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