I can lie: my excitement level is rising because a brand new version of the Xfce desktop environment is about to be released.
Almost two years of development have gone into shaping Xfce 4.18, which is scheduled for release on December 15, 2022. features such as fractional scaling support).
Eager to see what’s new and improved in the latest version of this lightweight desktop, I scoured code commits, developer tweets, and weird bug report(s) to write this rundown on what to expect.
Xfce 4.18: new features
To note: this post is not an introduction to Xfce. Anyone unfamiliar with the unique selling points of this desktop environment should head to the official Xfce website or Wikipedia page. These offer a better starting point than this post (which only looks at what’s new since last time).
Thunar is Xfce’s default file manager. It is a lightweight and powerful tool. As part of the Xfce 4.18 release, the tool incorporates a plethora of new features and expanded capabilities – more than many people expected.
For example, it is now possible to activate a image preview sidebar. This displays a larger preview of a featured image on the left of the default app, taking up space in the sidebar. A more convenient option lets you display it “standalone” on the right, where there’s more room for the actual preview.
Thunar’s new editable toolbar lets you add and rearrange toolbar icons to suit your needs. With the 4.18 uplift you can add a new split view icon to Thunar’s toolbar (this is also available in the See menu, or by pressing
F3). Split View divides the active window into independently navigable columns with support for dragging and dropping between them.
There is also a rather interesting novelty file highlight functionality (accessible from the file properties dialog). This lets you set a custom background color and a custom foreground text color – an effective way to draw attention to specific files in a directory loaded with similar-looking MIME types.
Regarding file search, Thunar 4.18 includes recursive search. Search can be activated by clicking the magnifying glass icon in the toolbar (it replaces the reload icon in earlier versions). This turns the path bar into a text field where you can enter a search term.
Thunar 4.18 shows on-screen notifications when calling Undo/Redo actions. There is also extended undo/redo support. This encompasses all copy, move, link, create, rename and delete actions, and includes multi-level undo/redo – a definite plus for indecisive erasers like me!
- New bookmarks menu (add folders to sidebar)
- New “Recent” sidebar entry
- The “Go” menu has “recent” and file search options
- Keyboard shortcuts are now customizable in the app
- Improved layout of status bar information
- Additional Thumbnail Loading Preferences
- Option to restore tabs on startup
- Option to show full directory path in tab title
- Ability to run shell scripts
All that more the usual kind of stability improvements, bug fixes, and performance enhancements you’d expect from an update. Great job, Thunar developers!
Important new features and visual changes that you cannot fail to notice are a regular attraction in desktop environments such as GNOME and KDE Plasma. Xfce is more conservative. That might seem like a downside to some, but for people who want a reliable, predictable desktop that doesn’t shift under them, it’s a major plus.
Why am I telling you this? Because the “desktop” changes mentioned below might, to some, seem rather minor or inconsequential when compared to the main DEs. Even so, buffs of the basic Xfce user experience are welcome.
The Xfce4 panel picks up a pair of new preferences. First, the panel length is now configured in pixels rather than percentages as before. Second, there’s a new “keep panel above windows” option. This allows maximized application windows to fill the area behind the panel rather than maximizing its bottom or top edge so that it is flush against it.
New flexible font options are available in the Xfce4 clock applet. We can now change the clock font family and font size. New options allow you to display only the date; only time; date then time; or time then date (or enter your own custom layout).
And if you don’t want the calendar to appear when you click on the clock, you can now assign a custom calendar command to run instead.
Xfce’s analog “control center” brings together all the different desktop modules for managing the system in one easy-to-use window. New options are present in many of them.
You can disable header bars in dialog boxes from the Appearance module; show or hide a “delete” option in the context menus of files from Desk; and choose a default multi-monitor behavior before you attach an additional screen – very convenient, that.
The Xfce4 application search application has better default settings and a larger window size by default (although it is still resizable).
Overall, there are some exceptionally interesting (and in a few cases, often desired) changes to the Xfce desktop. Additionally, further work is underway to improve Wayland support in the various modules that make up the Xfce desktop (although it may take a few more releases before everything is 100% perfect under Wayland).
This article is a hand-picked overview of the most striking changes I noticed when testing the latest development version of Xfce (on EndeavourOS, FYI). So no, this post is not exhaustive. I recommend going through commits and merges during the Xfce 4.17 development cycle to learn (even) more details.
Are you excited about Xfce 4.18? Share your hopes and expectations in the comments section.
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