Switching from GNOME to XFCE 4.4

I recently switched from GNOME to XFCE + SLiM, which is more light-weight. I am very satisfied with XFCE because of smaller footprint and less unnecessary applications.

However, I have encountered a few small issues.

Problem with opening a URL from Thunderbird

Clicking a URL in Thunderbird doesn’t open a browser at all. I was able to find a solution here. The more elegant and XFCE-friendly solution is to place the following file into /usr/lib/mozilla-thunderbird/defaults/pref/:

# /usr/lib/mozilla-thunderbird-defaults/pref/xfce.js

user_pref("network.protocol-handler.app.http","/usr/bin/exo-open");
user_pref("network.protocol-handler.app.https","/usr/bin/exo-open");
user_pref("network.protocol-handler.app.ftp","/usr/bin/exo-open");

Evince still requires GNOME.

Evince is a great document viewer, but it depends on many GNOME libraries. Therefore, installing Evince again means that the complete switchover to XFCE doesn’t make a sense. Instead, I installed the official Adobe Acrobat Reader as an alternative. (epdfview was also an option, but it lacks some essential features.)

I use QtCurve theme for GTK2, KDE3 and 4. The problem is that acroread is still a 32-bit application, and there’s no libqtcurve.so in Gentoo emul-* packages. The result was working but ugly and inconsistent look.

To make acroread have the same look with other 64-bit GUI applications, I have set up chrooted Gentoo x86 installation, emerged gtk-engines-qtcurve there and copied the 32-bit libqtcurve.so into /usr/lib32/gtk-2.0/2.10.0/engines/.

To be honest, it was painful to build all x86 stuff just for a single shared object, but it is also nice to see all applications has the same look and feel.

Notes applet loses the recent changes.

XFCE Notes applet saves its files a few minutes after keystroke, and it often leads to the loss of recent changes in my to-do list. There’s no workaround other than modifying the source code AFAIK. I hope the save timeout value becomes configurable in the near future.

XWFM doesn’t have a shortcut for cycling windows list backward.

With Metacity, I mapped ‘alt-grave(`)’ to cycle windows list backward. This mapping is very useful when you pressed alt-tab one or two more times by mistake – you can always go backward with just a few more alt-grave instead of cycling the long windows list with many alt-tab keystrokes.

Time Out applet counts down even if there’s no user activity.

XFCE Time Out applet is a good alternative to Workrave, but it doesn’t stop counting down even if I am away from the computer.

Conclusion

I mentioned a few problems I’ve found while I use XFCE 4.4 in this post and provided workarounds for some of them. You might feel that XFCE has a lot of problem from this post, but you got it wrong if you felt so. In my opinion, XFCE is an extremely stable and fast desktop environment with nice features and better customizability.

3 Comments Switching from GNOME to XFCE 4.4

  1. gabriel

    use the advanced settings editor. it’s a pain, but you can configure the backwards alt+tab as alt+` or something.

    Reply
  2. jhendy

    Once in the cycle of open windows via alt+tab, I can continue to hold tab, then hold shift as well, and then use tab to cycle backwards. Perhaps this will work for you?

    -John

    Reply

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