Switching from Gnome 3 to Xfce

July 9, 2011

It has been quite some time since my last blog post, which to be frank is a good thing, because I have been pretty busy with work.

Mostly I have been doing web stuff, php/mysql/javascript, although I have had the opportunity to do some work with java too.

Since my last post, I have left Arch to give Fedora a shot, as well as moving from Gnome 3 to Xfce. I will discuss the Fedora switch in my next post, but wanted to discuss Gnome 3 first.

I have used Gnome for quite some time and have never been a fan of KDE. When Gnome 3 came out, I wanted to give it a try, despite having to largely relearn how I worked with window management.

So, I gave it a good run and used it for several months.

There was a lot to like about it too and Gnome3 certainly is shiny. When I get the chance, I want to do some playing around with themeing/javascript engine too.

Main Problems With Gnome 3

However, the ultimate issue that drove me to try something else was that I often ended up hunting and pecking for open windows, trying to identify them by their picture in the Gnome Shell Overview mode.

This was not so much an issue with only a few windows open, especially when using the middle mouse button in the title bar, which moves the current window one space back.

However, after a bit of work, it is not uncommon for me to have multiple windows, browsers, virtual machines, terminals, ect open, with many of them looking quite similar to one another. Gnome3 sort of forces you to stack your windows and only shows one in the “taskbar,” with the only right click option being “quit”.

As a result, to switch between windows I would use the middle mouse button in the titlebar or try to identify the correct little white box in Gnome Shell Overview mode. With both of these options very often feeling frustrating/inefficient.

Alt tab is of course another option, but Gnome stacks similar programs, so if you have 4 Firefox windows open, it will show up under one Firefox Icon, with 4 subwindows that show up on hover. Again, the hunting and pecking feeling sets in.

Using Gimp, which I am quite comfortable with now and prefer over Photoshop for the work I do, also felt more cumbersome, specifically with more than one image open and trying to swithc between open images.

I also found that using dual monitors could be a bit of a pain. Even though I have two, I occasionally leave one of them off, instead just using the widescreen monitor. If a window opens up on the wrong monitor, it needs to be moved to the one that is on.

Without being able to right-click -> move the window, you either have to use ALT+F7 or try to get lucky and do some Gnome Shell Overview fishing(try to guess the location of the window and click drag it over.)

Moving to Xfce

So far, I am really liking Xfce, although I still have some Gnome 3 muscle memory problems.

Right now, when I want to switch windows, I inadvertently try to use the gnome top left corner mouse gesture, before remembering I can just click on the task-bar icon.

I had never used Xfce before, but since I have used KDE in the past and did not like it. After a little research, Xfce seemed like the logical choice.

I installed it first on my Laptop and quickly found that it was a very adequate replacement for Gnome 2. I was even able to install gEdit and have used it a few times, without any issues, so hopefully I am in the clear with that one, because I love gEdit.

There are a few peculiarities I haven’t figured out yet, but overall I have been quite pleased.

No Hard Feelings Gnome

To be clear, this is not a hate-fest on Gnome 3, I appreciate all the work that has gone into it and there really is a lot I like about it. I can certainly see myself giving it another shot.

I also realize that, as is often the case, the person behind the keyboard can be the biggest problem. That is to say, my style of window management certainly leaves something to be desired and there are probably work-arounds to address some of my issues. Also, realistically, my issues all really boil down to finding the provided methods of switching windows inefficient.

While some of this might be related to user error or not doing enough tweaking, I found my work-flow was being disrupted and this was sometimes frustrating.

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2 Responses to “Switching from Gnome 3 to Xfce”

  1. Brian Says:

    Looks like it’s the season of moving away from GNOME. I also couldn’t stand the new version anymore after using it for about 3 weeks. Just too dumbed down. I then tried Unity in Ubuntu and it is even worse. I hesitated to try KDE as I also wasn’t a big fan of it (tried KDE 3.5 and some very early version of KDE 4 before). In the end I did try Kubuntu with 4.6 and now I think this version is like night and day compared to what i have tried before. Actually I’m slowly starting to like it a lot. I’ll see how it goes and maybe over time I might even switch to it instead of going back to GNOME 2. Otherwise i still have a lot of options to try out, like XFCE and LXDE and even more.

  2. junger95 Says:

    It has been quite some time since I have tried KDE and I know it has improved greatly since then, so it would probably be worth checking it out again.

    I have not tried LXDE yet, but it does look interesting. My concern was that it would not off easy/full support for all the applications I use. Although I would like to try it out on my laptop and see what it does in terms of battery life.

    I think if you liked Gnome 2, then Xfce provides a very nice alternative, at least worth checking out a live cd…


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