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A New Spin on the Xfce Window Manager

Getting Started

April 13, 2008

Xfce isn't for everyone, but for servers or minimal desktop systems, it's just what the doctor ordered. Rather lightweight in Window Manager terms--weighing in at around 63MB--Xfce arrives with a full complement of applications from Abiword, gnumeric, and pidgin to CD/DVD burning software (Brasero), Thunar File Manager, and a host of administrative applications. For this article, I am reviewing the Xfce Fedora Spin based on Fedora 8 and Xfce4.

A Spin is a hip, new term for a Live CD image. All Fedora 8 Spins are available on the Fedora Spins Project Tracker page as torrent downloads. If you don't have a bit torrent client, you can pick up the software for any OS at The BitTorrent Website.

Formerly known as XForms Common Environment, Xfce as an acronym doesn't stand for anything these days, since XForms are no longer part of its programming, but the name has stuck. Its look and feel is slightly reminiscent of the CDE (Common Desktop Environment) interface that once was the ubiquitous X Window interface for all commercial Unices. Currently at version 4.4.x, Xfce aims to be a small, fast, and efficient Window Manager. It delivers on all those fronts and it is pleasant to look at--as you can see in Figure 1.

Installing Xfce is a simple process if you have yum or apt-get in your distribution. The following command will download and install Xfce 4 and all dependencies for you.

# apt-get install xfce4


# yum install xfce4

You can also download the source code and compile it yourself or grab a graphical installer to assist you. To do so, go to the Xfce.org Download page. A few distribution-specific binaries are available on this page as well.