Xfce announces alpha release of version 4.6

After about a year and a half of development, the Xfce team has announced the alpha release of Xfce 4.6, codenamed “Pinky” “Pinkie”.

Xfce is the desktop environment and main reason for the existence of Xubuntu. It provides the file manager, panels and much more, keeping your desktop fast yet easy to use. Thus, Xfce is one of the most important parts of Xubuntu, and the 4.4 release has been enjoyed by many users of Xubuntu since it was released.

Obviously, the 4.6 release will be very significant for Xubuntu, and this is an important milestone in the road towards that release. While it was initially hoped that this release would make it into Xubuntu 8.10 (codenamed “Intrepid Ibex”), the Xfce release schedule suggests that, with three beta releases and two release candidated still scheduled, that target won’t be met. However, you can expect to see the new release in Xubuntu 9.04 (codename “Jaunty Jackalope”), and if you’re running 8.10 you can try the alpha release by adding the xubuntu-dev PPA to your software sources. (Note: at the time of writing this the packaged version is not this actual alpha but a version before that, however, this alpha will be packaged soon.)

The new version of Xfce comes with many new features. Xfce now has a new configuration backend called xfconf, similar to gconf, but simpler and easier to work with. This brings more flexibility and better integration between Xfce components. You can now control your desktop settings through the command-line – this is not only handy for people helping on IRC (i.e. there is no more need to guide the user through all kinds of settings dialogs – though, IMHO, that would be less confusing for the user), it also means automated scripts can easily update your settings. One use I see for this is being able to change your keyboard layout using a key combination, an oft-requested feature by programmers.

Speaking of key combinations: the confusing keyboard shortcut-themes have been removed and conflicts between keyboard shortcuts and window manager shortcuts are now easily resolved. All these new settings also come with updated settings dialogs, which can be started standalone as they are now, but also embedded into the settings manager – a feature of which Jannis made a screencast.

Furthermore, Xfce now ships libxfce4menu. This is a software library aiming to implement the menu standard also implemented by GNOME and KDE and partly implemented by Xfce 4.4. While it is currently in use only by the desktop and the Appfinder (the latter of which has been completely rewritten to support libxfce4menu), it paves the way for a proper menu plugin in the panel that you can actually edit.

Apart from the libxfce4menu support, the desktop manager xfdesktop has also received a few small improvements over the previous version. It has a redesigned preferences dialog, includes a few more options for the desktop background (such as colour saturation adjustment), and can now automatically start and stop managing a new desktop when you respectively plug or unplug a monitor.

Finally, the Xfce mixer plugin has been completely rewritten to use gstreamer. One effect this has is that Xubuntu will probably definitely be switching to gstreamer-based applications (Xubuntu used to include a xine version of Totem, the movie player, but recently switched to the gstreamer-based version). The biggest benefit this brings users is that it will automatically ask to search for additional media support when it is not installed yet, which happens e.g. when you try to play an MP3-file on a freshly installed Xubuntu.

All in all, though not as big as 4.4 was, this is shaping up to be another fine release of Xfce that has me looking forward to it.

22 Responses to “Xfce announces alpha release of version 4.6”

  1. 1 Mohan 14 September 2008 at 4:22 pm

    This is very good news especially about the codecs. Currently I can’t play any embedded videos, which isn’t a problem on both of my Ubuntu installations but only a problem in my Xubuntu.

  2. 2 Jannis 14 September 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Nice summary. My only remark would be that it is ‘Pinkie’, not ‘Pinky’.

  3. 3 Vincent 14 September 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Mea culpa, thanks for the heads up. I’ll never make that mistake again πŸ˜‰

  4. 4 KevinG 15 September 2008 at 4:06 am

    I see Xubuntu this and Xubuntu that – you guys only developing for one distro now?

  5. 5 Stephan Arts 15 September 2008 at 8:26 am

    Not quite, we are working close with BSD developers to make sure we don’t include any linuxism’s to the code that will break the builds for non-linux OS-es.

    This article comes from ‘xubuntublog.wordpress.com’ — so, it is not that strange it is a bit xubuntu-ish. ^_~

  6. 6 Cody Somerville 15 September 2008 at 8:40 am

    Excellent article, I enjoyed reading it! πŸ™‚

    KevinG: Who are you talking to?? The writer of the the unofficial “Xubuntu Blog”? If you’re looking to read about Xfce and other distros, maybe you should try reading an xfce4 blog that is distribution agnostic? πŸ˜›

  7. 7 Vincent 15 September 2008 at 9:36 am

    I think I know where the confusion stems from: http://blog.xfce.org/ says it’s the “Xfce Developers Weblog” even though it now acts more as a planet for Xfce-related weblogs.

  8. 8 Jannis 15 September 2008 at 10:16 am

    KevinG: As a matter of fact we’re cooperating closely with several distributions. We regularly chat with OpenBSD, Debian, Slackware and Xubuntu packagers and other packagers are active on our mailinglists, too. Some of us are also Lunar Linux developers and there were also some Gentoo folks hanging out on IRC. Haven’t heard from them in a while though.

    So, as you can see, we work together with many different flavors of Linux and BSD, Xubuntu just being the most popular.

  9. 9 Malpy 15 September 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for the work!!!

  10. 10 Maximilian 15 September 2008 at 7:15 pm

    “if you’re running 8.10 you can try the alpha release by adding the xubuntu-dev PPA to your software sources.”

    These packages are already outdated, will they be updated?

  11. 12 edvard 15 September 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Pardon me for being ignorant, but what was wrong with the old xfce menu lib.
    Cool it’s being updated, but I had no problem editing the menu with the xfce4 menu editor.
    What is hard is getting working xdg menus for any wm other than the “big three”.

    Or maybe it’s just me…

  12. 13 Jon 15 September 2008 at 11:36 pm

    I must admit I have a few concerns despite the advances that are doubtless included in 4.6. I am currently running Xubuntu Hardy on my laptop.
    Totem based on gstreamer in virtually unusable with my mach64 graphics; it seems to use virtually all processor resource and struggles to keep up with playing DVDs fullscreen.
    Totem-Xine, however, works, probably because it dynamically optimises itself for my processor, i.e. 3dnow, mmx, and all the other instructions my AMD XPM supports.
    The release cycle now seems to be out of sync with Xubuntu and probably several other distro. Is it the right thing to do releasing all components at once approximately annually or would it be better to stagger them throughout the year, e.g. new version of Thunar released when ready?

  13. 14 Jannis 16 September 2008 at 2:40 am

    @Jon: Thunar already has its own release cycle. We just took the opportunity to roll out another release of it together with 4.6. Xfce releases have been made without a real schedule in mind for the past few years but we’re about to change that starting with 4.6. This time we might be a little out of sync with a few distros but perhaps we can coordinate that better in the future – we’ll see πŸ˜‰

    Concerning GStreamer: I chose it for the mixer because I didn’t want to maintain backend code for different sound systems. That would’ve caused bugs which can be avoided by using GStreamer. GStreamer made developing the mixer quite easy as well.

    I wouldn’t recommend Totem to anyone, but that might be just me. As for Xubuntu: please don’t make the mistake and only include GStreamer apps from now on just because the mixer uses a few basic GStreamer libraries.

  14. 15 Dieter_be 24 September 2008 at 6:18 pm

    What does xfconfs storage backend look like?
    Is it entirely XDG basedir compatible?

  15. 16 Jannis 24 September 2008 at 8:05 pm

    @Dieter_be: xfconf supports different storage backends. Currently only an XML file backend is implemented which stores the configuration in $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/ and $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/, so yeah, it follows the XDG Base Directory specification.

  16. 17 Dieter_be 25 September 2008 at 11:18 am

    That’s awesome!
    A relief compared to how Gnome does it. (http://live.gnome.org/GnomeGoals/XDGConfigFolders )

    I guess it’s safe to say the XDG basedir spec is implemented in a sane way across xfce entirely? (Because with gnome for instance, lots of files are continuously updated silently in the background with stuff the user doesn’t care about. Doing this in $XDG_CACHE_HOME would be fine, but they poison configuration directories instead :/)

    I will definitely give Pinkie a try πŸ™‚

  17. 18 Jannis 25 September 2008 at 1:10 pm

    @Dieter_be: Yeah, I think all the Xfce apps support the XDG Base Directory specification.

  18. 19 Mikko 27 September 2008 at 8:54 pm

    What about it’s system requirements? Is it getting heavier or lighter?

  19. 20 JohnV 5 October 2008 at 12:54 am

    Mikko, I sure hope it’s going to get even lighter. This distro has worked wonders for me. But I’d like to see it run smoothly on a less-than 1.5 GHz 256MB RAM. Cheers!

  20. 21 Stephan Arts 10 October 2008 at 2:23 pm


    Some parts got heavier, some parts got lighter. Some parts have been removed, and some parts have been added.

    It is hard to tell, many improvements are being made. Both with new features being added and old ones being improved.

    I think that over-all, it is a bit heavier. Features still require code to build… and that adds weight. However, existing features have been looked after and performance has generally improved there.

    It is hard to tell what did result from these changes. (It still works wonders on an EEE-PC though)

  1. 1 Xfce 4.6 Alfa 1 » Gadius Empire Trackback on 9 January 2012 at 10:57 pm

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