TROMjaro xfce beta!
A month ago some TROM friends started to tell me about this XFCE desktop environment, how fast and nice it is. But I knew about it and whenever I had a brief look over it looked very bad. Old looking. And I wanted to create a beautiful TROMjaro that can also be used on touchscreens and such. But Gnome, the version we were using, annoyed me too much for the past years when their updates broke our TROMjaro a few times. Long story short, I managed to make a TROMjaro XFCE that looks very modern and it is even decent on touchscreen devices, more than Gnome actually.
Why bye bye Gnome?
1. To customize Gnome is a pain in the ass.
Gnome makes it very difficult to do so. I mean, sure, there are tons of Gnome Extensions out there that allow you to transform your Gnome into anything, but these extensions are a sort of a hack and they end up not being updated and when Gnome pushes a major version of their system, some of these extensions can fully break your entire system. Happened a few times with TROMjaro Gnome. That kinda scared me. I was always concerned when Gnome pushed a new update. Plus, even when I had to do a little change the the side apps menu, it took me a while to do it. It was about creating a package that will push those Gnome changes, add it to our repo, and so forth. That made me reluctant to improve our TROMjaro.
2. Gnome is not meant to be customized.
People have been saying this for a long time and it is true. The custom stuff you do to Gnome feels like adding some CSS code on top of a CSS code but with the !important tag so it overwrites the original CSS. Like take the top bar in Gnome, there is little you can do with that. It is there, so you have to accept it. In XFCE you can move it, add whatever you want to it, or add as many such bars/panels as you want. You feel free to do anything with XFCE.
3. Gnome becomes slower and slower….
Since the default Gnome looks so empty and is not really user friendly (where are the apps? the menus? the windows?), you end up adding more and more such hacky extensions to make it look usable. But in time these extensions accumulate and will make your system kinda slow. Even on my powerful laptop it takes 2-3 seconds after I press the Super key, to showcase the opened windows and the virtual desktops. It is not all about how much RAM it consumes, it is about how the desktop works. I am yet to properly test the XFCE version on my machine with so many virtual screens and apps opened, but I tested it on a very low specs laptop and works better (much better) than the Gnome version, and on my 2013 windows tablet where it runs so fast is amazing.
4. The Gnome extensions are weird.
So to install any Gnome extensions you have to go on a website and install from there. Update? Same way. So users are faced with some notifications from time to time that some extensions need updating. They click that and are sent to a website…and you hope that they know they have to click the green star button to update one of the many extensions in the list they are faced with… And then, most of the time, the update looks like it failed. But hey, you have to press Alt+F2 then type “r” and press Enter (if you use Xorg) to restart the desktop in order for the extension to update. If you are on Wayland…restart the computer! This always annoyed me. On XFCE no more such bullshit. All updates go through the software center.
I can continue with the reasons, but don’t get me wrong, Gnome is still a great desktop environment. It is sleek, polished, beautiful. However it has become more like a company-project not a linux do-it-as-you-want project. Plus I want a distro that’s faster for TROMjaro so it can be used with older computers too.
What's so awesome about the XFCE version?
I put a fuck ton of effort into our new homepage to explain it in a very nice way, and I will do a TROM-Cast tomorrow or these days all about it, so it is difficult for me to express myself one more time here, in text. But I will list some of the best features and you go about checking that new homepage and watch our TROM-Cast about it. Actually I’ll embed the cast here after it is done. (EDIT: scroll down to see the TROM-Cast)
So. The best parts about this XFCE version:
– It looks very similar to the Gnome version. Like…almost the exact same. Because I was able to customize it as such. So old TROMjaro users will feel at home. Plus we use 90% of the same default apps so no changes there. If you switch over you won’t find it that different.
– It feels like one-piece. I don’t feel like I hacked it. Except 1 or so plugins that I use for the top menu, everything desktop related is developed by the XFCE team.
– It is so customizable yet not overwhelming. There is Windows/MacOS with their: this is what you see so get used to it. Or Gnome that’s becoming more like that. And there is something like KDE Plasma that’s so customizable that you will get 100% lost through so many options and features, that may break your system when you update parts of it due to its complexity. XFCE does not have that many options, but enough to let your brain understand them, and enough to let you customize it a fuck ton. I showcase on the new homepage how I made it look like Windows 11, or MacOS, or KDE Plasma, or Gnome and so forth. And that only takes 10 or so minutes and you only need to install some themes and icons via the software center. No more new docks, and menus, and extensions….all is done with the default XFCE tools. I LOVE THAT!
-It is FAST and super responsive. Even in a Virtual Box this puppy flies. Everything feels so smooth and fast.
– Stable! We need to test this more to be sure, but from what I can tell XFCE is very very stable. And since we use their tools (desktop-wise) then very likely the updates they push won’t break our TROMjaro. This makes me so much more relaxed.
– Easy to build. It is so much easier and saner to build TROMjaro XFCE than it was for TROMjaro Gnome.
– Practical and efficient. Yeah, the Gnome workspaces and animations are cool, but after a while you realize that they are not very practical. For example in Gnome, in order to move a window to a new workspace, I would have to press the Super key that would expose all windows (and if you have many it is hard to pinpoint the one you want to move), then drag the window to a new workspace, then click that workspace to switch to it. In XFCE you can drag the window in focus to the top workspaces. Then click that new workspace window. Not as fancy, but you will see it is much faster and saner when you use it for practicality reasons.
I could probably find more reasons, but lets move on.
What will happen to the Gnome version?
Do not panic!
The TROMjaro Gnome will be functional as long as you’ll keep it updated. Do not forget that TROMjaro is a customized Manjaro. You get your updates form the Manjaro team as usual. The only downside is that we can’t check if certain updates may break your system and how, because of those pesky extensions, but we will always provide help to fix your install. Use our Matrix channel “#tromjaro:matrix.trom.tf” if you ever have any issues with TROMjaro Gnome. We will make a new article about how you can migrate to TROMjaro XFCE, these days, because we highly recommend that you do that.
We will remove the Gnome version from our downloads in the coming weeks and XFCE will become the default TROMjaro install.
What does Beta mean?
We tested this TROMjaro XFCE quite a lot, but since it’s only a month since we started this, we need a bit more time to see what bugs there are, what needs to be fixed or improved. But this TROMjaro XFCE Beta will be the main ISO. Meaning, if there will be any changes/fixes they will be explained in the release notes like we’ve always done. So make sure that you follow us here. We made it so easy for you to stay up to date with whatever we do.
Ok now, grab it, play with it, give us feedback!
Attention: there is a little quirk with this ISO, that we found in other past ISOs too and may be a Manjaro thing. After you install it you may not be able to find any applications in Add/Remove software. The database needs to be refreshed, so click the top right menu/gear icon in Add/Remove Software and then click to refresh the database. From there on everything should work perfectly fine. However, if the AUR does not work (you can’t find a packages) then this is an AUR issue that blocks your IP address temporarily. You can use the VPN that TROMjaro ships with until AUR unblocks you. We are looking into why these are happening…