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Linux Mint 7 (XFCE)

August 13, 2009
By

I recently reviewed the KDE and Gnome versions of Linux Mint 7. While either of them will give you a great desktop Linux experience, they aren’t necessarily the best choice for everybody. Some people have slower computers and some folks simply have no need for all the desktop bells and whistles found in KDE or Gnome.

If you’re one of those folks then you might want to consider checking out the XFCE version of Linux Mint 7.

Xfce (pronounced as four individual letters)[1] is a free software desktop environment for Unix and other Unix-like platforms, such as Linux, Solaris and BSD. It aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and easy to use.

The current version, 4.6, is modular and reusable. It consists of separately packaged components that together provide the full functionality of the desktop environment, but which can be selected in subsets to create the user’s preferred personal working environment. Xfce is mainly used for its ability to run a modern desktop environment on relatively modest hardware.

It is based on the GTK+ 2 toolkit (the same as GNOME). It uses the Xfwm window manager, described below. Its configuration is entirely mouse-driven, and the configuration files are hidden from the casual user.

Before I get into this review, please note that I used Release Candidate 1 to do this review. While my experience was quite good, I recommend holding off until a final version is released. Feel free to experiment with RC1 on an extra computer, of course. But I don’t recommend using it as your main OS until the final release. You may encounter some bugs otherwise.

Screenshot-1

What’s New In This Release
Here’s some of what’s new in this release:

XFCE 4.6
Linux Kernel 2.6.28
Ubiquity installer supports ext4 filesystem
Based on Ubuntu 9.04 (faster boot times, better wi-fi/3G connection switching, better notifications)
mintMenu (trash status, suggestions, keyboard shortcut)
mintInstall (featured apps, screenies downloads, better GUI)
mintUpdate (package sizes, no tray icon blinking, changelogs)
mintUpload (ad-free, graphical service manager, gui buffs, scp/sftp support)
mintWelcome (new popup welcome screen)

As I did with the KDE review, I’m not going to rewrite all of my comments about what’s new. Here’s what I had to say in the original Gnome Linux Mint 7 review:

If you haven’t used Linux Mint before than mintMenu will be particularly appreciated. You can easily access all of the important places on your computer, your favorite apps (or all apps), utilities like the command line terminal, text editor, screen resolution, system monitor, etc. And you can also access your Control Center, Software Manager, Package Manager or logout/quit.

This release lets you see the status of your trash can and you can right-click it to empty it if you want. You can also use a keyboard shortcut to open the menu. Plus you’ll see suggestions when you use the Filter feature and no results are displayed. mintMenu is something that was already good and it just got even better in this release.

One of the nicer things about mintInstall in this release is Featured Applications which highlights some popular apps for users. While the list might seem basic or obvious to experienced Linux users, newbies might find some of the suggestions listed there quite helpful or at the very least interesting. I like this kind of approach for a desktop Linux distribution.

It’s important not to assume that everybody knows everything about every last Linux application ever created. Welcoming new people into the Linux fold by gently giving them an introduction to some useful apps is a very good thing.

Having said that we could debate whether or not the Featured  Applications list should have more or less apps. I am in favor of not overwhelming people with too many especially people newer to Linux so I think the amount listed by default is pretty good. Your mileage may vary, however.

As far as mintUpdate goes, I’m glad its system tray icon no longer blinks. Let me tell you that I hate any freaking update prompt that bounces, blinks or otherwise distracts me. Don’t even get me started about the idiotic bouncing blue ball in OS X. Damn annoying thing, I can’t stand it. For a company that is supposed to be so slick, Apple does some stupid things sometimes.

mintWelcome is something that I initially was dubious about as I generally detest some stupid menu popping up in my face when I boot into an operating system. However, I cautiously endorse it as it is relatively sedate and does not overwhelm a user with choices. I think making the user guide, release notes and list of new features available is a very, very good idea. Especially for newbies.

And ditto with putting a forum link in the menu as community support is so very helpful for many people. And I have no problem with the Linux Mint developer soliciting donations either as the distro has to be supported financially somehow.

Since this release now comes with XFCE 4.6 you might want to check out some of what’s new in that version of XFCE. There’s an excellent visual tour of XFCE 4.6 at that link that will explain each new feature in detail. Here’s some of what you’ll find in the 4.6 version of XFCE:

Multiple Icon Selection
New Desktop Menu
Panel Bug Fixes
Panel Plugin Improvements
New Sound Mixer (Uses Gstreamer)
Improved Session Manager (Supports Suspend or Hibernate)
Multiple Display Support
Xfwm4 Can Terminate Non-Responsive Windows
New Actions Menu (Move and Resize Windows)
Enhancements to the Thunar File Manager
Thunar Supports Encrypted Devices
New Configuration Dialogs
Appearance and Display Settings
New Application Finder

There’s quite a bit of new stuff in XFCE 4.6 so be sure to take the visual tour to see a full list along with screenshots.

Image_Screenshot-5

Requirements & Installation
I’m not sure what the exact requirements are for this release. When I looked on the Linux Mint 7 (XFCE) blog it had the same requirements listed there as for the KDE version and I’m sure that’s not quite right:

A minimum of 3GB of free space and 256MB RAM are needed. For a comfortable experience we recommended to have at least 512MB RAM and 10GB of free space.

Since this version uses XFCE the requirements should be significantly less for a comfortable experience. If anybody knows exactly what they are please post them in the comments section below. Thanks.

I had no problems with my install. It took about ten minutes or so and it’s as easy as installing the KDE or Gnome versions. At this point doing a Linux Mint install is pretty…ho hum. It’s gotten that easy for the most part. Unless you run into some weird hardware snafu you really shouldn’t have a problem installing it.

Desktop & Apps

Note that the gorgeous wallpaper and the colors of the Gnome version are now in the XFCE version of Linux Mint 7. For such a minimalist desktop environment, it looks quite pretty.

Here’s a list of some of the apps you get with Linux Mint 7 (XFCE):

Graphics
GIMP
Scanner Utility
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Image Viewer

Internet/Network
Chestnut Dialer
Firefox
Giver
Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News
Pidgin Internet Messenger
Neighborhood
Remote Deskto Viewer
Transmission BitTorrent Client
Wicd Network Manager
Sun Java 6 Web Start
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Aumix
Brasero Disc Burner
Exaile Music Player
Gnome MPlayer
Gnormalize
Mixer
MPlayer Movie Player
Sound Recorder

Office
Dictionary
OpenOffice.org (Database, Presentation, Spreadsheet and Word Processor)
Orage

xfce1

xfce2

What I Liked Most
The best thing about this version of Linux Mint 7 is the simple beauty of XFCE. It’s quite refreshing after using the Gnome or KDE versions. After using XFCE for a while you start to realize just how unnecessary the bells and whistles of Gnome and KDE really are.

Now I’m not knocking either of those desktop environments. I have always been a fan of Gnome and I’m warming up to KDE more as time goes by. But I suspect I’m a minimalist at heart and XFCE really gives me what I need to use my computer rather than a bunch of bloat that doesn’t help me get anything done.

Your mileage may vary, of course. And, if that’s the case, then I highly recommend the KDE or Gnome versions of Linux Mint 7. You really can’t go wrong with either one if this XFCE version isn’t your cup of tea. But, before you write it off, I suggest trying this version along with the other two and see which one works best for you.

Problems & Headaches
One thing to take note of is that Linux Mint 7 (XFCE) doesn’t come with any games. That’s not a problem for me as World of Warcraft is about the only game I play these days. But some people might find that lack of desktop games a bit annoying. I recommend trying some online alternatives if you want to play cards, chess or whatever.

Another problem I had was that sound didn’t work. Note that I was running this release via VMWare so it could have been a VMWare problem. Given that this was RC1 of Linux Mint 7 (XFCE) I figured I’d run into a problem or two and so I did. I’ll reserve judgement on this until the final release as bugs should be expected when using a release candidate.

Beyond that I didn’t run into any noticeable problems.

Image_Screenshot-4

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction.

You might also want to drop by the Linux Mint forum and check out the XFCE section. There have been various bugs found in Release Candidate 1 that have already been reported so check the forum if you download that version to check it out as your bug may already have been noted.

And be sure to check out the Linux Mint Wiki too.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Linux Mint 7 (XFCE) is a good choice for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users. Those with older, slower hardware will particularly enjoy it. It’s a great way to put the power of Linux Mint on a less modern computer.

But it’s also a good choice for anybody who simply doesn’t want a lot of desktop bloat running on their computer. Eye candy can surely be fun sometimes but Linux Mint 7 (XFCE) proves that you simply don’t need it to use Linux Mint 7 on your computer.

Image_Screenshot-6

Summary Table:

Product: Linux Mint 7 (XFCE)
Web Site: http://www.linuxmint.com/edition.php?id=43
Price: Free
Pros: Provides a lightweight Linux Mint desktop alternative to the KDE and Gnome versions.
Cons: Doesn’t come with desktop games.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users with older computers or who simply prefer a lightweight desktop environment.
Summary: A great choice for those using older hardware or those who simply prefer a more minimalistic desktop environment.
Rating: 4/5

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6 Responses to Linux Mint 7 (XFCE)

  1. Robert on March 1, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I can't believe the reviewer, Jim Lynch, complains about there being no games in the distribution. What a stupid thing to say. Download the games you want. They are all available for every single linux distrubutions. Just click on the button in Synaptic (or the equivalent)! All the games, all the programmes are available for every single Linux distribution, so what the hell is the point of commenting on the presence or absence of any programme in particular?! A review should be focussed on the actual stability and overall functionality of the distrubution.

  2. Barney Rubble on December 11, 2009 at 10:45 am

    KDE is too windows-ish? Gnome is the DE that uses a registry.

  3. Nick on September 19, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    @ Brian Masinick:

    Brian, you like KDE over Gnome? I like Gnome better. KDE is too windows-ish.

  4. Evans on August 14, 2009 at 2:47 am

    This is something I might think of trying. I already run Ubuntu on the desktop and also have another decommissioned computer with less memory which I intend trying it on. If it works on that, then I will have to wait till the final version is out before rolling it on the much faster computer.

    Will leave a comment here later to let you know how it goes.

    Nice review BTW :)

  5. Nikhil Sinha on August 13, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    I am looking forward to Linux Mint 7 XFCE. I am currently using Linux Mint 7 (Gnome) and it very good experience.

    I believe my laptop and my friends computer which has only 256 MB of RAM will be able to run Linux Mint 7 XFCE.

    No XFCE has hard disk mounting facility, you review show some solution about the same.

    Thanks for the good insight.

  6. Brian Masinick on August 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Jim, of all of the Mint releases, this is the one I would be most likely to test next (until Mint gets KDE 4.3 or 4.4, then I may check that out too). Concerning memory requirements, KDE 4.3 on sidux actually works with 256 MB memory, but it is not very responsive with that amount. 512 MB of memory, or perhaps 384 MB, would be more realistic values. Based on that, I would suggest that 256 MB on an XFCE based system would be quite adequate, given that I am running sidux XFCE right now, and htop reveals ONLY 211 MB of memory in use, in spite of Seamonkey browser and Email, plus Google Chrome (being used now) are actively in use.

    Sounds like this release may not be quite ready, but it does seem to be promising, and it may be worth a look some time soon.



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