Migrating from MATE to Xfce — 2

Part 1: Migrating from MATE to Xfce — 1

Before I updated my Slackware systems to Xfce 4.12, which for Slackware 14.1 could be done only through a personal repository or me compiling all packages, I decided to look at some Live ISO images favoring Xfce.

My first run was with Manjaro, where developers boast that Xfce is their flag ship desktop. In a Virtual Machine the performance was horrible. I burned the image to a USB flash drive and had much better results. My first impression was the system is fast — but my eyes do not respond well to dark themes. Yet trying to change the default Manjaro theme proved futile because all of the themes packaged with the Live ISO are dark themes. All have dark title bars. Along with this default dark theme, the default mouse pointer is — black. A black mouse pointer on a dark background and theme.

A clue the geeks are in charge is the typical thin panel height. I have no idea why developers are obsessed with panels that are so thin.

The Live ISO came with a PDF copy on the desktop of the Manjaro user guide. Good start and worth applauding. Yet the user guide suffers from a common geek focus. The guide starts with instructions about obtaining the system. Um, I am running the Live ISO. I think I already did that. The next section is about installing. Same geek clap trap. About four fifths of the document is wasted on these two topics with the remaining dozen pages discussing the actual desktop. Such a shame because an obvious amount of dedicated work went into the document.

Developers, please. A user’s guide is for using the system. Getting and installing your system is an administrative task, something that is performed once by most people. Dedicate the user’s guide to using the system. Stop cramming every topic into a single mega-manual.

Create distinct guides:

  • Installation Guide
  • Quick Start Guide
  • User Guide
  • Administrator Guide

The Installation Guide could be merged into the Administrator Guide.

Manjaro has three desktop icons for installing. That is silly. People venturing into Linux for the first time do not need this kind of confusion or intimidation. Stop catering to the geeks — a single icon is sufficient. Place geek tools in a testing ISO rather than the Live image.

Yeah, I know — none of this has anything to do with Xfce. I am just venting.

Manjaro Xfce is built with the popular Whisker menu. In the Favorites category is, once again, a Terminal Emulator option. That is a good way to scare non technical users . At least the panel is void of such an icon. The default number of workspaces is two, a notable improvement over the typical default four.

In all I found Manjaro fast, as often reported in click-bait reviews. Manjaro Xfce likely has much potential. I get the feeling the Manjaro developers are open and responsive to constructive feedback. I did not install the system as my short-term goal was to review how other people are configuring Xfce.

My next venture into an Xfce distro was Linux Mint 17.3. I found the 17.3 ISO fairly nice. Other than the trademark Mint desktop wallpaper, I found the Xfce version pleasant to use and view.

Unlike Manjaro the Mint ISO uses a light theme. Unlike Manjaro the default design of Mint Xfce is to place a terminal icon on the panel and the default number of workspaces is four. The usual geek perspective, which tends to prevail in Mint design. The Whisker menu is installed and in Favorites is, again, a Terminal Emulator. The Mint Whisker menu is configured with the top level menu items on the left side, which makes more sense when most people read left-to-right.

Like Manjaro the default single panel is on the bottom of the desktop as would be expected in a traditional desktop layout. Like Manjaro the default panel height is woefully thin.

Interestingly, the irritating F10 menu bar accelerator option is not available in the Mint Xfce Settings Editor. Perhaps this is theme related.

My next venture into an Xfce distro was Korora 23 Beta. Before opting for a Korora test run I tried installing Xfce in my Fedora F22 system. Originally this was a Fedora Workstation updated from Fedora 21, using the original GNOME desktop but since molded into a MATE desktop with most if not all GNOME pieces removed. Yes, in hindsight using the MATE or Xfce spin would have been easier, but few journeys in life start with perfect clairvoyance. Still when I tried to install the Xfce Desktopgroup package using dnf, I was informed the package was already installed. I knew that was incorrect. Hoping to get a clean chance, when I tried to “remove” the Xfce Desktopgroup package using dnf I was informed the package was not installed. Dogs chasing tails. I have concluded that, like so many bleeding edge ideas, of which Fedora is filled with too many, dnf is Yet Another Half-Baked Idea.

The Korora developers like bright colors. The collage of colors for a background is cute but for me, distracting. Then again, this is a Live image, so perhaps some “liveliness” is expected. A second note is while a single panel is used, the typical GNOME/Red Hat heritage prevails with placing panels at the top of the desktop. The single panel height is again woefully thin.

Developers, get a clue about these thin panels.

As with Manjaro and Mint, the Whisker menu is used. The top level menu items are configured on the right. To be different the system options are at the bottom of the Whisker menu rather than the top.

The Korora desktop comes with the Xfdashboard. I am not fond of dashes for my personal work flow, but this probably is an interesting addition for many users. Of course, being designed by geeks, the default dash contains an icon for a terminal as does the Whisker menu Favorites.

Browsing these Xfce 4.12 Live distros is not intended at all to be a review in any form. I only wanted some first impressions of Xfce 4.12 before updating my Slackware 14.1 systems.

During these quick ventures I discovered the Window Button applet supports drag-and-drop, although not obvious to me previously in Xfce 4.10. All of the Xfce 4.12 systems had the desktop icon text centered under the icon, so that probably was a bug in 4.10 or in my older config files. I now know how to quickly disable the F10 menu bar accelerator shortcut. While the Whisker menu is popular and an appropriate choice for non technical users, I prefer the traditional menu. I just like the older simple menu style.

I saw enough of 4.12 to convince me that updating might be worth my time to explore whether I can replace MATE.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, MATE, Xfce

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