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xfce

I have been using KDE on my laptop for quite a while now. Overall I have been happy with it, but an annoying bug has crept in recently that prompted me to check out the xfce desktop.

I'm not sure if the bug I was seeing was in KDE or in firefox, but if I open a bunch of tabs or otherwise make firefox busy, KDE's window manager goes into la-la land. I can't switch desktops or otherwise do anything until firefox is finished loading all the tabs. This is annoying since often I want to open a bunch of things in firefox and go read mail or do something on another desktop while it loads.

So, I looked at alternatives:

Gnome is available of course, but the reason I never used Gnome is that unless you like to do things the particular way that Gnome is setup to do them you are out of luck. The Gnome folks seem to really not like anything to be configurable anymore.

So, I took a look at XFCE , which until a few days ago was included in Fedora Core (It was one of the things pushed from Core to extras for the next release). It sounded nice from the documentation, but I also noted that the version in Fedora Core 3 is a older version lacking a number of good features.

Deciding that I wanted to try the newest version, I tried to install the rpms from the xfce.org site. They didn't seem to want to install for me. I was getting weird selinux errors and otherwise having no joy. So, I pulled the src.rpms from there and built the packages from rpm. Those worked great. XFCE 4.2 upgraded fine from the 4.0.6 version that was installed.

Switching to using it is pretty simple, you can choose xfce from the kdm/gdm menu or use switchdesk to change your default desktop to xfce and then you just login.

Some general impressions:

  • It's Fast! The login process takes only a few seconds, and switching desktops is super fast.
  • The setup tools are pretty simple and easy to use. You can save your sessions, setup backgrounds, virtual desktops, themes, all the things you expect from a desktop.
  • You can optionally have it load the gnome or kde background libs that gnome/kde applications need to run. This makes the startup slower, but makes starting gnome/kde apps much quicker later.
  • The problem with firefox is gone. I can load 30 tabs and switch desktops and otherwise use other applications until firefox is done.
  • I was using 2 KDE tools that I had to find alternatives for: Switched to Eterm from konsole, switched from kopete to gaim.
  • As you might expect, memory usage is way down. All the xfce processes take up between 50-60mb. KDE is a lot more heavy than that.

I think XFCE is a pretty nice setup. I will run it for a week or two and see if I want to stick with it.

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