June 20, 2018

.comment: XFce: The Little Desktop That Could - page 2

Installation and Configuration

  • June 7, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

The initial XFce screen consists of a launcher bar and a pager; if you don't use multiple virtual desktops, or do but don't like pagers, it is easily closed. Above most of the icons on the launcher bar are buttons containing an arrow; click on one and a "drawer" appears. XFce finde some of your applications when you install it, but it does not do a thorough search. The top item of each drawer is "Add icon . . ." which spawns a dialog that lets you set up other applications as you wish. The default icons include a clock, standard browser, terminal, and editor applications, the trashcan, printer, general configuration, and mouse control panels, a second drawer of commonly found programs, and a help system that launches the browser in order to be seen. Adding new applications is straightforward and easy, and XFce even comes with a nice selection of icons to apply to applications you add. You can also browse to find both the program itself and its original icon. You have room to add any command line switches you need.

Dividing the row of icons is a desktop selector with buttons for each virtual desktop (clicking the right mouse button on any of them lets you change its name, in case "One," "Two," "Three," and "Four" are not to your liking) fringed by mini-icons to lock the screen, display the XFce license, run the configuration application, and quit. There is nothing here that can't be figured out easily, without the aid of the help system.

A little about the configuration application. It is in the now-common tabbed notebook motif, and somehow manages to include a great deal in four not-very-busy tabbed pages. I mentioned the pager application, which provides a small graphical display of the programs running on each of the four virtual desktops, and how it's easy to turn it off at startup. The configuration program lets you choose not to have it start to begin with. (Alternately, if four are too many or not enough, you can change the number of virtual desktops here, too.) Again, no one is likely to have much trouble with anything the application offers. There are more choices in the configuration selection drawer on the launcher bar--choosing a background bitmap, for instance, or setting up sounds (for use if no one has a desk close to yours). The same menu can be viewed by single-clicking the desktop. What I didn't see was a place to alter the typeface or size for titlebars and other places where XFce imposes letters; they are mighty tiny at a screen resolution of 1280x1024.

The file manager, XFTree, is to my eye scary looking. But again, it's very fast, very easy to use, and entirely efficient, which goes a long way toward soothing aesthetic wounds. A selected file or directory has the most extensive right mouse button menu I've ever seen, letting you do anything that can be done to the selected item without government permission or the blessing of clergy. XFTree is shown in Figure 2.

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