Wed, 23 Mar 2011
The first alternative to GNOME I have decided to try is XFCE. In the LWN discussion, Jon Masters presented it as a viable replacement to GNOME. Also, it uses GTK+ like GNOME, so many applications can be the same (including, I have hoped, my window manager of choice, Sawfish. XFCE is definitely usable and configurable for power-user. Most (but not all) properties can also be set using their Settings manager, and thus XFCE should also be mostly usable for ordinary users. So far the problems include:
- The keyboard configuration allows the user to set multiple layouts (for
example English and Czech/qwerty), but I did not find how to set layout
options, for example the layout switching hot-key. Adding a
setxkbmapcommand to the startup script is trivial, though (#5487).
- The touchpad settings such as edge scrolling are not remembered
and cannot be set in the Settings manager. The solution is another startup
synclientwith the appropriate parameters (#5300).
- The window manager cannot be chosen in a GUI. I had to remove the
xfwm4from the session and add Sawfish there instead (that said, I have nothing special against the default WM, I am just more used to Sawfish right now).
- The Terminal application does not have
Ctrl -hotkeys for increasing/decreasing the font size (I sometimes use it, for example when more than one person is looking at the window). When the font size is set in the terminal menu, the physical window size remains the same, which means the number of rows and columns changes. Not good. I have solved this by choosing
gnome-terminalin Preferred applications (#5605).
- Moving applets inside a panel is not intuitive, and I have not found out yet how to reorder the launchers on a panel (#7142).
- Changing the orientation of a panel to vertical requires several non-trivial configuration steps. However, I have managed to configure the date/time applet (the only text applet on my panel) to fit a 48 pixels wide vertical panel, and I will probably keep the vertical panel orientation, as for most apps, the screen is more crowded in the horizontal direction (#7434).
XFCE is tightly related to both GTK+ and GNOME, and can incorporate various parts of GNOME (some notification area applets, keyring manager, etc). So I guess I would be able to use it as a replacement, if not for the whole GNOME, then at least for the central parts like GNOME Shell.