Thursday, 13 January 2005, 14:41:12 EST
First, an article that details why I prefer that people who disagree with me back up their disagreement with some evidence. It isn't difficult to do and something I wish people would realize as being beneficial. Second, I want to thank an old teacher of mine (who will probably never read this) for teaching me how to write somewhat coherently. In high school, I was required to take a remedial course because of my inability to write well. I was not happy with having to take this course and stubbornly fought it. The teacher, Jean Austin, wouldn't let me win though. I didn't realize it at the time but what she did for me is one of the most invaluable services anyone could have ever done for me. As I read websites and miscellaneous forum posts my mind reels at the incoherence of the words and paragraphs I read. One of Austin's exercises for me was to write instructions, in paragraph form, on how to put together a sandwich, e.g. a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and she would follow the instructions line by line. If I didn't clearly write how to build the sandwich I could end up with a sandwich that would have peanut butter and jelly on all sides of the bread and the slices may not even be one on top of the other. No, I am not a perfect writer, I am not even close to one, but, I do make a conscionable effort to write clearly. I just wish others would realize that doing such a thing is imperative to convey your thoughts to other people.
Slight change of pace... I read a review of an independent installer for XFCE. I had tried out XFCE when 4.0 was in the final stages of beta and found it to be a rather decent desktop environment. However, the project was still very early in the re-engineering process so some things were lacking. Stuff like the file manager and desktop were not quite polished up yet. My biggest gripe with it was the panel; by default the panel does not extend across the whole bottom of the screen, in fact there is not a setting to make it do so, which would leave large empty areas on the screen when an application was maximized. I really don't like that and almost every application I use, I use in a maximized state. After reading this recent article I decided to give XFCE another chance. The installers provided by OS-Cillation.com are very well done. I agree with the author's assertion that Gnome and KDE should take a queue from them and create similar installers for their products. The installer tells you what dependencies your system needs to meet before it can continue and proceeds without a hitch after they are met.
As I write this, I am using XFCE on my laptop. It has certainly come a long way since the last time I used it; the XFCE-Goodies packages certainly helps it out (you can get them from OS-Cillation). Having made Gnome my default environment for so long I have become accustomed to using the desktop as a sort of temporary directory and a place to store items I use regularly. XFCE doesn't support launchers or items on the desktop; instead, XFCE uses the desktop a place to put a pretty picture and allow access to the system menu. I remedied that problem by using nautilus to manage the desktop — every thing else is managed by XFCE. The window manager is excellent. It beats the hell out of metacity, Gnome's default window manager, hands down and it comes with some good themes (I like "Smallscreen"). Sadly, there are three problems I have with XFCE: the panel (still), the desktop manager, and customization options.
The panel still defaults to the bottom center of the screen. There is still no option to make it fill the screen from edge to edge. I was able to pseudo-fix this by adding a few "goodies" to the panel and making one of them "Expand to fill screen" (the taskbar item). This fix "works" but the panel will expand and contract at random some times as I change desktops or monitors that I have in it change text. This bugs me quite a bit as it is very distracting. I think that problem alone is enough to make me stop using XFCE again.
The desktop manager is just paltry. I can understand people not wanting launchers and files and such scattered all over the screen — I used to be one of those people. However, the option should be there for people who do like to use that functionality. Having to use another projects desktop manager is not acceptable and breaks one of XFCE's strong points: cohesiveness (seeing a theme here today?).
Which leads to my third gripe, customization, which I have already talked a bit about. Everything about XFCE is customizable just not to the degree that Gnome can be customized. There are only two fonts that can be changed; the window manager's font and the GUI font (menus, toolbars, buttons, etc). My eyesight isn't what it used to be so I need to be able to configure all of the fonts on screen to suit my vision. XFCE's limite font selection makes it very difficult to get all of the fonts that I will be interacting with configured properly.
Overall, I think that XFCE is well on the way to being a contender with Gnome and KDE. The system is sharp and works well. It uses very few resources and seems to be well written in that regard. If they took care of the problems I have talked about here I would probably switch to it. I would certainly like to be able to use a desktop environment that does not tax my system as much as Gnome does. However, Gnome is very full featured and does everything I need.