Open Source Desktop: Xfce's Advantages: Page 2

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Xfce's panels support standard applets, including a system tray, a pager to switch between virtual desktops, a task list, a clock, and a button for logging in and out. A few more options, such as applets for hardware monitoring or searching would round out the selection, but most people's basic needs should be met by Xfce's selection.

Similarly, although Xfce does not allow panels of any color except default gray, it does allow panels to occupy less than the full side of the screen, and to float on the desktop -- two features unavailable in KDE or GNOME.

The same combination of basic options with a few original touches is noticeable throughout the Setting Manager. Resolution, keyboard, and mouse all have basic configuration options, and you can set your preferred web browser and email reader under Preferred Applications. The window manager's behavior can also be highly customized, including the keyboard shortcuts.

At the same time, Xfce has a few options I'd like to see in GNOME, such as a setup option to change the splash screen that displays on startup, the ability to set a margin in which new windows will not appear, and the choice of whether to enable services designed for other desktops upon startup.

Although most distributions are using the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS) for printing these days, those using Xfce on older machines to reduce overhead might also appreciate the Printing selection application, which allows users to choose whether to use CUPS or the older, smaller lpr. Xfce's options also include a number of choices for accessibility, although these are scattered among other choices, rather than available from a single window.

Overall, the latest version of Xfce looks and acts like a stripped down, more responsive version of GNOME. The desktop's panels and their apps, as well as Xfce's terminal emulator and Mousepad text editor, all closely resemble their counterparts in GNOME.

The resemblance will be even closer if you already have GNOME installed, because Xfce's and GNOME's menus and desktop icons are defined in files with identical names, and Xfce will happily use GNOME's pre-existing files. This similarity has the advantage of easing the transition to Xfce for GNOME users.

However, even GNOME users should be prepared for some differences. Right-clicking the desktop results in a menu of installed programs, rather than desktop options. Instead, desktop options, including the addition of a new icon, are available by right-clicking on an existing icon and selecting Desktop. Nor can icons be dragged and dropped between the desktop, menu, and panels. These differences are far from showstoppers, but they can take some acclimatization.

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