Linux Distro Reviews: Xfce

Xfce is one of the oldest desktop environments (DE) available for Linux, but it is still going strong as a top contender for modern users....
Linux Distro Reviews: Xfce
Written by Matt Milano

Please note: Xfce is a desktop environment, not a Linux distribution (distro). However, for those just looking at Linux for the first time, this series is taking a slight detour to review a few of the most popular desktop environments before reviewing some of the actual distros that use them.

Xfce is one of the oldest desktop environments (DE) available for Linux, but it is still going strong as a top contender for modern users.

In the previous entry in this series, we explained the role of DEs in the Linux world. Among those, Xfce is a unique offering that threads the line between functionality, stability, and performance, making it a popular choice in the Linux and Unix world.

Xfce’s History and Philosophy

Xfce was initially released in 1997, making it one of the oldest DEs in existence. Right from the start, Xfce had a focus on modularity, with each component performing its designed task very well.

That design philosophy has carried through to modern times, with Xfce eschewing KDE and Gnome’s approach, which consists of bundling a plethora of apps designed specifically by their respective teams and for their respective DEs. Instead, Xfce focuses on the desktop, leaving it to app developers to build out the majority of applications an individual may want to use.

Xfce’s bundled apps include interface elements, window manager, terminal emulator, file manager, file search utility, basic text editor, image viewer, media player, disk burner, screensaver utility, and not much else. The most basic needs are met, but users must look to third-party apps for anything else, giving Xfce a laser-like approach to the desktop.

Another way Xfce differs from other DEs, and especially Gnome, is that it doesn’t try to reinvent the user experience with each edition. Instead, it keeps with the tried and true desktop paradigm that made Windows and macOS so popular.

Xfce’s Stability and Performance

At the same time, Xfce development proceeds at a much slower pace than Gnome or KDE Plasma. Because Xfce’s developers aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, much of their focus is on refining what already works or adding support for new Linux technologies.

One major benefit of Xfce’s development pace is rock-solid stability and a bug-free experience. Compared to other DEs, Xfce is one of the most stable and trouble-free options available.

Another major benefit of Xfce is its performance. The DE dispenses with much of the eye candy and animations other desktops use, resulting in one of the best blends of performance and functionality of the various options.

Xfce’s Looks

One thing that turns many off from Xfce is its default looks. To be blunt…it’s very plain.

At the same time, Xfce can easily be customized to accomplish virtually anything the user wants. While it does not have quite the level of customization as KDE Plasma, it’s easily one of the most customizable DEs available and can accommodate a wide array of tastes and preferences.

Enso OS – Credit The Linux Experiment


Ultimately, Xfce is a solid DE that blends rock-solid stability with outstanding performance. While it may not have all the latest bells and whistles and fancy animations, it’s a solid performer that lets the user focus on work instead of babysitting the desktop.

4 out of 5 stars

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