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So Many Linux Desktops: Which One is Best? - page 3

GNOME in a Nutshell

  • August 10, 2009
  • By Bruce Byfield

The truth is, development on Xfce began in 1996, under the name of XForms Common Environment. But, like the other major desktops, Xfce has long ago left its original name behind. It is now pronounced with each letter separate, rather than Xfce.

Both GNOME and KDE attempt to provide a complete desktop experience. As a result, they tend to grow in size with each release, and many purists -- indirectly invoking the old Unix idea of light and flexible applications, often refer to both as "bloatware." By contrast, Xfce displays a more minimalist philosophy, with its developers trying to keep the desktop small and quick. With this philosophy, Xfce is ideal for those who run old computers, but also want the convenience of a modern desktop.

Another possible audience for Xfce is those who prefer to choose the applications that best suit them, rather than using software simply because it was designed for the desktop that they are using. Xfce includes an option to preload the basic libraries for both GNOME and KDE, and the result is that it can mix applications far more quickly than the other major desktops can.

Xfce has only a few utilities written specifically for it. But, among the ones that exist, the standout is Thunar, a file manager that is not only quick, but full of useful features like a bulk renamer.

Compared to rival desktops, Xfce has only a few percent of the GNU/Linux desktop anywhere in the world. But, with its goals centered on performance rather than just features, Xfce can be a welcome alternative. The easiest place to find Xfce is in Xubuntu, although Xubuntu's performance can be slow compared to other implementations of Xfce.

Test-driving alternatives

These are not the only desktops available for GNU/Linux. Many regard LXDE, another lightweight desktop, as an up and coming choice, although it lacks some of the polish of Xfce. Others prefer one of the time-honored window managers, or simple graphical environments, such as IceWM or FVWM, or the tiled window managers like ratpoison. Without straining, you should be able to find several dozen alternatives, most of them catering to a specific need or design philosophy.

But, mostly, GNOME, KDE, and Xfce are the deskops that people are likely to see most often. Each is a useful place to start, and, if it doesn't suit you, one of the others can be installed in minutes. Graphical environments can be confusing in GNU/Linux, but one thing is sure -- you'll never lack alternatives.

Article courtesy of Datamation

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