The Unity desktop, which comes as the only out-of-the-box desktop environment with Ubuntu 11.10, has attracted a great deal of criticism from Linux lovers.
While some users may be impressed by the “stunning good looks” of the Unity desktop, many are angry at the attempt to use the glitz factor to popularize Ubuntu. There are reports indicating that this has in fact backfired in some ways, and resulted in Ubuntu’s popularity falling among users who have loved the traditional simplicity of the various Linux flavors.
Nevertheless, I discovered some important Unity desktop shortcuts to try and keep up my efficiency with this environment.
Also, it seems it isn’t a bad idea to try out alternatives to Unity. Jeff Hoogland, the lead developer of the Bodhi Linux project, has written a fairly detailed account of various desktop environments. Going by first hand accounts from users I’ve interacted, I decided to pick LXDE and XFCE.
LXDE – The “Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment”
LXDE is indeed lightweight, going by the quickness with which it loads on my computer and the fact that it demands very little system resources.
The LXDE Desktop can be downloaded and installed from the Ubuntu Software Center
Without the add-on apps, the download was pretty small for me – a little over 10 MB.
The LXDE Network Manager and the Desktop
The taskbar and applications menu appear at the bottom – so this makes it a familiar environment for those switching from Windows XP or 7. In my opinion, the Docky that can be installed in Unity to achieve a taskbar like feel isn’t really a great solution for users trying to navigate between windows using mainly their mouse.
The XFCE Desktop Environment 4.8
Mr. Hoogland refers to this desktop environment as “slightly older and more mature than LXDE”.
If you’re in the default Ubuntu 11.10, you can head straight to the Ubuntu Software Center and type xfce4 in the text area. This will bring up the option to download and install the XFCE system on your machine.
The XFCE desktop environment can be downloaded and installed from the Ubuntu Software Center
The download size is about 20 MB, without the add-ons included.
On logging out of the current desktop, there will be an added option in the available desktop environments – XFCE. Once you log in, you can choose to use the default configuration for the panel setup in the confirmation dialog that pops up.
XFCE is certainly a very pleasant desktop environment, and blazing fast to work with. I think the ready dock panel at the bottom is quite impressive and better than the Docky I used earlier.
Switching between several open applications using Alt-Tab is noticeably quicker when you're in either in LXDE or XFCE.
Have the LXDE and XFCE desktop environments been a boost for you, if you've made the switch from the default Unity? Would you recommend them to users? I’m keen to hear your thoughts!
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