Xfce 4.16: First Look at the New Features and Improvements

Xfce 4.16

Development of the upcoming Xfce 4.16 desktop environment is progressing nicely, and now that the first preview release hit the streets, it’s time to look at the major new features and improvements.

The initial plan for Xfce 4.16 wasn’t to be a big release, like Xfce 4.14 was, but it turned out it was worth the effort of working on more new features for the lightweight desktop environment and present users with a comprehensive update.

Of course, nothing can beat the Xfce 4.14 release, which was more than 4 years in the works. However, Xfce 4.16 has some very nice additions fans will more likely enjoy, and who knows, it may even convert a few GNOME or KDE users to the lightweight alternative used by many popular distros by default, including Xubuntu, Manjaro, and others.

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 new features in the Xfce 4.16 desktop environment:

  1. Revamped ‘About Xfce’ dialog

The About Xfce dialog has been revamped in this release to also show basic system information by default. This is possible thanks to the addition of the libgtop library, which can fetch system specific data like CPU and memory usage, as well as information about running processes.

When you click the About Xfce item in the Applications Menu you’ll now see at a glance the device where Xfce is running, the Linux distribution you’re using, the system architecture, current Xfce version, as well as CPU and RAM information.

  1. Client-side decorations (CSD) for all Settings dialogs
Xfce 4.16

Another cool and modern feature that Xfce users have been expected for so long is support for client-side decorations (CSD), which makes apps use their own window decorations. Client-side decorations are known to be more space-efficient and integrate better with app window content.

Xfce 4.16 comes with an initial client-side decorations support for all the Settings dialogs. In addition, the Settings Manager now features an improved search/filtering functionality.

  1. Fractional Scaling
Xfce 4.16

Fractional scaling is another modern feature that fans of the lightweight desktop environment have requested for a long time now. As expected, it’s been implemented in the Display dialog under System Settings and makes use of the XRandR configuration utility.

Three predefined display scaling options are available at a glance, including 1x (default), 1.5x and 2x. But using the “Custom” entry you can set your own fractional scaling. In addition, the Display dialog now supports better fallback in case your configuration doesn’t work.

  1. New Status Tray plugin
Xfce 4.16

A new Status Tray plugin is available in the Panel Preferences dialog to make your life much easier when configuring the system tray area and the status notifications. The plugin is accessible by double clicking its entry in the Items tab.

It’s a merge between the systray (Notification Area) and Status Notifier plugins and supports the Panel’s global “icon size” setting.

  1. Dark mode for the Xfce Panel
Xfce 4.16

The Xfce Panel now supports dark themes, finally! To enable it, all you have to do is open the Panel dialog in System Settings and enable the Dark mode option in the Appearance tab. Be aware that your theme has to support dark mode for this feature to work, otherwise the panel will keep its default light mode.

  1. Autohide animation for the Xfce Panel
Image: Xfce Project

To complement the new dark mode, there’s now an autohide animation for the Xfce Panel that makes the “autohide” feature less confusing for users. While the autohide animation feature is enabled by default, you’ll have to set the Panel’s automatic hide behavior to ‘Always’ in Panel Preferences’ Display tab.

  1. Launching new instances for apps
Xfce 4.16

A new “Launch New Instance” option has been added in the right-click context menu of apps and dialogs on their Xfce Panel entry to let you easily launch a new instance of the respective application or dialog, basically duplicating it. I find this feature very useful when, for example, I want to open another Terminal window.

  1. Pause copy and move operations

Another long anticipated feature is the ability to pause copy and move operations. This was implemented in the ‘File Operation Progress’ dialog and it is part of the Thunar file manager.

  1. New ‘Default Applications’ dialog
Xfce 4.16

A new ‘Default Applications’ dialog is available in System Settings to help you fully configure which apps open certain files and which apps are the default for specific tasks. It basically unifies the ‘Mime Settings’ and ‘Preferred Applications’ dialogs from previous Xfce releases.

  1. New icons

Last but not least, Xfce 4.16 will come with new icons for all core components. This was done in order to offer Xfce a visual identity and make it easily recognizable among Linux desktop environments. Also, the new icons follow the freedesktop.org rDNS icon naming standard.

But wait, that’s not all! Xfce 4.16 also comes with:

  • GTK3 support for a more modern UI/UX and improved maintainability
  • Custom right-click actions for Desktop launchers (e.g. ‘Open a New Private Window’ for Firefox)
  • Support for the Workspace Switcher plugin to display numbering for workspaces
  • Support for queued file transfers in the Thunar file manager
  • Support to remembering view settings per folder in the Thunar file manager
  • New versioning scheme for Thunar and Volman
  • The ability to view the alt-tab dialog only on the primary monitor
  • Bash auto-completion for xfconf-query
  • Support for excluding paths in the tumbler.rc settings file
  • Support for sorting apps by frequency and recency in the Appfinder
  • Improved gpg-agent (GNU Privacy Guard) support
  • Cleaner battery and ‘on power’ settings
  • Autohide for the low-battery notification when connecting to a charger
  • A new visual indicator in the Xfce Panel when “Presentation mode” is enabled
  • … and much more!

The final Xfce 4.16 release is expected later this fall, sometime in late October or early November (the final release has been delayed for late December or early January 2021). An exact release date is not set yet, but two more preview releases are expected later this month and in mid-October.

Last updated 3 years ago

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