Xfce 4.14 Released

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The leading GNU/Linux desktop environment Xfce has released a new stable version after almost 5 years of development. The latest version is based on GTK3 instead of GTK2 and it uses GDBus instead of GLib under the hood. There's entirely new components like Xfce's new screensaver and many small and large improvements to the existing applications in Xfce 4.12 such as the file-manager Thunar, the video player Parole, the Xfce4-terminal terminal emulator.

Manjaro-default-desktop.jpg
Default Xfce desktop on Manjaro Linux's Xfce spin

Changes since the 4.14pre3 pre-release

The last pre-release, Xfce 4.14pre3 released on July 28th, is essentially identical to the final 4.14 release.

xfce4-dev-tools and libxfce4util has no changes since Xfce 4.14pre3:

xfce4-pulseaudio-plugin, xfconf, xfwm4, tumbler, xfce4-appfinder, thunar-volman got translation updates and some of those have had the GtkStock buttons replaced.

These Xfce components did have some changes since Xfce 4.14pre3:

  • catfish has one path exclusion fix and translation fixes.
  • Xfce's video player Parole now inhibits power management during video playback.
  • Xfce's screensaver can optionally inhibit itself if full-screen programs are running and the "blank" screensaver has gotten support for DPMS.
  • The datetime panel plugin was not ported to GTK3 until this release. Version 0.8.0 has spacing improvements in the preferences dialog and fixed font styling in addition to all the under-the-hood changes made porting it to GTK3.
  • The weather panel plugin's GTK3 port is also new to the final release. It will now use https for all connections and it's icon now respects the panels configured size.
  • xfce4-places-plugin has a lot of translation updates since the latest release and some code cleanups.
  • The latest exo library adds icons to the Help and Close buttons
  • xfce4-session sets XAUTHLOCALHOSTNAME correctly in systemd user sessions
  • libxfce4ui won't try to set a button image if an empty string is used
  • xfce4-settings has quite a lot of changes. Xfce's display manager is included in this package. It has fixed settings retention, it uses proper icon names and it will not longer warn you if you remove the last available profile. GtkStock buttons have been replaced in many of the configuration dialog boxes. And there's a lot of translation updates.
  • the xfdesktop component has gotten a special Xfce 4.14 wallpaper which is set as default. Most distributions will override this and will leave Xfce's default available as an option.
  • The panel now keeps both the tasklist and the pager visible during drag and drop. The launcher now pops up where the pointer is. And there's a lot of translation updates.
  • The file manager Thunar has removed "auto-expand folders" from the tree-view since that caused a bad user-experience when using the keyboard. It's preferences dialog has gotten button icons for help and close. And it now updates the "Open with" menu items when new software is installed. There's also translation updates.
  • xfce4-power-manager now hides the brightness label if there is no screen brightness setting.

The changes between 4.14pre3 and 4.14 are very small. However, the changes to both the desktop experience and the Xfce programs is huge between 4.12 and 4.14.

Major changes since Xfce 4.12

What is the single biggest improvement between 4.12 and 4.14 if you have to pick just one?

"Migrating to gtk3 is definitely the biggest one. might not be the most important for end users, but huge in terms of maintainability, bug fixings, etc."

Xfce developer Igor Zakharov

Xfce 4.14's desktop looks very similar to how it's always looked: It's a very traditional desktop environment with panels and desktop icons. It may not appear like much has changed at first blush. But there are many improvements to the Xfce desktop experience.

Xfce-4.14-fedora-30.jpg
Xfce 4.14 running on Fedora 30 with the Parole media player and the mousepad text editor.

Good-bye screen tearing

The huge under-the-hood changes to Xfce's window manager xfce4 is by itself a good reason to upgrade from 4.12 to 4.14. Xfce has long been famous for it's horrible screen tearing. This was a huge problem with Xfce 4.12 which could most be fixed by changing X's configuration file. Why X and distributions shipping it default to TearFree set to false is a mystery; it's not like the majority of people prefer horrible screen tearing. Xfce's window manager xfwm4 has gotten a lot of changes since 4.12. It's now got Vsync support, support for high-resolution displays and a lot of compositor-related improvements. There is still some hints of screen tearing on less common setups like triple-head desktops but it's a thing of the past for the vast majority of configurations. There is no tearing at all on any setup if the X tearfree option is set to true. xfwm4 has also gotten some Nvidia specific improvements since 4.12 and it now works a whole lot better with the proprietary Nvidia drivers.

Multi-monitor aware desktop

The desktop now supports X's RandR to make it aware of which monitor is the "primary" on multi-screen setups. xfdesktop also syncs the user's wallpaper to the AccountsService - which may not be a good thing: Now choosing someone's username from the login-manager will reveal the wallpaper. Much remains the same, the menu you get when you right-click the desktop is almost identical in 4.12 and 4.14. The only minor difference is that there is a "Open terminal here" item in 4.14. The panels do have quite a few differences. The panels have also become multi-monitor aware and you can now choose to have a panel fixed at whatever display is set as Primary. Panels can also span monitors. Panel configurations can be backed up and restored using a re-worked interface.

Better session management

Xfce has an option under Settings called Session and startup. It was previously possible to Add and disable and enable services started on login under Application Autostart. Xfce 4.14 allows services configured here to be triggered on login, logout, shutdown, restart, suspend, hibernate and hybrid sleep. Hybrid sleep is a new option in the logout dialog too. However, there is still no support for hybrid sleep in Xfce's power manager so you can't have it do that when a laptop's lid is closed or power goes below a critical level.

Xfce 4.14 has DBus management under the hood which is something DBus-aware applications, and most are, can take advantage of.

New High DPI display scaling option

Xfce4 has a new option in it's Appearance settings under the tab Settings called "Window Scaling" which will make GTK windows scale to a multiplier set there. This is a silly option which is required because the GTK developers decided to remove the ability to set toolbar icon sizes - the GNOME developers who made that decision probably thought it was a too friendly option to give people with weak eye-sight. There is still the better option of choosing correct "Custom DPI setting" under the Fonts tab. You will have to pick one of the two; if you set the DPI to 160 - which is correct for a 4k display at 27" and you choose 2x scaling you get fonts that are twice as large as they should be. You are likely better off not using that new option.

Screensaver and Power manager

Xfce4-screensaver-4.14.png

Xfce used to rely on the general xscreensaver program for screen saving capabilities. Xfce 4.14 now comes with it's own screensaver. This program is a fork of .. mate-screensaver which was forked from gnome-screensaver which was forked from .. xscreensaver. This new screensaver is closely integrated with Xfce's power manager - which has seen a lot of improvements since 4.12.

Xfce's screensaver can use existing xscreensaver-compatible screensavers. That does not work on Manjaro Linux for some reason and you only get the few screensavers built into Xfce's own screensaver. Fedora users will get a long list of xscreensaver screensavers if the xscreeensaver and/or xscreensaver-extras are installed.

Availability

The source for individual tarballs is available from archive.xfce.org/xfce/4.14/src and there's also a fat tarball with all components available.

Manjaro Linux has added Xfce 4.14 to it's "testing" branch. It will be added to the main branch soon given that nobody reports any serious issues.

Fedora 30 is already shipping Xfce 4.14pre3 and 4.14 will be in the updates repository very soon.

OpenSUSE Tumbleweed will be updated to 4.14 "soon". OpenSUSE Leap 15.2, released next year, will also have it. Users of OpenSUE 15.1 can get it using the X11:xfce:next repository.


published 2019-08-09last edited 2019-08-13


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