Xubuntu is not a refugee camp

In growing amounts, people are migrating to Xubuntu from Ubuntu and other derivatives. While many of our new users tell they love Xubuntu, some of them would like to see a feature from their old configuration, be that a feature from their desktop environment or an application closely tied with it.

I don’t blame them for wanting different features than I do. I truly think there is users for every major and minor desktop environment. There will not be one desktop environment to rule them all, just because peoples opinions on looks and the perfect workflow differ thoroughly.

When our new users ask if they can have their feature, we have to ask them, and especially, what the user needs to ask theirself is if the feature, or the lack of, is really something that makes or breaks their experience. If they don’t think they can be at home without that feature, I wholeheartedly recommend them to keep using what they had.

If they are uncertain, I’d really like them to try to see the coin from the other side. Xfce nor Xubuntu have never  tried to be like GNOME or Ubuntu. When Unity came around, Xubuntu never tried to become a substitute for GNOME 2 -like Ubuntu either, or specifically persuade migrating users.

The Xfce team has always been executing their own vision of the perfect desktop environment. Since the vision has been in some parts similar to GNOME earlier, some might argue that Xfce should still follow GNOME’s footsteps by implementing some new features similar to GNOME’s new features. I don’t think this is logical thinking, and it sounds like it comes from somebody who thinks Xfce should satisfy people who are migrating from GNOME.

The same goes with Xubuntu too: we are still building Xubuntu on top of Xfce because we like how it is and can agree with their vision. If this will ever change, it’s self-evident that either the people running Xubuntu need to change or Xubuntu needs to stop being. That being said, I don’t think that’s going to happen in the foreseeable future.

Finally, I’d like to emphasize that all users migrating from Ubuntu and other desktop environments are warmly welcome to the Xubuntu community. There are many ways to achieve the same goal when it comes to desktop environments. We believe Xfce is the best one for us as it has been and as it is. We are not a refugee camp, we have decided to take this path. This is our home.

This article is part of the article series .


  1. Krzysztof
    August 19, 2012

    I’m considering moving from the full-fat Ubuntu to Xubuntu as my notebook struggles a bit at present but, and that’s me being finicky, is there a way of having the window buttons on the left? I like them that way better than on the right.

  2. abral
    August 19, 2012

    The main problem about Unity is that it’s not customizable. If you have a customizable system, you can make it exactly like you want, or, at least, make it near to what you want.
    And XFCE is enough customizable, at least for my needs (for example, I’ve moved the top panel to the bottom and the bottom panel to the right). So, I think I’ll switch to XFCE soon enough, because Unity lacks something that I REALLY need to be productive (the Unity interface isn’t very good when you have many windows, above all if they belong to the same application).

  3. zamiere
    August 19, 2012

    Just don’t do anything with XFCE. First thing to do after Xubuntu install is removing the unnecessary customizations, like shimmer theme and xubuntu-default-settings. Xubuntu already makes too many changes with XFCE defaults. Don’t do it. Keep it clean.

  4. Rehdon
    August 20, 2012

    This doesn’t make much sense to me: why don’t you judge every feature request on its merit? if you have a “vision of the perfect desktop environment”, shouldn’t you consider if that specific feature fits within that vision? saying that XFCE/Xubuntu wasn’t designed to “satisfy people who are migrating from GNOME” is a sensible preamble when discussing such requests, denying them altogether because they are related to features present in Gnome is not as sensible IMHO.


  5. Pasi Lallinaho
    August 20, 2012

    Krzysztof, sure, just edit the window manager configuration!

  6. Pasi Lallinaho
    August 20, 2012

    Abral, you’re right. Customisable desktop environments do allow configurations that work for different people.

    On the other hand, good default configuration can be the “decider” for some; they are simply too lazy to start configuring their system to their exact needs. That’s why we need to consider what configuration would be sensible for our users. Accidentally, that will be the next subject I’m going to talk in my blog.

  7. Pasi Lallinaho
    August 20, 2012


    while we do design and customization decision based on what we personally think is best for our users, we are definitely not forcing them to use them. We acknowledge that anything we do can’t work for everybody. More on this on my next article about defaults.

  8. Pasi Lallinaho
    August 20, 2012

    Rehdon, sorry for not being completely clear.

    Of course we, or the Xfce team, is not denying requests based on where they are present in. As I said in the article too, the Xfce vision has been similar to GNOME earlier; nobody is saying they can’t overlap in the future. At the moment though, this doesn’t look very likely.

    Since Xubuntu does quite a little programming, it is not really our choice what features gets implemented in Xfce and what not. As far as Xubuntu is concerned, I’m talking almost exclusively about configuration. How we can affect is what features will be enabled in Xubuntu; this also covers the applications build around Xfce. We can take what we want, and leave what we want. Simply put, Xubuntu is not an operating system to necessarily and self-evidently bring all the Xfce-related stuff either. What we are offering our users should fit our vision on what is sensible, and that’s where the Xubuntu and Xfce vision are partly separated too.

  9. pinky0x51
    August 21, 2012

    I’m a long time XFCE user and I really like it. I started to use XFCE with Debian and moved to Xubuntu because of the great and polished user experience.

    But from time to time there are some things that worry me. All the Ubuntu patches are also in Xubuntu (obviously). I never managed to user Gwibber or Rhythmbox, just to name two examples, with a normal tray icon like on every other distribution. Since they seem to be so heavily patched for the indicator upload so that there is only the “Ubuntu way left”. I would be really happy if I would be able to use Xubuntu without this Ubuntu stuff like the indicator applet but so much thinks doesn’t really work they way it should without it.

    Another point is not really Xubuntu specific. With the dead of GNOME3 fallback-mode network manager upstream has no reason to continue maintain the nm-applet. What does this mean for XFCE. Will we be left without a proper network-manager interface in a few years? I know many people recommend WICD, but honestly while WICD is a nice tool it can’t really compete with network-manager but in features and user experience. Have you already thought about a solution when nm-applet will no longer exists?

  10. Rehdon
    August 21, 2012

    Thanks for your answer. Of course I do realize that you’re not (fully) responsible for XFCE’s evolution, but since it’s quite flexible it’s all a matter of sensible defaults and system-wide configuration, as you note elsewhere.


  11. Pasi Lallinaho
    August 21, 2012

    pinky0x51, thanks for the feedback! I’m glad to hear you like Xfce and specifically Xubuntu.

    The whole Ubuntu ecosystem is in the middle of a transition with tray icons and indicator area. I’m definitely hoping more and more things will be able to use the indicator area in the future, but that means somebody has to work on the code to support the indicator area. I don’t exactly know how trivial or non-trivial this is, but it is going to take a while. I don’t know Gwibber either, but I believe Rhythmbox should appear in the soundmenu. (Yes, it’s not like a tray icon, but it’s something, and the soundmenu is an ambitious project after all.)

    There hasn’t been any discussion about the situation with network-manager yet. Let’s hope there are people who are willing to maintain it in the future; not only for Xfce but the other desktop enviroments and (window manager) panels too.

  12. Pasi Lallinaho
    August 21, 2012

    Sensible defaults and system-wide configuration is meaningful, but so it is with any desktop environment. Of course, less flexible desktop environments simply won’t always comply with their users demands. This is definitely one of the reasons why we like Xfce.

    On the other hand, just sensible defaults and configuration can’t save a bad desktop environment. If it’s fundamentally wrong, in its features or inside, it still doesn’t make a good desktop environment despite the configurability. One more cheer for Xfce for being fundamentally a pretty solid desktop environment.

  13. Mike H
    August 21, 2012

    A quick recommendation here also for Lubuntu which is also, lovely and light and has all the advantages of Ubuntu except Unity. I use Lubuntu as my base and then tweak it by adding a few favourite Gnome apps like Nautlius.

    Lubuntu uses the lightweight LXDE desktop which uses even less memory than XFCE – it will happily run breezily in 256 MB, so even your oldest creakiest PCs become nimble new contributors to the office. VNC a few of those together (and just as easily reach your Windows PCs with terminal server client) and you’re flying. I’m running four such right now.

    Lubuntu keeps all the Ubuntu repositories and Synaptic is there for anything you need. Couldn’t recommend it more highly.

    And no they’re not paying me. :-)

  14. Pasi Lallinaho
    August 21, 2012

    Hey Mike, and thanks for the pointer for the readers!

    While Lubuntu is a wonderful derivative for low-end machines, in all fairness you have to acknowledge the fact that LXDE simply can’t match Xfce and GNOME in terms of features and user-friendliness. This is why it might not be ideal for everybody.

    Also, one has to note that even Lubuntu becomes much less lightweight when you add heavier applications, like Nautilus. Of course the same goes for Xubuntu too. Both derivatives use the same Ubuntu repositories, so there isn’t any difference on applications that are available.

  15. zamiere
    August 21, 2012

    I appreciate that you works on customizations and building an optimal package selection for wide range of users, but I have been working a lot on removing these customizations and unnecessary packages. It’s alright.

  16. Jo-Erlend Schinstad
    August 23, 2012

    Are people still ignoring the fact that Gnome Classic is still available and that you just need to press the Alt-button in order to customize the same way you’ve always done before? I really don’t understand why people feel it necessary to switch to another DE because of such minor issues. The only explanation I can think of, is that they quite simply don’t know that the classic desktop is still there and never went anywhere.

    If you liked Gnome Classic 2, then you should also like Gnome Classic 3 – can someone explain why people are suddenly moving elsewhere because of “Gnome 3”? Is it only because you have to press the Alt-key to customize panels, or are there other issues as well?

  17. Pasi Lallinaho
    August 24, 2012

    Hey Jo-Erlend,

    It’s hard to judge why people are switching. Maybe they don’t know of the classic interface. Maybe they feat that it will go away anyway. (Even the Xfce users fear that Xfce suddenly transforms into GNOME 3!) Maybe it’s a good time to switch now that you’ve thought of the possibility.

    Honestly I don’t think it’s a bad idea to try alternatives now and then, whether it was a new desktop environment, distro, or even a browser or a mail client. With Ubuntu, even reverting back to what you had is generally really easy.

  18. Scott Moore
    August 30, 2012

    I’ve been a Windows user for years (still am) but I came looking at Ubuntu when I saw the abomination that is Metro (Windows 8). I hung my head in disgust when Gnome 3 and Unity came out. I checked out several distros and Xubuntu was my favorite for many of the reasons cited above, especially the ability to customize my interface to my heart’s content

    I do consider myself a refugee but I’m liking the Xubuntu experience more and more with every upgrade since 10.10. Thank you!