On 7 November, Jannis Pohlmann announced the first preview release of Xfce 4.8. The new version of Xfce, which is planned to be released on January 16th, brings much-requested features, and will close a development cycle in which the project made great strides forward.
Let’s first focus on the improvements coming in the next release of Xubuntu’s main component. Perhaps the most requested feature is support for remote filesystems. Much clamoured for, the feature required rewriting big parts of the core – something which has finally been completed.
Apart from that, the application that provides the panel(s) on your desktop has been completely rewritten, bringing a huge number of improvements, most notably in the support for multi-monitor setups, and a pet peeve of mine: the ability to drag application files to the panel to create launchers.
Also high on the wish list of many users was the ability to graphically edit the menus. Although Xfce still doesn’t ship its own menu editor, it is now possible to edit it using menu editors for other standards compliant desktops, such as Alacarte.
So, a lot has been rewritten in this release cycle – we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg above. Most important, however, are the improvements made to the release process in general, which will make the project more future-proof and will increase the speed with which new releases can be made, and lower the entry barrier to new contributors.
To start with the latter point, Xfce was one of the first of now many projects using the Transifex translation environment. Transifex makes it easier than ever for translators to help translating Xfce, as translators can now simply download the current translations and update their new translations via the web interface. I have used it myself, and it really is a huge improvement over the previous, cumbersome process. The new translation process has already attracted quite a few new translators, ensuring more of Xfce has been translated than ever, with even higher quality.
While the size of the development team has fluctuated over time (it has never been large, yet some people moved on – luckily there were new contributions as well), the team has managed to keep the desktop up-to-date with recent technologies, and has rewritten parts of the code, improving the quality to ensure it can be built on properly in the future.
Finally, the release process has been revised, now encouraging many small releases for sub-projects, as opposed to releasing all of them at once with a new version of Xfce. It is now much less work to release a new version, making that task less daunting and thus less likely to be postponed. Automatic release announcements also result in improved publicity for a new release, making it clear the project is alive and well, and more attractive for third-party contributors to help out. It also gets updated translations out faster.
All in all, the new release is shaping up to be a very solid one, closing a few big gaps in the feature set. Xfce is a truly modern desktop environment again, and what’s more important: its future, starting with the release of the new version on January 16th, is looking exceptionally bright.
In other news: as you might notice, this blog has not been updated in a while. Unfortunately, this post does not signify a change in the lack of updates. I’m really too busy with other things in my life that I’m hardly even tinkering with my computer, or actively involved with Xubuntu. So yeah, this blog is still dead. Also, it is not an official Xubuntu blog in any way, so do not draw any conclusions about the status of Xubuntu from this blog post; it is still awesome :)