Fedora 15 Xfce is a Fedora 15 Spin. In Fedoraland, a Spin is an alternate edition of Fedora, “tailored for various types of users via hand-picked application sets and other customizations.” Presently, five Spins have been released. These are, in order of popularity, the KDE, Xfce, LXDE, Security and Games Spins.

This article presents a review of the Xfce spin, and it is the first for this edition of Fedora on this site. Fedora 15 sports several new features. Some are not particularly relevant to a desktop user, but others are. Those will be noted in the appropriate sections of this review.

Installer and Installation Process: Like other Spins, Fedora 15 Xfce is available for download as a Live CD ISO image. The boot menu options allow booting into the Live environment, where installation can then be started. Installation is not possible without first booting into the Live environment. Unlike the main (GNOME 3) edition, there is no DVD or bfo installation image for this edition or for any other Spin.

All the Fedora spins share the same installation program with the main edition. Anaconda 15.31 is the version of Anaconda, the Fedora system installer, that ships with this latest release. The changes I see in this version are just cosmetic. The available disk partitioning methods are the same. Disk encryption is supported (see how Fedora protects your computer with full disk encryption).

LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, is the default disk partitioning scheme. Ext3, Ext4 and XFS are the supported journaling file systems, with ext4 as the default, even for the boot partition. Fedora 15 is the first version to have built-in support for btrfs, the B-tree file System, but it is only available when installing from a DVD or bfo ISO image. (You might be interested in how to install Fedora 15 on an encrypted btrfs file system.)

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Installation of the Fedora 15 Spins, and of the Live CD version of the GNOME edition, is not installation in the traditional sense, but rather, a copying of the Live image to disk. So, what you see on the Live desktop is what you get after installation.

Desktop: This edition of Fedora 15 Xfce ships with Xfce 4.8, the latest stable edition, which was released January 18, 2011. Compared to the latest KDE and GNOME desktop environments, it feels under-featured and slightly behind the times.

It features the traditional menu style, a top panel with four work spaces, and a dock-like bottom panel. The menu has all the major software categories you expect to find in a menu, but there is none for games. That is because there are no games installed. Aside from that, the Education category has just one entry – Gnumeric, a spreadsheet program for GNOME. It is not an educational software. You can find another entry for Gnumeric where it truly belongs – in the Office category.

I think a snazzy dock application, like Cairo-Dock, would have been a better addition for the Xfce desktop than the default bottom panel. The top panel has a clock applet, but no calendar. There is a DateTime plugin with a calendar that has almost the same features as the one on a GNOME 2 desktop that should have been on the panel, instead of the plain clock.

The best feature of the bottom panel is the Directory Browser, which makes it easy to drilldown into any folder in your home directory. Despite its shortcomings, I like the Xfce desktop, but it needs a Cairo-Dock to spice it up a bit. See a screenshot of the Xfce desktop running Cairo-Dock here.

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On several occasions, either when attempting to launch an application from the menu, or while logging back in to the system, the panel crashed, generating the message shown in the image below. Clicking on Execute started it back up. Cancel left me with no top or bottom panel.

Installed and Installable Applications: The following are some of the major applications installed by default:

  • Firefox 4.0.1
  • Claws Mail, a feature-rich, GTK+ email client
  • Liferea Feed Reader
  • Transmission BitTorrent client
  • Pidgin Internet Messenger
  • Midori, a lightweight Web browser
  • Abiword, a standalone word processor
  • Gnumeric, a spreadsheet application

These are besides the standard Xfce desktop accessories and system utilities. Because Fedora does not ship with proprietary applications, some essential applications are not installed and are not available for installation. Adobe Flash Player, for example, is not installed, and it is not in the repository. You can, however, install and configure it by downloading the latest version (Adobe Flash Player 10.3) from Adobe’s website. Adobe’s Flash Player 10.3 presents some interesting privacy concerns, so be sure to read this before installing it.

If you want to install many more free and non-free applications, enabling RPM Fusion’s Free and Nonfree repositories is the easiest method. With OpenJDK Runtime Environment installed, Firefox and Midori passed the Java test.

Parole is the installed media player, but the system is not configured to detect and launch the appropriate audio or video application when an audio CD or video DVD is inserted. The default settings on the “Removable Drives and Media” preferences is blank.

Configuring it with my choice of applications did the trick. This is something the developers should have taken the time to configure.


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47 Responses

  1. Desktop environment is choice, it depends on the user, please don’t badmouth/destroy gnome3 just because you do not like it, people like me and others on comment above who like it will suffer just because of your own preference.

  2. I hated Gnome 3 at first, because it required changing the way I was used to doing things. Now that I am used to it, I find it far superior to anything else out there, including Windoze, KDE, Cinnamon, Unity, etc. It is fast, efficient, and highly configurable. All of the little annoyances most people complain about are easily tweaked. I think for as many people that complain about it, there are just as many who like it.

  3. Gnome 3 is useless for program development. May be great from surfing, playing games, and impress people who are impressed with shiny things that move and flash.
    I want somebody who is using gnome 3 (or unity) for development to make video on youtube how they use them for java and C++ programming and configuring their OS, configuring MySQL, Tomcat, changing security permissions to protect their assets, and so on. So far all the videos of proponents of gnome 3 (or unity) show videos of shiny, flashing things being moved around.
    gnome 3 okay for cell phone – suc^%$ for program development.

    1. I’m not a developer, so I don’t know much about this, but what are the specific issues that you as a developer face with GNOME 3 or Unity?

    2. well, I would do that but currently I’m using KDE (and I cannot show anything related to the company I work on so doing a video would imply post editing and I’m bad with that), I left GnomeShell because it was not stable, at least, not for my situation. I’m a software developer, in a normal day I’m using 2 virtual machines, connected to multiple remote windows desktops, having oracle 11g with 2 database, using eclipse for an easy debug process (just for java), around 10 tabs in firefox, using thunderbird, using skype, at least 3 consoles, building the application I work on could take between 6 to 20 minutes depending on the amount of modules I have to modify, running junits would last 30 minutes per module. How I used Gnome-shell? well, I work on a laptop with an additional monitor, so I used the additional monitor to contain skype and the consoles, the other programs were distributed through multiple workspaces. I used it for more than a year, however gnome-shell had a lot of chrashes, in normal situations it restarted automatically, in my case, it never happen, my solution: ctrl+alt+f2 and restart gnome-shell. 2 weeks ago I tried KDE and it was amazing, no chrashes, no blocks, no desktop restarts, it just fit my needs.

  4. I suggest that GNOME 3 becomes the standard on distros that aims to be user-friendly and easy to understand. The experienced users (like Linus and Alan) have no trouble configuring their own desktops to suite their taste anyway.

    After the initial shock of experiencing the GNOME3 interface, I found it to be the best choice for me personally (beeing a designer and web developer). I hated it at first – now I can’t live without it 🙂

    I have also tested GNOME3 distros for family and friends, and they understand it intuitively – much more so than OS X and Windows. If we aim to make a complete experience for non-technical users, GNOME3 is the way to go!

    1. Ruben, I completely agree. I saw the potential of GNOME 3 from the start of GNOME-Shell, and it has continued to address the concerns of users with updates and improvements. I could never switch back to the “classic” desktop after using it for the past couple of years.

  5. 1. gnome2 is for large and/or multiple displays – it is simply productive

    2. gnome3 and unity are for tablets and smartphones – they are fun – and can be productive.

    Prediction: gnome3 will never ever be the default for RHEL

      1. But that proves the point. Classic mode has the look and feel of GNOME 2 or Cinnamon or MATE. So, underneath, there would be no difference between Classic mode and Cinnamon because both UIs are sitting atop GNOME 3 code.

        My argument has always been that GNOME 3’s default UI sucks, even though it is sitting on top beautiful technologies.

        1. I’m sorry, but the Gnome3 classic mode was so unsatisfactory that I started shopping desktops. Because Mate wasn’t stable or fast enough at first, I went to KDE4 after trying xfce and LXDM. Recently I’ve tried Mate again, and now that’s my desktop. But Gnome3 classic is not sufficiently usable to replace Gnome2. It is inferior to every other desktop I’ve tried (well, except for Gnome3 non-classic).

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