Forget GNOME and KDE, Xfce 4.8 Runs Simpler and Faster
A few times each month, I tire of the complexities of GNOME and KDE. Then I turn to a simpler, faster desktop for a couple of days or a week -- and that desktop, more often than not, is Xfce. No other desktop I’m aware of balances convenience and speed half so well.
The only drawback has been that, until this week, the current version of Xfce has been a couple of years old and looking blocky and a little limited in what it can do. Consequently, the release of Xfce 4.8 is both welcome and overdue. The new release gives Xfce a facelift and some new enhancements to general functionality, settings, and -- most of all -- the panel, while not compromising previous releases' functionality and lightweight.
This approach makes 4.8 seem a minor release by GNOME or KDE standards, but I suspect that I'm not the only one who wouldn't have things any other way. Unlike the other major desktops, Xfce is a niche environment, and its success should be judged by how well it fills that niche -- not on how many new features and applications can be crammed into it. It's an attitude that may be timely, considering some of the changes due to arrive on the Linux desktop during 2011.
Xfce 4.8 is available as source code from the project, and already starting to become available for major distributions. Packaged versions are available from private repositories for Ubuntu and Fedora, as well as pre-release packages for Debian and its derivative distributions. You may find that some of these packages are incompatible with existing Xfce utilities -- for example, as I write, the Ubuntu packages are incompatible with the previous version's Orage calendar.