Chuck Carroll

Switching to XFCE4

Published: 2022-11-09

After several years using the Cinnamon Desktop, I decided to drop it entirely in favor of XFCE4. Anyone that's used Linux will probably be aware that it's a powerful and highly customizable OS, but unfortunately there's also the occasional bugs to deal with. Granted, every operating system has it's bugs, but with Linux the bugs seem to be a bit more annoying.

One of the issues I had with the Cinnamon Desktop was video playback and games being choppy, where a video frame would freeze for about 1 second every 30 seconds or so. This occurs when the laptop is closed and plugged into an external display. The solution is to go to power settings and enable "Perform lid-closed action even with external monitors attached" - an odd solution, but a solution nonetheless. This bug has been around since at least March 2017 and its still an issue in the latest release. Last year I switched from Linux Mint Debian Edition to Arch and continued to use the Cinnamon Desktop because it was familiar. However, the video playback bug persisted.

Another issue that recently popped up and was the final nail in the coffin was the Cinnamon lockscreen not accepting my password. The appeared to be an issue with Cinnamon users on an Arch-based distro as there's an on-going thread in the Arch Linux BBS (I also started one in the Linux Mint forum). The issue appeared to have popped up in cinnamon-screensaver 5.4.2-1, but was still there in the 5.4.4 release, where once the screensaver/lockscreen started, it would lock the user out for 10 minutes as though an incorrect password had been entered. Unfortunately, the message that the user is locked out for 10 minutes only appears on the screen for a split second - if you blink, you miss the message. Though if you hit ESC a bunch of times, you can get the message to flicker in red text below the password field. I would either have to wait 10 minutes or reboot my system, losing any work I had up. This was especially frustrating because I had recently installed the Manjaro Cinnamon Community Edition on my girlfriend's laptop and this issue was affecting her computer as well.

I've been using XFCE4 for several weeks now, I've more or less replicated the workflow I had on Cinnamon. I've tinkered around with XFCE in the past, but recently picked up a used Chromebook and installed Arch on it. Naturally, XFCE made sense as it's a lightweight DE and a perfect match for the Chromebook's low-end hardware, and it allowed me to become more familiar with it as a desktop environment and overall I was impressed. Although XFCE4 isn't as flashy, I disabled all the fancy window animations on Cinnamon anyways. One thing I miss and still working on recreating with XFCE are panel applets that display resource usage at-a-glance (ie CPU and memory usage percentages and CPU temperature). XFCE has a system resource applet, but it shows usage in bars only. Other than that, I've been quite happy and have noticed that it's much more snappier and uses less resources than Cinnamon.

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