I’m not the only one stalling on the new Gnome 3 / Shell UI, and looking for alternatives. Also, it seems I’m not the only one settling on Xfce as a replacement for Gnome 2. It’s a lightweight desktop, and strikingly similar to that of old Gnome and KDE. Basic panels, work spaces, window handling and customization is all in place.

To install after a plain Fedora install:

yum groupinstall XFCE

In Fedora 14, version 4.4 was available, while Fedora 15 includes the significant upgrade to Xfce 4.8. This caused a few problems, since I had already started switching in F14, and after upgrading, all my panels and launchers failed.

It was not to hard to transfer from the old Gnome 2 panels, though. Basic plug-in in the notification area was actually brought along fine, including parcellite, networking, and even Dropbox. For the “drawers” in Gnome, Xfce uses “launchers”. It’s the same idea. And what’s more, the 4.8 version also uses the .desktop short-cut files. To copy from a Gnome 2 “panel / drawer” to a Xfce launcher, provided one already exists (It might not work 100%, but you get the idea):

grep -r -l panel_3 $HOME/.gconf/apps/panel | xargs grep stringvalue | grep desktop | tr '<' '>' | cut -f 3 -d '>' | while read f; do d=`locate -n 1 $f`; cp $d $HOME/.config/xfce4/panel/launcher-11.; done

You might also want to style and theme the look a bit, including the buttons on the windows. I set the Window Manager Theme to “Stoneage”, and increased the title font to 11. Under Settings -> Appearance, I’ve gone for “ClearlooksClassic”, “Fedora” icons, and 14 as default font (since I sit far away from the screen).

Under Window Manager Tweaks I was first confused by the “wrap workspaces” options. However, they seem to have been cancelled out by Xinerama or something else.

The default taskbar clock does not have a calendar, so go for the “Orange Clock” instead. I replaced the visible line with “%H:%M”, and the tooltip with “%a %d %b %Y/%V”.

And that’s all there is to it, really. Xfce does not have many “native” application, but all GTK+ based ones run fine, include what I’ve tried from Gnome and KDE: gThumb, K3b, and Gnome Terminal.