The first time I used Xfce was when I tried out the Belenix Live CD. Xfce was the only window manager bundled with it so I had no choice but to use it though my personal preference was Fluxbox. But after playing around in it for some time, I just couldn't stop admiring the usability and design of Xfce as well as the responsiveness of the applications when run in it.
So the first thing I did was to install it in Linux and take it for a test drive. And the things I found out were really interesting. For one, Xfce is not just any window manager out there but it is a desktop in its own might. It comes bundled with applications like its own light weight xterminal, a file manager, desktop configuration utilities, a light weight mail client, a media player and optional utilities like a calender similar to those that pop up in KDE and Gnome when you click on the clock in the panel and a very cool lightweight text editor.
But what sets Xfce apart from the more popular heavy weights like Gnome and KDE is its very low memory foot print. In fact, in the developer's own words, the aim of Xfce is to be a simple, light and efficient environment which is easy to use and configure, stable, fast and at the same time visually appealing. And not to speak of a clean desktop. In fact, I found out that the desktop is a separate utility which goes by the name xfdesktop and the user has the option of not running it in Xfce if he chose to.
Another aspect which endeared me to this light weight window manager cum desktop is that when you install or uninstall any software in Linux, the menus in Xfce are automatically updated to mirror the change which is a comfortable feature which is lacked by other light weight window managers including popular ones like Fluxbox.
In my opinion, it would be a good idea to install another light weight file manager called 'Rox' along side Xfce which I believe integrates quite well with the Xfce desktop.
If you are using a Debian based Linux distribution, installing rox is as simple as executing the command:
# apt-get install rox
I recommend using Rox file manager with Xfce because it is quite easy to associate file types with the applications of our choice in rox and it is blazing fast.
Software bundled with Xfce
- xffm - The light weight file manager
- xfdesktop - Enables menus to pop up when right clicked on the desktop.
- xfce-settings-show - Xfce settings manager, where you configure the desktop settings, keyboard, mouse, xfpanel.
- xfce4-panel - The Xfce4 panel.
- xfce4-menueditor - A useful widget to edit the menu entries in Xfce4.
- xfmail - A light weight mail client.
- xfmedia - A utility to play audio files.
- xfcalendar - This is an optional widget which gives a compact monthly calendar similar to those found in KDE and Gnome.
- xflock4 - Activates the screensaver and locks the display.
- xfrun4 - Run application command dialog box. Can be activated by using key sequence [Alt+F2] .
- xfhelp4 - Opens the Xfce4 documentation in the default web browser.
- xfce4-terminal - This is actually a script which runs the ubiquitous xterm but with better configuration. See this link for more details.
- mousepad - A light weight text editor. (Has to be installed separately).
And if you are usually booting into run level 2 or 3 and then starting a window manager using the startx command, then you may make Xfce the default window manager by creating a hidden file by name .xinitrc in your home directory and entering the command startxfce4 in it as follows:
$ touch .xinitrc
$ echo "startxfce4" > .xinitrc
One thing that I found really annoying though is that when I start nautilus (the Gnome file manager), it overlaps my xfce desktop and I stop getting the xfce menus when I right click on the desktop. I figured a work around here in that by using the --no-desktop flag, I was able to circumvent this problem.
$ nautilus --no-desktop
After using this light weight window manager (version 4.2.2) for a week now, I am so impressed by it that I have made it my default window manager in Linux.