Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

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Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby MikeF90000 on Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:07 pm

Hello all,

I've been using various Linux distros for several years and I think I've found an acceptable desktop environment to complete my migration from the classic Windows DE - XFCE 4.8!

However, I'd like to hear from you Gnome 2 fans about what features you prefer or dislike relative to XFCE.

My primary migration criteria is to have a close look and feel to Win Classic (2K/ME). What I've been picky about is:
- themes that don't waste white space around text (IMO common in Gnome). Panels in the latest XFCE are no longer an issue.
- an organized and customizable application launcher (Start menu). In LMDE and Xubuntu organization looks good, customizability is lacking AFAIK. Perhaps there is a GUI package that can easily tweak all of those .desktop files into my preferred layout :-).
- a customizable 'document' launcher. Over the years I've used the easily customizable Windows menu to add folders with shortcuts to frequently accessed documents. Didn't find an obvious way in a Linux DE until I discovered the Directory Menu applet. Joy! I'll probably post more details in the Newbie forum.

BTW I decided to eliminate LXDE from consideration (for now) due to relative lack of customizability features and a few broken ones. Subjectively I feel that their dev team doesn't have the drive/vision that the LM and XFCE devs do.

Kudos to the LMDE team - the XFCE version has been quite stable and usable for me so far. As expected in a rolling release, the Mint specific tweaks seem to be minimal and/or unobtrusive. I haven't noticed that much difference between LMDE-X and Xubuntu.

Of course I'm looking forward to improvements in Cinnamon for the next Mint LTS release. Likewise, it's a 'wait and see' about what effects the XFCE migration to a GTK 3 foundation will be.

TIA!
Use the Panels, Luke! Seriously, don't waste time modifying the default menus.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby LifeInTheGrey on Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:57 am

MikeF90000 wrote:Hello all,

I've been using various Linux distros for several years and I think I've found an acceptable desktop environment to complete my migration from the classic Windows DE - XFCE 4.8!

However, I'd like to hear from you Gnome 2 fans about what features you prefer or dislike relative to XFCE.

My primary migration criteria is to have a close look and feel to Win Classic (2K/ME). What I've been picky about is:
- themes that don't waste white space around text (IMO common in Gnome). Panels in the latest XFCE are no longer an issue.
- an organized and customizable application launcher (Start menu). In LMDE and Xubuntu organization looks good, customizability is lacking AFAIK. Perhaps there is a GUI package that can easily tweak all of those .desktop files into my preferred layout :-).
- a customizable 'document' launcher. Over the years I've used the easily customizable Windows menu to add folders with shortcuts to frequently accessed documents. Didn't find an obvious way in a Linux DE until I discovered the Directory Menu applet. Joy! I'll probably post more details in the Newbie forum.

BTW I decided to eliminate LXDE from consideration (for now) due to relative lack of customizability features and a few broken ones. Subjectively I feel that their dev team doesn't have the drive/vision that the LM and XFCE devs do.

Kudos to the LMDE team - the XFCE version has been quite stable and usable for me so far. As expected in a rolling release, the Mint specific tweaks seem to be minimal and/or unobtrusive. I haven't noticed that much difference between LMDE-X and Xubuntu.

Of course I'm looking forward to improvements in Cinnamon for the next Mint LTS release. Likewise, it's a 'wait and see' about what effects the XFCE migration to a GTK 3 foundation will be.

TIA!


Personally, after a few weeks of playing around with it, I've become a huge XFCE advocate. You mention a GUI package to modify the menu, and the closest thing to it is alacarte, but installing it without --no-install-recommends bring in a bunch of GNOME libs, and doing it with --no-install-recommends only lets you check/uncheck items from the menu ... no adding new items. Kind of weak, hopefully 4.10 will have something better.

There are a couple of things that make XFCE difficult (certain major apps like Dropbox and Cairo-Dock really want to bring nautilus into the equation, thats a tricky dance) just because of its lower notoriety, and the integrated "Connect to Server" is one feature that I truly miss from GNOME (yes, I know about Gigolo, but its not nearly as clean). Other than those small hiccups, XFCE can be made to be exactly like GNOME 2. I know, because I've done it ... all my systems are now built from scratch with Debian Testing and pure XFCE (until LMDX gets an update, that is). The comp I'm using to post this right now is running XFCE 4.8 up-to-date in testing with full Compiz effects, AwOken icon theme, Cairo-Dock, and let me tell ya ... I feel right at home.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby secipolla on Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:20 pm

For a full custom Xfce menu I think you need to edit its text file (there used to be a third-party GUI for that, check Google).
A tutorial: http://dreamlinuxtutorials.blogspot.com ... -menu.html
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby Brian49 on Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:41 pm

I've fully customised the Xfce menu by using a text editor to modify the files in /usr/share/applications. You have to get familiar with the way the entries in those files determine their appearance as menu items, but once you've done that, the task is fairly straightforward.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby GeneC on Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:48 pm

Here is a lightweight GUI menu editor (its made for LXDE but works for XFCE).
I've been using it and its lots easier than text editing the menu file.

http://lxmed.sourceforge.net/about.html

Image

As for Gnome 2 vs. XFCE. Really little difference. I am running both presently and have them both set up very similarly.
Gnome 2.3 in LMDE-Stable has a limited life, I am afraid.
MATE is getting there. I still have a problem with high CPU usage when Compiz is enabled.

XFCE-SID-LMDE

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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby MikeF90000 on Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:39 pm

Thanks for the feedback so far. I've been down that road of editing the .desktop files - major PITA for something that should be built in IMHO.
BTW here's the link to my 'Directory Menu' tip: http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=197&t=92011
GeneC wrote:Here is a lightweight GUI menu editor (its made for LXDE but works for XFCE).
I've been using it and its lots easier than text editing the menu file.
http://lxmed.sourceforge.net/about.html
... snip ...

Thanks for the reminder. I did try this package once on (I think) Lubuntu and it had no effect; another post on this forum confirmed the Lubuntu issue.
Use the Panels, Luke! Seriously, don't waste time modifying the default menus.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby ukbrian on Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:42 am

I started using xfce custom menus about 6 months ago and now it's the first thing I do on a fresh install.
I have trouble describing things so here's a video 178 MB http://lin.me.uk/temp/saline-menu-Project-01.mp4.tar.gz
This is a link to the menu being used in the video http://lin.me.uk/temp/saline-menu.tar.gz

The menus are all self contained in a folder and the standard menu is not changed in any way.
I have not seen this technique used anywhere else and it is only possible with xfce as the
other desktops only allow you to point at the standard menu.

I would appreciate any feedback
Last edited by ukbrian on Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:41 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby sanda on Sat Jan 21, 2012 5:27 am


I'm eager to see the video, but I can't reach the server lin.me.uk (also tried linK.me.uk in case that was it)

The menus are all self contained in a folder and the standard menu is not changed in any way.
I have not seen this technique used anywhere else


I've been "wrestling" with customizing the xfce application menu.
One of the xfce settings dialogs does expose a picker, enabling you to specify a custom menu...
...but I've discovered that post-install directives contained within package upgrades still manage to wreak havoc with the customizations.

org.freedesktop.myarse
The package directives ignore the presence of an existing .desktop file,
overwriting it with a new copy (for the sake of pushing newly-added translations?)
Example:
to save keystrokes, I copied thunar.desktop to a new file, myveryspecialthunar.desktop , and modded it to perform "open thunar as root".
Well, I thought I modded a copied file... but the cloned item was (?) itself a symlink? In any event, upon upgrading to the incrementally newest version of the thunar deb package, lo and behold, myveryspecialthunar.desktop was erased. Doesn't matter whether the custom .desktop file resides in ./myuser or system-wide (in ...applications/ or even in a custom directory which I added to the path).
Apparently, during package upgrade, the existing .desktop file is deleted (rather than directly overwritten) THEN a check is made to determine whether its absence breaks any symlinks (and if so, those are deleted) THEN a new .desktop file is created for the upgraded app.
Maddening. Infuriating.
Equally maddening, WHO SEZ I want "dictionary" to reside within a subcat, a subcat named "office".
( org.freedesktop.myarse does, that's who ~~ and, during package upgrades, it INSISTS on overwriting my custom category assignments, relocating stuff to the original place in its "proper" hierarchy.
So, crafting a custom menu hasn't worked well for me.
I don't do "office" stuff, so "office" subcat is suppressed within my custom menu. Unfortunately, post-upgrade, "dictionary" winds up altogether absent from my custom menu.

What will it take to force dpkg instructions (or who/whatever the hell is to blame) to NOT disturb my existing .desktop files?!?
Must I chmod the desktop files read-only? Will dpkg directives hold permissions which trump/ignore the read-only restriction?

Aha. Choose a package which is unlikely to ever be upgraded 'til-death-do-us-part ~~ clone THAT and copy/paste content from the "stock" .desktop file of an app (and deleted the "stock" .desktop item). Yeah, then instead of the custom .desktop file winding up deleted... org.freedesktop.myarse creates a new "stock" item and you have redundant entries.

In Windows O/S, you customize the menu however ya like, by dragging stuff across/into nested submenus... and the O/S respects and preserves these customization elections. So far, under linux, I can't envision a solution short of ENTIRELY rewriting the menu and ignoring org.freedesktop.myarse altogether.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby ukbrian on Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:37 am

Sorry about that my domain is being moved to a new server this month and I'm having problems :(
The link is fixed now http://lin.me.uk/temp/saline-menu-Project-01.mp4.tar.gz
This is a link to the menu being used in the video http://lin.me.uk/temp/saline-menu.tar.gz

I found life a lot easier when I put it all in a self contained folder that didn't interfere with the main menu.
I like this way because once you have your menu(s) it's easily used on a fresh install of any Xfce distro just by copying one folder. :D

Hope this helps
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby sanda on Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:42 am

Thanks, your video presentation reflects the general approach I had tried. For a "static" (vs "rolling") installation, that approach would work well enough... but an app's .desktop file gets touched (overwritten) by apt, or dpkg (?) every time an updated version of its package gets installed. I had "kinda, sorta" sidestepped that issue (the rewritten .destop file defeating my custom category declaration) by editing the .desktop file for each of my various, custom-placed app ~~ performing a SaveAs to a diffeent name. That had proven to be a half-workable solution. My menu file doesn't display the "stock" freedesktop hierarchy of categories... but OpenWith, via thunar file manager, winds up picking up the duplicate pairs of .desktop files.

From what I've read, the Xfce devs opted for "freedesktop.org compliance" to suit the mainstream audience (after bloggers repeatedly raised criticism about the lack thereof when reviewing earlier Xfce versions). Ha! How quickly times change ~~ the newer DE interfaces (Unity, KDE Plasma, etc) have largely foregone "menu traversal" via introduction of "deskbar", "finder", etc.

To suit the way I work, draggability is an important consideration.
Rather than continuing to wrestle the "can't win" battle of customizing Xfce's freedestop.org -compliant menu, I'm focused on alternatives.
Found a package in debian named "mystuff"
(a homepage, of sorts, exists for it here: http://kornelix.squarespace.com/mystuff/ )
which extends beyond serving as an "app launcher". It accepts dragged document objects !
Further, and not apparent in the screenshot embedded within the linked kornelix webpage, for each item present on the mystuff panel you're able to choose icon-or-none AND aren't constrained to having items snapped into place (no snap-to-grid, no alphabetical auto-arrangement). Actually, mystuff employs a tiny 12x12px alignment grid... but, basically, I can visually drag/group my "toys" wherever I choose.

One limiting factor of myStuff is that only can only generate ONE "myStuff panel" (tray? widget?) In other words, you can't create panel1, panel2, etc. However, and perhaps confusingly, you can launch multiple instances of that same myStuff panel. Hey, let's put one in workspace -- ouch, that doesn't work well. The mystuff app "saves state" each time a panel item is added... but the changes aren't synced across various copies. Last man standing, when the last of multiple instances is closed, it's state is saved (likely stomping changes made to one of the other, already closed, copies).

another related discovery:
Unlike other "dock" widgets I've seen/tried, the "docky" widget accepts document objects dropped onto it!
(It also accepts imagefile objects, FWIW.)
Except for its display of multiple items for each of the "Places" objects (vs single "Places" item displayed to xfce panel, via xfce plugin), I think docky is a fine addition (er, replacement) for my xfcePanel2 / 3 / 4 / etc. Yes, docky enables you to create and maintain multiple dock panels, and your full set of panels, each at its respective location at screen perimeter, displays regardless which workspace you're currently viewing.

I intend to try hacking the docky code to remove/suppress icon display (or to handle icon display as a per item option, ala myStuff).
Those autohiding categorical dockies at the side edges of the workspace might suit me well.
Last edited by sanda on Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby ukbrian on Sat Jan 28, 2012 12:18 pm

Sorry I'm slow getting back but I'm playing with myStuff and I like :D

I have been using FolderView http://gtk-apps.org/content/show.php?content=102890&forumpage=12&PHPSESSID=56e2555ac3fd1fb7ce030a5d0d177b76
You can do multiple panels and it displays the content of folders, might be worth you looking at.

Does this mean in layman's terms that they no longer use the .desktop files
Ha! How quickly times change ~~ the newer DE interfaces (Unity, KDE Plasma, etc) have largely foregone "menu traversal" via introduction of "deskbar", "finder", etc.


I like this
(no snap-to-grid, no alphabetical auto-arrangement)

One limiting factor of myStuff is that only can only generate ONE "myStuff panel" (tray? widget?) In other words, you can't create panel1, panel2, etc.
I have found that I started with multiple panels but I now use one folderview panel underneath the main menu panel at the top of my screen almost like a dock.

The best desktop I have come across is Stardock Fences on windows, video http://youtu.be/Oy16n5chAmo but with that I now use one panel high up.

I think what is needed isn't multiple panels but a tabbed panel similar to what Firefox/Iceweasels Speed Dial extension does in a browser but in a panel on the desktop.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby sanda on Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:52 pm

Does this mean in layman's terms that they no longer use the .desktop files

Regardless whether or not they are displayed to menus/panels, I suspect the .desktop files must still be present, and are dynamically searched when the "deskbar" or "finder" mechanism builds a picklist.

FolderView... visually reminds me of the KDE "activities" panels. (EDIT: it is in fact a fork of KDE "activities" widget)
(I'll install and test drive it if "screenlets" can coexist with the other packages already installed on my system)
Having 2cm tall icons and truncated displayed filenames seems counterproductive ~~ when all the items in a panel are documents, all have the same icon. If the widget alphabetizes and auto-arranges the content each time an item is added, you're forced to hunt/peck, hovering the cursor over various items to flesh out the item you're interested in at the moment.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby MikeF90000 on Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:21 pm

sanda, I find myself nodding my head in agreement about your frustrations with 'freedesktop.org' compliance. It is Not doing the job!

I'm going to give lxmed one more try with some private (home directory) .desktop files to convince myself if that is a valid path to stable customizeability. At this point I'd rather maintain my own private menu and just use the default one to launch infrequently used apps.

The 'mystuff' package didn't seem to work for me. I couldn't drag anything to the blank 'dock' that would stick. Manually creating a launcher worked, but no defined button outline around the text? I'll have to try it in different DE's / environments.

For documents (not apps) the Directory Menu applet works well and, contrary to Mr. Shuttleworths babblings, we aren't forced to use a multilevel tree. I've been using a vertical panel populated with applet buttons only and it makes a nice compact, 2D, two click app+doc launcher.
Use the Panels, Luke! Seriously, don't waste time modifying the default menus.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby sanda on Wed Feb 01, 2012 1:11 am

Gee, I liked the fact that items displayed to the mystuff lacked "button borders". My goal was to cram a whole buncha links to a relatively small space. As I recall, mystuff is python+glade, so the window decorations (or item styling, not sure the term) should be editable.

For xfce v4.10, we may see return (it was removed after v4.6?) of an xfce-provided menu editor.
That doesn't protect against an app's desktop file being overwritten each time its package is upgraded, though.
-=-
When an app author (or package maintainer) supplies an icon that looks like a red pickle (or whatever) plus some fandangled, non-mneumonic appname, like gnobog... that really leaves the user grasping at straws. What if user (me) wishes to run an instance of a given app under sudo ? The actual name of the executable isn't revealed via the menu, so user should type sudo red pickle thingy to a command prompt, or what?

Absence of an option to display the name or pathname for each menu item, that's an xfce failing IMO, considering that several of my items link to the same exectable... each with a custom set of commandline arguments.

we aren't forced to use a multilevel tree. I've been using a vertical panel populated with applet buttons
I'm under the impression that each "launcher" is a TSR (a listener) though. Each launcher present on a panel adds 1Mb or so RAM overhead, even when the panel is set to autohide. In contrast, menu items don't "listen", they just fire an even when clicked... without adding continual RAM overhead.

SpeedDial -- I've assembled a mishmash of gnome and KDE components into xfce & I've grown fond of the autocomplete functionality in deskbar-applet (installed to an xfce panel, via plugin)... but haven't yet figured out how to have deskbar make use of recoll (desktop seearch, xapian backend).
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby dbkblk on Wed Feb 01, 2012 6:08 am

LifeInTheGrey wrote:You mention a GUI package to modify the menu, and the closest thing to it is alacarte, but installing it without --no-install-recommends bring in a bunch of GNOME libs, and doing it with --no-install-recommends only lets you check/uncheck items from the menu ... no adding new items.

Just install "apt-get install --no-install-recommends alacarte gnome-panel" and then it will be okay !
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby sagirfahmid3 on Sat Feb 04, 2012 8:59 am

I advocate LXDE :D
I added Compiz, Emerald, and Docky and I feel right at home too!
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby MikeF90000 on Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:19 pm

sanda wrote: ... snip ...
When an app author (or package maintainer) supplies an icon that looks like a red pickle (or whatever) plus some fandangled, non-mneumonic appname, like gnobog... that really leaves the user grasping at straws. What if user (me) wishes to run an instance of a given app under sudo ? The actual name of the executable isn't revealed via the menu, so user should type sudo red pickle thingy to a command prompt, or what?

Absence of an option to display the name or pathname for each menu item, that's an xfce failing IMO, considering that several of my items link to the same exectable... each with a custom set of commandline arguments.

Good point. How about submitting a feature request on the upstream forum ?

I'm under the impression that each "launcher" is a TSR (a listener) though. Each launcher present on a panel adds 1Mb or so RAM overhead, even when the panel is set to autohide. In contrast, menu items don't "listen", they just fire an even when clicked... without adding continual RAM overhead. ... snip ...

Not sure whether I care when I have a 4GB system :wink: ... OTOH on a non-upgradeable old 256MB laptop this might be important.
Use the Panels, Luke! Seriously, don't waste time modifying the default menus.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby MikeF90000 on Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:35 pm

Just completed a take at a more 'Windows user' friendly customized xfce 4.8 desktop:
lmde-xfce4.8.jpg
version 2
lmde-xfce4.8.jpg (44.5 KiB) Viewed 14737 times

Starting from the upper left corner and going clockwise:
- Top panel - only (open) Window Buttons, Notification area and Clock.
Bottom panel, right corner - mixer
- Button group for document launching (Directory menus)
- Button group for 'favorite app' launching
- Workspace switcher
- Button group for infrequently used apps, like Synaptic
Lower left corner
- Button to minimize all open windows
- Session menu (shutdown, logout, etc)
Cluttered default Applications Menu is available by right clicking on Desktop - for most infrequently used apps.

Have I forgotten anything? :D
Last edited by MikeF90000 on Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby LifeInTheGrey on Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:41 am

dbkblk wrote:
LifeInTheGrey wrote:You mention a GUI package to modify the menu, and the closest thing to it is alacarte, but installing it without --no-install-recommends bring in a bunch of GNOME libs, and doing it with --no-install-recommends only lets you check/uncheck items from the menu ... no adding new items.

Just install "apt-get install --no-install-recommends alacarte gnome-panel" and then it will be okay !


I liked this idea up until I needed to install gnome-panel haha. Installing gnome-panel EVEN WITHOUT recommends brings in ... deep breath ...

evolution-data-server-common
gnome-desktop3-data
gnome-icon-theme-symbolic
gnome-panel-data
libcamel-1.2-29
libebook-1.2-12
libecal-1.2-10
libedataserver-1.2-15
libedataserverui-3.0-1
libgnome-desktop-3-2
libgnome-menu-3-0
libgweather-3-0
libgweather-common
libpanel-applet-4-0
libtelepathy-glib0
libwnck-3-0
libwnck-3-common

... not the lightweight solution I think everyone is aiming for. Hopefully they bring back the menu editor from 4.6, as was mentioned prior in the thread.
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Re: Comparison: XFCE vs MATE (Gnome 2)

Postby sanda on Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:13 am

During daily use, do you actually utilize "workspaces"?
I could, I might... but definitely don't need FOUR wspaces and (right-click the workspace widget }} properties) I shrink the displayed widget by setting it to "2 rows".

Yeah, I'm rambling. I'm not addressing "have I forgotten anything" here.

That panel icon of a speaker, izzit the "xfce4-mixer"? "xfce4-volman"?
Whatever, I'd choose an alternative to the suxor xfce4 wolume control widget.

My Windows (XP) doesn't have, has never had a "top-of-window" taskbar.
IMO, such top-of-screen placement is ergonomically incorrect.
Also, if I were stuck sitting in front of a display where the clock counted off SECONDS... I'd slap some electrical tape (er, a paper post-it) atop that distraction in short order.

==========================

I've been reading & learning about xdg and the "freedesktop.org" standards.
We can, in fact, create customized .desktop entries (and menu.directories and menus)... then, while wearing sudo sysadmin hat, copy the customizations to an override directory. The customized menus etc will be served to all users, and unless sysadmin curtails normal users' ability to further customize... a pretty durn good (and largely undisturbed, by package upgrades) customized menuing can be achieved.

workspaces.
AFAIK, xfce doesn't support per-workspace theming/backdrops.
I bookmarked a utility (you place it in uatostart folder?) which watches, and swaps wallpaper, when you change workspaces.

For me, the other huge "what's missing" was desktop search.
Early on, I had installed xfce-applets-plugin, and placed "deskbar-applet" to an autohiding side panel (along with a "places" entry and a "xfce-clipman" entry)... and found it to be really helpful.
===
More recently, I installed "recoll" search... and search-wise, it has become my new best friend!
I configured it to index the content of most of the file system, not just user files. REAL enlightening -- easy to find "how is the kneebone connected to the shinbone is connected to the anklebone?" saves ya from wading through the sea of .conf and init.d files. Can now find "Which php files have I modified in the past xx days?" and "let's see where I last used array_pop()"
sanda
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