Thursday, 10 February 2011

Nitpicking on XFCE

As you might have noticed together with switching to Rawhide I've also switched to XFCE recently. Now that I'm quite used to it and have set it up in a way that it looks almost like my previous gnome set up, there are still some things that I don't like (or I am just dumb enough to don't know how to get rid of them :D).

So let's start with an obligatory screen-shot of my current desktop.
And now to actual complaints ;-) Beginning with the things that are on the screen-shot. I cannot drag-n-drop window buttons between themselves. I used this a lot in gnome to resort the windows for the ordering more functional than (like keeping the mail client always on the furthest left), I does not seem to be able to do that with xfce. Next comes the clock applet. I've found three none of which is perfect (one does not show date, another one does not have transparent backgrounds) with the one displayed being best. But as you see it's a bit cramped. IMHO there should be some space between the time and date, or an option to display it along side, not one above the other…

So, that was the top panel, now for desktop. For some reason right-clicking on the desktop peaks the cpu load and takes a while before menu appears (only for the first try, subsequent tries are reasonably fast). But the main issue are the filled rounded rectangles behind icon labels and way too big grid – I don't want only the wallpaper behind the icon labels and I want the icons to be closer together (while still this big). Another problem is when clicking on an icon it always opens thunar instead of the default file manager.

Now for the things in bottom panel. As I recall the workspace switcher behaves a little bit odd when setting up – when you switch number of rows of workspaces it takes effect only after re-logging which is a bit confusing (one is led to believe that it does not works only to be confronted with a working 2-row set-up after next log in).

Next is thunar. It seems to be a nice file manager but it lacks two killing features that were added in recent gnome releases to nautilus – tabs and two-panel browsing. While tabs are just more efficient substitutions for multiple windows, two-panel browsing makes moving and/or copying files around really pleasant. I hope the devs have it on their to-do list because, as I wrote before, using nautilus in xfce is kind of suboptimal.

And probably my final complaint is about setting up dual head. At home I have plasma TV which I can connect to via VGA cable. The problem is that while it supports 1368x768 60Hz resolution via this connection, it reports only 1024x768 60Hz, so I have to add that mode manually via xrandr. So far this is OK, this way it worked before in gnome as well. However even when I add that mode, the xfce config utility stubbornly refuses to set it up. Sigh. And to top it, there does not seem to be any way, in gui, to set the two monitors (integrated display and TV in this case) to be say next to each other. They're always over themselves and again I have to use xrandr directly to set the layout correctly.

And so that's probably all. And despite these little issues, I think XFCE is a really nice desktop environment almost ready to harbour all escapees from Gnome 3 in Fedora 15 ;-) In short, fix these above mentioned issues and it would probably be fully ready ;-)


Anonymous said...

Kevin Fenzi said...

Hey Martin. Thanks for the comments on Xfce. ;)

Perhaps you could post your remaining issues to the fedora xfce list: and folks might have workarounds or suggestions. ;)

Christoph said...

There is some help or at least hope for the issues you mention:

1. Drag&drop of tasks in the tasklist: Was possible in Xfce 4.6 but it's not in the 4.8 panel. I just spoke to Nick and by popular demand he will add it back, maybe already this weekend.

2. Ether reduce the size to have some space between the time and the date or add two plugins, one for date and one for time to have them along side. Or use Pango markup format as described in

3. For configuration of the grid on the desktop take a look at /usr/share/doc/xfdesktop-*/README

4. Re-login to apply the changes of the workspace switcher is definitely a bug and will be fixed.

5. No tabs, sorry. I have tried to convince Jannis several times, but avail. Not sure about a classical two pane view though.

Kevin and I will try to fix the remaining issues for F15 in order to give all gnome-shell refugees a new home.

Martin said...

@Anonymous: whoa, thanks, this works like a charm!

@Kevin Fenzi: Thanks for the suggestion. I'll probably do it after a while (especially seeing this very blog post is already leading to some suggestions ;-)

@Christoph: ad 1. Yay, now I'm eagerly watching every xfce panel update in rawhide :-D

ad 2. I already reduced the size to approach some so-so result. The available space still could be used better, I think. I'm using DateTime applet which does not seem to allow pango markup (at least not from the gui configuration). But I'll take a peek at the tips, thanks for the suggestion.

ad 3. Nice, this looks quite configurable.

ad 5. That's a pity. It really makes file managing more effective, especially the two panel layout…

nicu said...

In the wake of GNOME 3 I also gave another try to Xfce 4.8 and also found it missing... in fact pretty much all my problems from a year back when I tried 4.6 are still here.

Still... my main gripe, leading lo productivity loss, is icons on the desktop don't showing the file content. I am a lazy person and keep my current work right there on the desktop and most of them are images, sometime videos. Without seeing a preview of the content is really hard to find them.