One of the strong advantages of Linux over Windows or Mac is freedom. You find freedom in every corner of the Linux operating system. You have the freedom of choosing one out of hundreds of distros. Most new users of Linux are introduced to either Ubuntu or Mint. This helps in reducing the choices users have in terms of the number of distros. But here, we have one more choice to make within the distro itself. As you are already guessing, It is the DE ( Desktop Environment).
A DE is a collection of window manager, icons, panels, etc… This determines the look or GUI you are going to get on your distro. The modern DE’s include other software too including file managers and others. We have a variety of choices like Gnome, KDE, Unity, Xfce, and others. Today, we will look at Xfce.
XFCE Desktop Environment
Xfce is a Desktop environment for the X window system for Unix based systems. Xfce is around more than 2 decades and it has changed a lot and was rewritten two times. The latest version was released in 2015. It has a lot of features which we will discuss one by one.
Xfce is based on the traditional UNIX philosophy of modularity and reusability. It is a modular DE, simply put, it is a collection of different modules ( components) rather than a single package. It means that you can just install an individual module of Xfce such as its file manager without the whole package. This also means that instead of the default file manager, you can install and use any other file manager. This provides flexibility to users.
Xfce is only behind lxde in terms of minimal resource usage by a bit. It outperforms gnome and KDE to a large extent. It aims to reduce resource usage and that is the reason why many distros like Linux lite use it. It helps bring back the old computers to life. But the important thing about Xfce is that it does not sacrifice on the visual appeal to be lightweight.
Xfce may be old. But it is modern in its look and feels. It is used in many Linux distributions for the same reason. It gives enough customization to make it look like a completely different DE. For example, look at these three desktops of Xubuntu, xfce4 default, and Linux lite. All of these are xfce but don’t look like the same one. This is not even remotely possible in windows.
Xfce can be safely called the most stable DE. Now, there is also a problem with that. It does not change much and the updates are available once a year or more. It is written using gtk+ based on C. Xfce recently is trying to rewrite its code to gtk3. Some components are available in gtk3, while others are still in developmental stages. Gtk is an open source and the same is used by Gnome.
Linux needs DEs like this because unlike unity( which scares off new users from ever touching Linux) this is pretty similar to windows. This never gets in your way. It has a panel useful for windows users and has a dock for mac users. Now, do you see what we have here? A single DE for both worlds.
Note: – Mint has cinnamon which is the main advantage over ubuntu in terms of getting windows users. But cinnamon still has bugs and is developed keeping mint in mind, whereas, Xfce is for all distros. The desktop standards are published by freedesktop.org. Xfce tries to follow the paths laid down by those standards. These standards are one of the main priorities of Xfce development.
Modern DEs are not just a simple windows manager and icon collections anymore. They grew to accommodate many other essential components that provide a complete desktop experience. The following belong to Xfce DE:
This is handled by thunar. This is, just like all the components of the Xfce, developed from scratch by the Xfce team. The interface is minimal and still can be customized to a great extent. This does not provide a lot of options but, hey, we are not going to use them anyway. It is simple and easy.
Windows manager is an app that manages all the windows. Great definition, right? xfwm is the default and can be replaced by others like Fluxbox or can be installed alone or even adjusted to work with other DEs.It has a terminal, libraries, cd burner and other projects which are more or less designed to be light on system resources and flexible on the configuration part. The most important project would be the Xfce settings manager. This provides so much configuration that new users sometimes feel confused. But it is useful for experienced users.
Xfce is as I, again and again, said, a perfect DE for weak hardware while not sacrificing the modern looks of a desktop. The machine will still look like it belongs to the 21st century. Another reason is stability. If anyone is looking for a DE which is suitable for work pc, then, don’t look any further. This is the best out there.