Xfce is a light weight desktop environment for Unix and other Unix-like platforms like Linux. It is used in many light weight Linux distributions, most notably in the Ubuntu derivative, Xubuntu.
Two years after the last stable release Xfce 4.8 has been released. Xfce 4.8 aims to improve upon the codebase of Xfce 4.6, the previous stable version, by bringing in modular and reusable components.
Thunar, the file browser in Xfce, has got a number of improvements with this release. Support for GNOME Virtual File System has been added to Thunar. This allows Thunar to browse remote shares using protocols like SFTP, SMB, FTP etc. Another improvement in Thunar is in the way it handles multiple file operations. When multiple file operations are taking place, they are all handled by one window instead of opening separate windows for each one. This will reduce cluttering of the desktop and make it easier to manage the file operations.
Another area of major improvement is the panel. The panel in Xfce 4.8 has been completely rewritten. The improvements introduced in this release consist of both eye-candies and productivity features. In terms of eyecandy, the main change is in the support for transparency. Users can now set the panel to be transparent if they want that look from KDE SC. The productivity improvements includes improved positioning, which allows the panels to be dragged and snapped to screen borders. The panel also features a new item editor which allows users to modify, move, add and remove items quickly.
These are just some of the visible changes in the UI. You can see the other changes in the changelog.
Xfce 4.8 has not only added new features. It has also dropped a few older pieces, like ThunarVFS and HAL with GIO, udev, ConsoleKit and PolicyKit, which are not supported in most of the new Linux distributions.
One of the major Linux distributions which ships with Xfce is Xubuntu and there is good news for Xubuntu users. Xubuntu developer, Pasi Lallinaho, has confirmed in a blog post that the next release of Xubuntu, that is Xubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narhwal”, will ship with the new Xfce 4.8. So, expect all of these new features in three months time if you are using Xubuntu.