Thursday, 6 October 2011

How-to: Xfce on Ubuntu 11.10 Beta

Xfce on Ubuntu 11.10 BetaMy failure to get on with the Ubuntu Unity interface is well documented. Meanwhile, D-day is getting closer: Ubuntu 11.10 drops on Oct. 13th  and the 11.10 release contains no 'fallback' to Gnome or any other desktop.

I am now running plan B: the Xfce desktop environment sitting on top of the 11.10 Beta release. So far it looks promising...

What I have set up is not the official Xubuntu release, but rather the regular 11.10 Unity release with Xfce4 added to it. This means the regular Ubuntu applications stack and not the Xfce lightweight alternate stack - I'm just swapping Unity for Xfce, with the ability to switch sessions between them.

About Xfce
To quote from the Xfce project page:
"Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for UNIX-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly.

It consists of a number of components that provide the full functionality one can expect of a modern desktop environment. They are packaged separately and you can pick among the available packages to create the optimal personal working environment."

Downloading and installing the Xfce4 meta-package from the Ubuntu repository takes a few minutes to pull in a number of core components:
  • Window Manager: manages the placement of windows on the screen, provides window decorations and manages workspaces or virtual desktops.
  • Desktop Manager: sets the background image and provides a root window menu, desktop icons or minimized icons and a windows list.
  • Main menu and panels: switch between opened windows, launch applications, switch workspaces and menu plugins to browse applications or directories.

Among the Xfce desktop features are:
  • a replacement file manager, Thunar, working better than ever and now has expanded functionality; a serious rival to Nautilus.
  • improved panels which are now easier to use.
  • a settings manager to makes all of the settings easy to find and configure.
  • an application finder tool to helps locate applications installed on your computer.
What this gives me is a very conventional Gnome-like desktop experience without the frustrations of the current version of Unity. RC