6 Reasons Why You Should Try Lightweight Xfce Desktop


Xfce is a rather modest desktop environment. It’s been around for decades, but it largely exists in the shadow of GNOME as a more lightweight option that also happens to be GTK-based. Fewer developers are working on Xfce, and as a result, there are fewer applications designed with Xfce in mind.

Yet, year after year, people continue to use Xfce. It receives updates, and many Linux-based operating systems offer Xfce as the default interface.

So, despite the other options available, why would you want to use Xfce?

1. Xfce has minimum system requirements

Many Linux distributions choose Xfce for the simple reason that it can run easily on a wide range of hardware. But not only can Xfce run on an underpowered machine, it also doesn’t seem like it’s going to drag on doing so.

Where GNOME’s animations can start to lag, or their absence can stand out if you choose to turn them off, Xfce looks much the same on a weak computer as it does on a more powerful one.

Xfce won’t necessarily make your experience modern, but it will make you feel like you’ve got a fully functional machine in your hands. This can make all the difference if you’re trying to revive a computer that’s having trouble loading the Windows Start menu or crashing when opening multiple apps at once.

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For the same reason Xfce is functional on older machines, it excels on modern machines: you can get the most out of your system resources. Your CPU or graphics card doesn’t have to expend power on animations. Everything falls into place immediately. The full power of your computer is devoted to the task at hand, whether it’s gaming, rendering video, or compiling code.


There’s no reason to associate Xfce exclusively with older or underpowered devices. You may choose to use Xfce precisely because your custom platform is powerful and you want to take advantage of it.

2. Xfce is not likely to change on you


The Xfce desktop takes a fundamentally conservative approach to design. This is evident in how Xfce today is not so different from Xfce ten years ago. There are new features. The code behind it has been modernized in places. But if you last used Xfce in the mid-2000s and are planning to check it out again, most of the functionality remains as you remember it.

This contrasts with two other popular desktop environments from the 1990s, GNOME and KDE, both of which have undergone massive transformations.

There’s also a distinction to be made here between Xfce and MATE, a desktop that looks similar on the surface. The latter is an effort to preserve GNOME 2, a version of GNOME phased out after the release of GNOME 3 in 2011.

MATE may gain new features here and there, but the effort is mainly to keep the code modern enough to preserve what already exists. Xfce is not a preservation project. It’s a desktop environment that from the start has simply had a conservative approach to what it wants to be.

3. Xfce does without animations and other styles


By default, Xfce does not contain animations. For many of us, this can be detrimental. For others, it’s an advantage. Moving Windows around the screen can cause headaches or other problems for people who are sensitive to these movements.

Animations can also introduce problems. Sometimes a desktop interface looks sluggish, but in reality it’s the animations that lag. Doing without animations makes computing processes instantaneous. For a moment your window is no longer there. Next, that’s it. No extra fluff in the middle to slow things down.

Many will remember this was the way all computers were (and if you’re nostalgic enough, you can modify Xfce to look like 1995).

But for a younger generation, desktop and mobile interfaces have always had animations. If this is you, try going without it and see what you think. And if you must have animations, it is always possible to activate them in Xfce by replacing the default window manager with another one.

4. Xfce is modular

There is an effort among free desktops to standardize a certain set of tools: systemd, Wayland, PipeWire, and the list goes on. In some desktop environments, there’s an officially supported way of doing things, and if you choose to go another way, you’re on your own.

Xfce remains a traditional desktop environment. It manages your desktop interface but doesn’t care what background system components you use. So if you’re technical enough to have strong opinions about systemd or see no reason to stray from X11, Xfce is a desktop environment that won’t give you a hard time making your decision. You can mix and match the components as you see fit.

On the other hand, if you want to try out the latest technologies, you may have to wait longer, because as a desktop environment with fewer developers and a generally conservative orientation, you may sometimes find that Xfce just doesn’t take them not yet in charge.

5. Xfce is very customizable


Some free desktops come with a savvy approach to design. There is a way designers and developers intend you to use their software, and it takes a lot of effort to change the look. GNOME and the elementary operating system Pantheon come to mind.

This is not the case with Xfce. There is a default orientation for component layout, but you are free to move them as you wish. You can create multiple panels, replace the window list with a window menu or dock, or ditch the application menu altogether. You can change the theme, change icons and play with fonts.

Xfce is kind of a middle ground between GNOME and KDE. You’re free to tweak most aspects of your desktop, but the system settings and context menus aren’t particularly cluttered or cluttered. If you find KDE overwhelming, Xfce offers a similar degree of freedom while still managing to look pretty basic.

6. Xfce exists under the radar

Passions run high in the world of technology, and this is no less true in the free software community. Arguments over which is better, GNOME or KDE, can be found in comment sections and social media all over the web.

The arguments ten years later haven’t even changed much from ten years before. While it’s possible to mute those voices, you may get tired of regularly seeing people question your sanity for the way you like to use your computer.

In general, many people are inclined to consider Xfce a strong contender. But it also means they’re less likely to spend a lot of time bashing him either. Xfce does its job pretty well, and people are usually happy to just leave it as it is.

As an Xfce user, you know that desktop design continually deviates from the way you use your computer day in and day out, but that’s okay. It’s quieter in your corner of the country. Let passions run high elsewhere.

There’s a reason why Xfce got stuck

As the world changes around it, Xfce has continued to find an audience and serve a niche. It does not pull free desktop forward, nor does it fall behind. It continues to exist for those who want a traditional desktop environment that doesn’t use a lot of your computer’s resources. And that’s enough.

Yet Xfce is not alone in this regard. There are still other lightweight Linux desktops that can serve you just as well.

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