Switched gnome3 for xfce


I've been running exclusively linux for about three years now. The only times I've had to look back to windows was for web dev testing on explorer and, of course, gaming. This weekend I migrated to a new box so I had to do a fresh installation of linux on it, the first time in three years. But I suppose that's just trolling :)

Last time I did a switcharoo I believe was with 12.04, when I got fed up with the compiz bullshit and the OSX look. I don't like that menu. Let me have a launcher for certain applications and a window list with only active programs otherwise. I'm very particular in this regard and my workflow stagnates if I can't have it.

This forced me to switch away from vanilla ubuntu and I ended up with Gnome3. It has a nice interface and hey, it worked on JavaScript. I figured it would be cool to do stuff and actually code against the OS. Ok so that's not true because I can't think of anything I would want to make on the OS level that I wouldn't just make on the browser level. Nada, niente. I've done a few tutorials and got everything working, but I simply don't have a use case for it. So while nice, I never really made us of the scripting features.

While Gnome3 doesn't do proper window list anymore, there are tons of plugins for it. Stuff that's written in JS no less. So hey, I guess I had use cases for it after all :) I installed a dock plugin that allowed me to do a vertical bar and contain a window list. It was the only of its kind, but it did the job.

Another thing Gnome3 screwed up was the alt-tab functionality; it grouped windows of the same app. You would need to do alt-tab-backtick or some shit. No, I want to alt-tab because in my mind I know exactly how many tabs I need to get from my IDE to my terminal to my output and back to my IDE. It's a reflex, I don't even think about it. I don't want this grouping. And of course, you need a plugin to fix that as well.

One last thing I needed to customize was a small thing, but I didn't have a suspend button on my desktop and of course, you need a plugin for that as well.

See, the thing about Gnome3 is that it's great as long as you don't mind installing plugins for _e-very-fucking-thing_ because nothing is configurable directly. At some point you've got 'em all though and this becomes less of a problem.

The one thing you could not configure though was the notification bar. It was forced into hiding in the bottom of the screen. And I mean forced. It was impossible (at least two years ago, I didn't even check now) to get a visible notification bar, let alone for it to reside in the top bar. What the hell is up with that? Oh wait, I'll tell you: they hate it. I quickly tried to google for a reference, can't find one right now (only the complaints). But they are smoking some crazy shit there, considering it a WONTFIX. Fine, then I'll mark it WONTINSTALLANYMORE and fu.

Anyways, Gnome3 had this nice lens which I liked (though I had to get used to it for a while). Moving to the mouse hotspot (top-left corner by default) opens up a grid of all open apps, and the type-to-filter-apps lens thing of course, as well as a favorites bar. Yeah I liked that.

Anyways, fast forward to now. I figured I would not go through the Gnome3 pain if I didn't need to and try other distro's again. I ended up with Xfce (Xubuntu). I did check out KDE (Kubuntu), but the UI clusterfucked me away quite quickly. On the other hand, xfce seems to have improved the panels configuration UI a bit. And oh, just being able to configure the panels again makes me remember how bad Gnome3 actually was out of the box. Making launchers was just a fubar procedure. It's a simple operation again in xfce.

So xfce fixes for me the window list. I got rid of the top bar again, working only with a vertical bar on the left. Think about this for a second; you have way more horizontal screen estate than vertical. Why would you put a permanent menu bar horizontally? Anyways, I only need to see the icons for a window list anyways.

And while they did fix that nuisance about too high vertical window list, they still haven't fixed the clock in a vertical bar. Well, most of it anyways. So analog clock works (yes, it has the proper orientation), LCD clock kinda works if you make the bar wide enough, and binary clock obviously works but is useless. Analog clock, the one I want, doesn't rotate though. The text goes vertical and is still a PITA to work with. Fuzzy clock is too, for completeness. I think it's supposed to be fixed, but what can I say; right now it is not and that's very annoying.
Wait, while the above is still true for the default clock, there appears to be a panel widget called "orage clock", which does do the orientation properly with a nice and legible font :D So use that instead if you have this problem too.

I also can't seem to configure the icon size anywhere. This means only a limited number of icons fit, and yes, I actually often have 20+ icons in this bar so I need this estate.

Luckily the alt-tabbing works properly. The grouping is optional, not even a default.

Of course the gnome application lens is absent. Seems xfce is still using a dropdown. But apart from a grid of open programs, I suppose it's not a whole lot different from the lens I'm used to. So I can get used to this. Another thingie is that if you move an app to the top of the screen, it'll only fill half the screen. This makes sense in some way though and there are plenty of alternatives to maximize a window anyways. So I'm okay with this too. And at least they have a very easy configuration for the maximize-minimize-close buttons. Hell yes.

A new feature for me is the mousescroll-in-title-bar-to toggle title-bar-only mode. Not sure how often I'll use that, but it's kind of a nice feature.

I suppose some downsides are that certain apps are missing, and even when installed are not showing up in app search (in my case gnome-disks). But everything can be installed anyways and I don't search for apps that often anyways. So I don't think I'll face this as a real problem soon.

Other than that I think I perceive the UI as slightly less "nice" as Gnome's UI. But that may just be until I can find a theme that really suits me. And the theme I got right now is okay-ish already anyways.

So yeah, I'm gonna try xfce for a while, see how it fits :)