Arch + XFCE: The perfect Desktop (for now)

In the past week I’ve used Ubuntu 10.04, Mint 9, and Arch + GNOME, but Arch + XFCE seems to beat all of those.

While Ubuntu and Mint are both excellent, and very user-friendly, they both had a problem with Rhythmbox import errors. Basically every song with a strange character in the name (e.g. Alizée – A quoi rève une jeune fille) gave an import error, even though it was imported correctly. Switching to Banshee didn’t help much: it only found 214 songs out of close to 7000. Mint, being Ubuntu based, did the exact same thing.

Banshee in Arch found my collection just fine, but with GNOME startup took way too long. There’s still some kind of issue there, because I’ve had the same problem since 2.26. Arch with XFCE proved to be the winner though, being fast, functional and beautiful, all at the same time. Some things take a bit more time to configure, like multimedia keyboard button shortcuts, which should have worked out of the box with banshee, but didn’t, things like that. Nothing major.

Pacman has had a recent upgrade, and now seems to be even faster, and there are some improvements when you want to install a local package. Definitely still the best package manager out there. Chromium, Banshee, Emelfm2, Comix, Audacious, Transmission and Brasero were quickly installed, which only left a good twitter client. I enjoyed using Gwibber in Ubuntu, but in Arch it isn’t available in the official repositories. It’s in the AUR, but required a 100+MB download and…left me with a blank screen. I enjoy using Tweetdeck in Windows, but while it worked fine in Ubuntu, it doesn’t in Arch. Again, it’s only available via the AUR, and for me, it simply didn’t work. Pino came to the rescue, but again, it’s not available in the official repositories. All in all, I don’t get the impression that the Arch devs and packagers are big twitter fans 🙂

I’ve also grown fond of Docky lately. For some reason, I always resisted using a dock, probably because my few experiences with Mac OSX weren’t that positive. However, I realised that what I like about Windows 7’s taskbar are it’s dock-like abilities, so I tried out Docky. Now I don’t know how to live without it. It does require compositing to be on (not a problem these days, easily switched on in XFCE, GNOME and KDE), in order to have some eye candy, but things remain discreet and tasteful. On IntelliHide it provides a bit more screen estate, which is nice.

Configuring GDM’s layout and background isn’t that easy these days, and the Arch Wiki article didn’t work for me, so I switched it for LXDM. I read on the forums it may be unstable, but it has been working like a dream on my Lubuntu netbook, so I wasn’t nervous about giving it a try here. Big plus: the configuration file is plain text, so changing the background and GTK theme was very easy.

It’s in my nature to keep changing my desktop, because I get bored easily and can’t resist shiny new software. But I’m very happy with this. For now.

Obligatory screenshots:


17 Responses to Arch + XFCE: The perfect Desktop (for now)

  1. whorider says:

    For AUR packages, have you tried to use yaourt?

  2. user says:

    You obviously got a LOT of free time to spare.
    You post about a new ‘perfect desktop’ each month that goes by.
    First its Arch then Fedora then Arch again, then who knows whats next.
    Stick to something and get things done damnit! 🙂

  3. celettu says:

    whorider: yep 🙂

    Don’t think I’m not aware of that 😉 And no, I DON’T have a lot of spare time 😛

  4. Kevin says:

    Nice wallpaper; who’s the artist? I know you mentioned the name in one of your earlier post, but can’t seem to find it now.

    By the way, I’m totally ripping off the sweet setup you’ve got 🙂

  5. Capitan says:

    Lookin’ nice! It’s high time I had a desktop change myself, I’ve been on openbox for about a year. I think I might just have to go with XFCE, you have it looking pretty snazzy there 😀

  6. Tuxedo says:

    Good review. but with arch, I’ve always said, until have a good GUI install to gnome, xfce, kde etc… it’ll be a little distro.

  7. celettu says:

    Kevin: It’s David Lanham, at 🙂

    Capitan: Thanks!

    Tuxedu: a GUI would be against the Arch way…Arch delivers a base where you can install any DE or WM you want, nothing more. I think the devs are pretty happy to remain a “little” distro 🙂

  8. Guilherme de Sousa says:

    @Tuxedo, Arch’s filosofy its about minimal and KISS.
    They’re aim isnt to be a BIG distro, but to stick to KISS filosofy:)

    @celettu, did you got samba working already? its nice to see you coming back to arch, since this blog was one of the big influences that made me try the BEST distro EVER!

    regards and keep posting !:D

  9. celettu says:

    Guilherme: I’ll get to it, I swear 😛

  10. johnnie says:

    I don’t get why are you so “afraid” of AUR packages? Get packer, it’s better and quicker than yaourt, I can’t imagine having Arch (Chakra) without it.

  11. celettu says:

    Johnnie: not afraid at all. They simply did not work.

    I think it’s safe to say that AUR packages aren’t all of the same quality as the official ones.

  12. johnnie says:

    OK, since I’m n00b 🙂 in AUR packages, could you explain to me what doesn’t work and why they aren’t of the same quality as official packages?
    The only problem I get with AUR packages are dependencies like for example sopcast-player: it requires vlc version smaller than 1.1.0, and I have 1.1.1.

  13. celettu says:

    Johnnie: short version: anyone can create an AUR package and put it in the AUR. That means the quality could be as good as the official packages in the repositories, or it could suck. The only indications are the comments and the number of votes it has. It also means that packages in the AUR are entirely unsupported.
    The wiki article has the long version 🙂

  14. johnnie says:

    Thanks for answering.

  15. Alex says:

    When I see your blog, I’m thinking about me…
    Every month, I’m looking for the best distrib, and best desktop.
    Arch linux is a good choice, like xfce (that was my opinion two weeks ago.)
    And now I’m on Crunchbang Statler alpha 2 (xfce)… For how long? Wait and see…. 😀

  16. Thor says:


    Though quite late after the pub of this blog – apologies for that – I’d like some assurance. I just got “struck by Gnome3” – not a bad DE, but not what I’m looking for. I’d like to move to XFCE…any issues I’d need to keep in mind? I use Arch as well and love it.



  17. Techno says:

    This website rocks! I enjoy what you have posted. I want to talk about a playlist that I believe really symbolizes this everybody here. Check it out and let me know if you like it!

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