I use XFCE becuase it's lighter in weight than the others and I have a sh*tty laptop...
GNOME 3 has become something of a polarising moment for the popular Linux desktop. In chasing visions of tablets, touchscreens and the mythical "everyday user", the GNOME 3 Shell has left many Linux power users scratching their heads, wondering why the GNOME developers decided to fix a desktop that wasn't broken. The problem …
Wednesday 9th November 2011 12:54 GMT Anonymous Coward
Seriously, what is so wrong with KDE?
During my Linux journey, for the last 10 years, I at first switched between GNOME and KDE, mostly as each one leaped the other in features and desktop fanciness. However, for the last 4 years or so I keep using KDE and I am pretty satisfied. GNOME v2 was not as close as Windows as I'd like, and one of the good parts of KDE is its ease of customization.
Maybe I'm not a typical KDE user. I don't use many of its features: no plasmoids, and half of my default apps for basic tasks are not KDE ones. I use Firefox/Chrome and Thunderbird instead of Konqueror/KMail, althought Konq is great for some tasks. Dolphin, Digikam and Amarok are ok for me, but I use LibreOffice instead of the KOffice suite.
KDE runs ok in a not so powerful machine, integrates well with any other application you have be it Qt or Gtk based, and you can change almost everything you don't like (including the annoying single click for action default that pisses former Windows users like me) And from what I see, you can easily customize KDE and make it as simple in appearance as the LXFCE/XFCE alternatives in a matter of minutes by changing a few things via GUI settings, no command line involved.
The 3.5->4 transition was a bit painful, but the pain only lasted 6 months and was mostly an annoyance.
In summary, KDE is not perfect (neither GNOME v2 was) but together with other FOSS pieces it can be a productive DE and as simple or complex as you want without you investing too much effort on reaching that state.
The other day I was on a friend's house and he showed me his latest Ubuntu install. Both GNOME v3 and Unity are both a radical departure from the last 15 years of DE/GUI, and full of glitches and downright bugs that I was happy not to have to deal with that and switch to something else. I recommended him trying apt-get install kubuntu-desktop and left the house with him playing with KDE.
Thus, KDE seems to be a viable and workable alternative to GNOME/Unity. But for some reason, each time I see a discussion in the web about alternatives for GNOME v3 and Unity refugees, I never see KDE mentioned.
I don't want to start a flame war, but seriously, what's so wrong with KDE?
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:59 GMT squilookle
KDE is great. It was the first DE I used (I hated Gnome 1) and I always enjoyed using it. The only issue is that, aside from Amarok and the KDE disk burner, all the apps I preferred were GTK and I sometimes found they didn't fit into with the desktop quite as nicely as I would like them to. More of an issue with some distros than others though.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 19:54 GMT techfreak
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:08 GMT Anonymous Coward
My main gripe with KDE is that it continues to try to mimic Windows while in fact its not.
And while it once started with a motivation to do certain things better than Windows it now has also fallen into the same kind of mudhole. Meaning that it easily changes options and configuration aspects and moves them around to completely different places, sometimes even making things much harder to perform.
Example; the control centre. You used to be able to change everything from there, nowadays they removed the option to (for example) set the wallpaper of a desktop. It used to be so good; one place where you could set the desktop for all virtual desktops you had. Now you'll just have to go over them one by one and on every desktop right click to select the customization option.
This is but one example, there is plenty more. That's become my gripe with KDE. People complain heavily that Windows moves stuff around (which they do) while totally ignoring that there are usually more ways to reach your goal. Example: in XP I opened control panel and went to "internet options". In Windows 7 I can no longer change the icon appearance in control panel and dislike it so much that I left it categorized. So, internet options? "Network and Internet -> Internet options". More clicking? Nah, I now use: run program -> inetcpl.cpl and /wham/. I'm there.
KDE otoh leaves you with 1 single way to a certain option. It doesn't have this niftyness where you can simply manually start a part of the control settings. So when they decide to move it you'll /really/ have to start looking for it because there's no other way to reach it.
I hated this behavior on Windows (so I learned how it really worked in order to overcome it), so why would I like this behavior on KDE ?
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:09 GMT Nexox Enigma
KDE3 was just fine...
KDE3 was a bit ugly, but it worked fine. Then along came KDE4 and they had to 'simplify' and rename all their programs. Amarok 2.x (for KDE4) was a useless iTunes clone last time I bothered to run it, wheras Amarok 1.4 (From KDE3) was almost exactly what I've always wanted in a music program. KPDF got renamed to 'Okular,' KView is now 'GwenView,' and both of them are slower and harder to interact with.
That said, I don't even recognize Gnome 3 any more, and have zero desire to try it out. I've been running Fluxbox on all of my machines (the ones with displays, in any case) since Gentoo and Fedora Core were the cool distros of choice, and there's just no reason to run anything else. Similar to XFCE, the Flux developers don't rush anything, and aren't adding features just for the hell of it. It's light-weight and pixel-thrifty enough to run on my netbook, and works similarly just fine on my more powerful desktops. And I get to customize everything in text files, no messing with wizards or configuration widgets, and when I need to provision a new machine, I just have to copy my prefs directory and all of my keyboard shortcuts and app-specific settings are ready to go.
But XFCE seems neat, if you're into that kind of thing.
Thursday 10th November 2011 09:24 GMT Voland's right hand
The wrong thing with KDE4 is that it is is buggy, slow and totally incompatible with 3.
I used to run 3 on a PowerMAC G4 and it was perfectly usable. 4 made it into an unusable brick until I chucked it out and went to XFCE. Add to that stupid bugs, main panel crashing and unrecoverable, etc. Okular is slower than kpdf, gwenview is considerably slower than the good old kuickshow, in fact everything is slower and buggier.
Things go even worse on a proper "enterprise desktop" setup. KDE4 has idiocies like running a local MySQL server per each user which just does not go along with having your $HOME on NFS on a NAS somewhere. Granted it is not the sole offender there - mozilla's move to SQL-lite had the same effect. While you can get around some of that by moving to NFS4 a lot of the bottlenecks will still be there and so on. All in all it is an appaling CPU hog and tickles all kinds of bugs in underlying graphic drivers especially on older Radeons.
I tried to use it for one month when Debian moved to 4 in Squeeze and ended up migrating all of my users to XFCE
Wednesday 9th November 2011 12:56 GMT Ru
Of Power and Word Processors...
If you wanted something more powerful than AbiWord, you should be looking at something like LyX. But you didn't really want that at all, did you? You actually wanted something more *featureful*.
The same might be said of the difference between XFCE and Gnome.
Regarding lightweightness, I can certainly verify that Xubuntu runs significantly more smoothly on older hardware than KDE4 Kubuntu. I don't really care about the relative size of the two platforms. Storage space is easily upgradable for most old consumer hardware, processing power not so much. Even if KDE didn't ship with a whole raft of applications, the window manager would still be a real resource hog.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 12:56 GMT Mint Sauce
I switched to xubuntu a while back and am very happy with it. It's not that I set out to hate unity or Gnome 3, it's just that I found them very frustrating to use. XFCE is fairly clean and simple and just allows me to do the things I want without fighting my way through the user interface.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 12:56 GMT Krydahl
XFCE was better than Gnome 2 never mind 3
Well, for me anyhow.
I use a dual head set up. XFCE actually knows about both monitors, allows you to configure wallpapers separately, specify which monitor you want panels on etc, which is more than I could ever get gnome to do.
I also love XFCE's ability to show your main menu on a desktop right click. Not too useful on a small screen where windows will tend to be maximised, but when you've got lots of screen real estate I find it faster than having to find a panel launcher.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 12:56 GMT Anonymous Coward
The leap from KDE to gnome was hard when KDE lost its way. Now we're having to do the same from gnome, which is a pity, though I have to say I've enjoyed XFCE for some time.
Interestingly, I'm talking to someone who sees the gnome3 issue as fair and square at the door of Canonical and is wanting to move away from Ubuntu, whether the XFCE variant or not. He sees Unity as an attempt to resolve the gnome3 issue by replicating them. I don't think this is fair, myself, but it's an interesting perception and that sense of having been let down probably speaks volumes for what Ubuntu/Canonical has achieved.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 12:56 GMT Richie 1
Friday 11th November 2011 21:31 GMT John Bailey
How abotu not doing this.
Because it's pointless. No matter what is said, someone will disagree. and they are right... For a given amount of right. Because each one fits the person who chooses it. And will be awkward, unfamiliar, and annoying to someone who can't give it a good week or two.
I recently switched from Gnome to KDE. And it took a week or two to get my bearings. Now I like it.
Use what you like, be open to trying a new one every now and then, and you can make your own mind up. Each one is a yum/apt/what ever away. Go see for yourself.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:14 GMT A. Lewis
XFCE is a very nice desktop.
I've been using it for a while. I started with Xubuntu on my first laptot, which worked nicely on the small, 800x480 screen. I stuck with it on my main laptop because it always felt faster than Gnome or KDE. Since Unity was introduced I've swapped my desktop to Xubuntu, too.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:36 GMT Pete 2
Here's me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . here's my apps
All I want from a desktop (or O/S, for that matter) is to minimise the distance / fuss / time / delay / keystrokes / clicks / resource usage that comes between me, sitting at my screen and the stuff I really want to do: i.e. run some applications.
It makes little difference to me whether the underlying display is Gnome (2, 3 take your pick), XP, 3270, OSX, Xfce or Android. All I want to do is run my apps and, most importantly - GET STUFF DONE. Likewise I simply don't care what colour or picture is on my desktop, or for that matter whether the desk itself is made of wood, plastic, laminate, glass or an upturned beer crate. Just so long as it doesn't get between me and what I want to do, I'm happy. If it does put additional steps in my way, then it's become part of the problem: to be removed, rather than a benefit that I want.
So, to all the GUI wizards out there I say: stop rattling on about all these wizzy desktop features: docks, bars, configurable backgrounds, movable buttons and all the other malarky. If what you're doing doesn't help the user to run the programs they got their computers to do, then you're wasting your time. You may well be producing stuff that may well make yourself look oh-so clever in the eyes of your peers, but it is merely an unwelcome hindrance to those of us unlucky enough to have if included in the environment we choose (or have to) use.
In GUI design and implementation less is most definitely more and simplicity rules.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:38 GMT Jim 59
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:38 GMT David Hicks
Best of both worlds
For me anyway, I had a full gnome system that updated to Gnome 3 in the last upgrade. I just installed XFCE 4 on top and hey presto - Gnome 2 style panels and menus and all the applications I was used to.
It really is a godsend and allowed me to get back to work instead of fighting with enforced "paradigm shifts" (cockups).
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:40 GMT slaup
the one irritation I had with Thunar is the inability to mount sftp (and smb/other I believe) and have it incorporated seamlessly. But for sure gnome 3/unity are both a steaming pile for most linux users today I would imagine. They better hope their gamble pays off and get the desktop users they are targeting otherwise they'll end up with no one in the long run!
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:40 GMT ukiconpainter
Best of both for me
I like the XFCE GUI more than unity, but I like the default packages that come with Ubuntu, so I install Ubuntu then the xubuntu-desktop package and select XFCE at login. As it remembers the last selection that only has to be done once. This means I get Libre-Office, Shotwell, Nautilus (with Dropbox) easily and quickly.
Works a treat and if I need to use an old machine then a xubuntu is a good starting point,
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:40 GMT wheelybird
Choice, not fragmentation
I don't like Unity. I gave Gnome 3 a go, but even with mods to make it more like Gnome 2 I couldn't bring myself to enjoy it; mostly because of the lack of wobbly windows ;)
As much as I didn't like these two new offerings, I didn't start having a tantrum about how unusable Linux is these days because, and here is a point which people keep overlooking and which I think this article is helping to address, if you don't like it, don't use it.
There are other desktop environments for Linux, and switching between them doesn't mean (as this article suggests) that you need to reinstall your current distro.
A visit to Synaptic or Software centre or a one line command with yum will download a new desktop environment for you and you can log out of the current one and then log into your new environment.
I think that this is what Shuttleworth meant when he talked about 'different ways to skin Ubuntu', though I think he's not being proactive enough in telling people how to avoid Unity if they dislike it so much.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:40 GMT Tony Green
The best thing about XFCE...
...is that it just works as a simple interface to control the windows on my screen. Unlike KDE4, it doesn't try to do all kinds of ridiculous things that just use resources and don't actually provide any useful functionality. Seriously, who needs crap like Nepomuk, Strigi and all the other stuff KDE4 depends on?
Wednesday 9th November 2011 17:10 GMT Anonymous Coward
Thursday 10th November 2011 01:27 GMT Tony Green
One problem is, half of it gets restarted again even if you think you've disabled it. And with more recent releases, such staples as Kmail don't even seem to be able to work without Nepomuk.
Though actually, since Kmail's functionally useless because they screwed up kaddressbook, so that was another reason to dump it.
And all in all, KDE4 gets in the way of me getting things done. XFCE (like KDE3) allows me to get on with my work.
This post has been deleted by its author
Wednesday 9th November 2011 13:44 GMT Herbert Meyer
for foot injuries
I have XFCE installed for the inFrequent occasions when I shoot off my foot, trying to "Improve" the gnome or unity desktop. Until recently, wifi required a graphical desktop to start, so I would have to find the ethernet cable to run a command line when I had improved the system too much.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:11 GMT Niall
Unity ruined Linux for me
And I was a solid user (work and home) for 6+ years. I even ran Ubuntu as the only OS on my macbooks.
Unity is worse than Linux in the old days. At least back then, when you had to configure stuff manually, the end result was a productive desktop.
If I ever return I'll try Xfce. Thanks for the good review.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:59 GMT PyLETS
Unity OK on a netbook
But it's now causing issues for my father in law who inadvertently dist upgraded his Ubuntu desktop system. I switched from KDE to Gnome about 3-4 years ago when KDE broke my audio and I couldn't figure out how to repair it any other way.
I've used XFCE in the past to keep ancient hardware useful. But I'll be looking at XFCE again (probably Xubuntu) as neither Gnome 3 nor Unity seems to be the way to go for larger displays.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 16:00 GMT Anonymous Coward
Another Gnome refugee
What the hell did they think they were doing? I 3.2 installed to keep tabs on what they're up to and rather than addressing the core issues - it sucks - they're putting lipstick on the pig.
Anyway, XFCE. Light, easy to use, but the menu editing is a pain in the arse. Also the first load of the menu is painful to watch on my Atom powered netbook.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 16:15 GMT Paul 135
Wednesday 9th November 2011 19:57 GMT Wile E. Veteran
XFCE, which I use exclusively, reminds me a lot of the old CDE (Common Desktop Environment) Sun and HP (maybe others) used to ship with their workstations. I used CDE quite a bit back in the day and got very used to it. Even the default SunOS desktop became more CDE-like in its latter days.
I developed a lot of ``muscle memory'' for CDE or a similar desktop so I have found XFCE particularly easy to use. On my old Celeron-based laptop, Xubuntu 11.04 (Natty) runs a treat (don't ask about 11.10 -- that sucks big-time).
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:08 GMT Anonymous Coward
The real question otoh...
I think many people like XFCE4 because its much smaller, much more basic and still manages to get its job done. Its a very decent yet complete desktop manager.
Funnily enough I think its a bit bloated, in comparison to what it once was. Then again, back then (several years back) I started using it because it most closely resembled Sun's CDE desktop, which I've always quite liked (for a server anyway).
Still, I think the question here shouldn't be "why Gnome users like XFCE4". I think the real question is "How long will people still like XFCE4 ?".
It wouldn't be the first project people flock to because its suddenly "cool" and before you know the project heads into directions which the average user never anticipated for nor really wanted.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:12 GMT Adair
Just for the record...
...I'm quite enjoying Gnome 3. Have used Gnome (for years), LXDE, xfce, but have never really got on with KDE for some reason. Granted Gnome 3 is still pretty raw and lacking quite badly in some respects, but hopefully will improve, but even so after using it for the last two months, interspersed with a comparison with xfce, I just like it, simple as that!
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:16 GMT Anonymous Coward
I use XFCE on my netbook and my build machine. On my netbook because I don't want too many plugins and wotnot supping the atoms meagre cpu cycles, and on my build machine because I want all four cores to myself, damnit!
The only thing I know that Nautilus can do that Thunar can't so far is tabbed windows and movie file previews, although I don't run the latest Thunar - just whatever Debian and Fedora give me - but personally I find neither are good reasons to bother with the heavyweight file manager.
Thursday 10th November 2011 09:27 GMT timv
Thursday 10th November 2011 09:45 GMT CBrowne
My two cents
I run a Ubuntu 10.04LTS server at home (upgrading to 12.04 next year... that'll be fun!) and my primary desktop is running 11.10.
Whilst I couldn't more heartily agree with the sentiments of all the other Linux users who hate Gnome 3 (and Unity) and are jumping ship to join XFCE, I can't help but wonder just how many of these users are actively contributing to the development of any applications. For me to switch to Xfce would not only take Xfce being my preference (which, admittedly, it is), but also for Xfce to be the preference of the majority of application developers on my chosen platform (GNU/Linux).
Does anyone have statistics on how many application developers are writing for Xfce now instead of Gnome? Is Thunar going to get a few Nautilus developers, for example, or is the Linux userbase no longer intrinsically linked to the Linux developerbase?
I'll ride the storm of Gnome 3 until I hear that developers are switching and not "just" users.
At the risk of turning this post into a rant...
Gnome 3 is just one symptom of a much larger problem - the industry as a whole is looking towards tablets and smartphones as being the future of computing. The desktop is becoming an obsolete timepiece from a bygone era, and this is making a lot of people understandably upset. I'm one of them! I certainly hope that the desktop is not going to be replaced by the tablet, and I can't see any reason why it should be - until developers are writing on tablets, for tablets, it's not a replacement for the desktop. It's merely an extension of it. Windows is doing it with Windows 8, Linux is doing it with Gnome 3 and Unity and Mac is doing it on their iOS line... oh wait, Mac aren't doing it to their desktop operating system... they've realised there are two different markets that need to be catered for in two different ways. Shock horror, someone in the industry is still making sensible decisions. For once, it isn't Linux.
Thursday 10th November 2011 13:28 GMT Captain TickTock
Shtop - this desktop is not ready!
I've just upgraded my laptop to Natty first, which had a perfectly workable Gnome 2 fallback (for me anyway) and I've just upgraded it to 11.10, and now I wish I had waited.
Not because for me Gnome 3 or Unity intrinsically suck - they're just neither of them finished - there is still a lot of stuff to put back in -screensavers, customisation, etc - but at least there's the tweak tool. My big disappointment with Gnome 3 in 11.10 was that the font rendering varies from bad hinting and anti-aliasing to being quite broken, which I'm sure will be fixed with an update soon enough. In the past I've waited at least a month before updating, I should have waited more this time, that's all.
Meanwhile, the Gnome 2-ish "Classic" fallback in 11.10 is not as pretty, but is good enough for me. And Unity has improved over 11.04. Seems to take a long time to start up, I'll give LXDE and/or XFCE a go, and wait before upgrading my desktop to 11.10.
I'm finding this whole Unity/Gnome3 thing quite interesting to follow.
For all the problems, it's still worth far more than every penny I spent on it.
Be grateful for what you can still get for free, I say.
Mine's a Grolsch
Friday 11th November 2011 14:02 GMT IGnatius T Foobar
So why bother with Ubuntu?
The general consensus is that existing users don't like GNOME Shell, and generally *hate* Unity. So why bother with Ubuntu at all? If you're going to go with Xfce (and it seems that most of us existing Linux users are going that way, because we want our desktops to look and act like desktops, not like overgrown broken smartphones) then you might as well just stick with a stock Debian install.
"apt-get install xubuntu-desktop" is a great way to make your computer usable again after Ubuntu updates force Unity at you, but it's pretty clear that Ubuntu has jumped the shark with this one.
Wednesday 16th November 2011 16:01 GMT GrahamT
Thank you, people
I'm sure no one is reading this thread anymore, but just in case;
Having read all the comments, I switched my laptop from Unity/Gnome 3 to Xubuntu/Xfce. (sudo apt-get xubuntu-desktop) I am really happy I did. I can't say i *hated* Unity/Gnome 3, just that they "got in the way" and left me scratching my ancient head about ways to do simple tasks.
Xfce hasn't been completely trouble free, but at least most things look and work the way I want them to, and Google has sorted out the rest. (and I still have all the Ubuntu/Gnome apps I installed)
Last time I tried Xfce it had less flesh on it than a catwalk model, but I was pleasntly shocked at how much it has come on. This is what Canonical should be offering as the default rather than Unity.
Thank you again all the splendid people that know what they are talking about.