|Xfce 4.10: Simple, Fast, Reliable|
|By Howard Fosdick on 2014-06-07 00:53:40|
|Over the past several years, mobile devices have greatly influenced user interfaces. That's great for handheld users but leaves those of us who rely on laptops and desktops in the lurch. Windows 8, Ubuntu Unity, and GNOME have all radically changed in ways that leave personal computer users scratching their heads.
One user interface completely avoided this controversy: Xfce. This review takes a quick look at Xfce today. Who is this product for? Who should pass it by?
1996, the Xfce desktop environment has evolved at a steady, non-disruptive pace. It's reliable. I've
used it for six years and have rarely encountered bugs. Most
important, Xfce presents a simple menu-driven interface on a
traditional desktop. Anyone who's
ever used a computer can sit down with it and
immediately become productive. No mysteries here about "Where's the
Start button?" or "Does it have a menu?" or "How do I add a desktop
Xfce also bundles a default set of applications: Midiori for web browsing, Xfburn for creating optical discs, Ristretto for viewing images, Orage for calendaring, Mixer for audio tracks, and Terminal for a command line interface. Distros often modify this list by their own additions and omissions.
Compatible and Lightweight
Xfce has a minimalist philosophy. The idea is to provide a basic desktop environment, to which you add any applications you need. You can add GNOME or even KDE apps without package dependency problems. You can also start GNOME or KDE services automatically upon startup. I often install Xfce along with MATE and various GNOME and KDE apps in a single Linux Mint instance. It all works without conflicts.
Xfce is lightweight. Most Xfce-based distros download to a single CD, rather than requiring a DVD. Memory use is significantly less than for KDE or GNOME. Interactive response is quicker, too.
I've installed Xfce on many Pentium IV HT and early dual-core systems, as part of Xubuntu, Mint, or VectorLinux. These systems are up to ten years old and often have as little as 512 megabytes of main memory and 256 megabytes of video ram. With this lightweight software, even these old computers are responsive. They can perform nearly all the same desktop functions as state-of-the-art hardware.
All those Windows XP boxes people are throwing out? Most could continue in service simply by installing a good Xfce-based Linux.
Who is Xfce For?
If you're looking for a flashy interface or bells and whistles, don't bother with Xfce. You'll probably find it boring. If you want your PC to mimic your handheld, try Windows 8, Ubuntu Unity, or GNOME. And if you hanker after all the latest features, Xfce will disappoint.
I recommend Xfce for those who want to concentrate on their work rather than their software. It's a simple, traditional desktop. PC users like it. It's an excellent choice for when you install and configure a system for a family member, friend, or other end user. You won't have to train them on how to use it. While other interfaces have morphed out of all recognition over the past few years, Xfce stayed the course. It's stable and reliable; bugs are rare. The product is fast and lightweight, so it works well on low-spec and older computers.
If simplicity, usability, and reliability top your goals, Xfce is worth a close look. To learn more, take the Xfce 4.10 tour, read the Xfce introduction, or explore the online wiki.
Howard Fosdick is a database and systems administrator who works as an independent consultant. He frequently writes technical articles and has an M.S. in Computer Science.