware for data to travel between CPUs, storage and other computing resources. The company also announced it was partnering with Red Hat to ensure these technologies have Linux compatibility. Read more

today's howtos

  • How to install go1.19beta on Ubuntu 22.04 – NextGenTips

    In this tutorial, we are going to explore how to install go on Ubuntu 22.04 Golang is an open-source programming language that is easy to learn and use. It is built-in concurrency and has a robust standard library. It is reliable, builds fast, and efficient software that scales fast. Its concurrency mechanisms make it easy to write programs that get the most out of multicore and networked machines, while its novel-type systems enable flexible and modular program constructions. Go compiles quickly to machine code and has the convenience of garbage collection and the power of run-time reflection. In this guide, we are going to learn how to install golang 1.19beta on Ubuntu 22.04. Go 1.19beta1 is not yet released. There is so much work in progress with all the documentation.

  • molecule test: failed to connect to bus in systemd container - openQA bites

    Ansible Molecule is a project to help you test your ansible roles. I’m using molecule for automatically testing the ansible roles of geekoops.

  • How To Install MongoDB on AlmaLinux 9 - idroot

    In this tutorial, we will show you how to install MongoDB on AlmaLinux 9. For those of you who didn’t know, MongoDB is a high-performance, highly scalable document-oriented NoSQL database. Unlike in SQL databases where data is stored in rows and columns inside tables, in MongoDB, data is structured in JSON-like format inside records which are referred to as documents. The open-source attribute of MongoDB as a database software makes it an ideal candidate for almost any database-related project. This article assumes you have at least basic knowledge of Linux, know how to use the shell, and most importantly, you host your site on your own VPS. The installation is quite simple and assumes you are running in the root account, if not you may need to add ‘sudo‘ to the commands to get root privileges. I will show you the step-by-step installation of the MongoDB NoSQL database on AlmaLinux 9. You can follow the same instructions for CentOS and Rocky Linux.

  • An introduction (and how-to) to Plugin Loader for the Steam Deck. - Invidious
  • Self-host a Ghost Blog With Traefik

    Ghost is a very popular open-source content management system. Started as an alternative to WordPress and it went on to become an alternative to Substack by focusing on membership and newsletter. The creators of Ghost offer managed Pro hosting but it may not fit everyone's budget. Alternatively, you can self-host it on your own cloud servers. On Linux handbook, we already have a guide on deploying Ghost with Docker in a reverse proxy setup. Instead of Ngnix reverse proxy, you can also use another software called Traefik with Docker. It is a popular open-source cloud-native application proxy, API Gateway, Edge-router, and more. I use Traefik to secure my websites using an SSL certificate obtained from Let's Encrypt. Once deployed, Traefik can automatically manage your certificates and their renewals. In this tutorial, I'll share the necessary steps for deploying a Ghost blog with Docker and Traefik.