Menu issues

Drew Leske dleske at
Fri Sep 11 01:35:35 CEST 2009

Hello Jannis, thanks for the response.

> > (1) Is being a lightweight desktop environment still a goal?
> Yes, I'd say so. Perhaps not ultra-lightweight but in the
> foreseeable future the thing we call Xfce will remain a small number of
> components with a realistic set of dependencies and I don't think
> there's any reason to be concerned about bloat in Xfce.

That's a relief.  Seriously, that's all I wanted to hear. :)

> Actually, I'd go as far as to say that 4.6 didn't introduce any
> additional bloat compared to 4.4 except maybe for GStreamer. 

If I hadn't tossed off the original e-mail in a bit of a rush I would
have made note of this.  I haven't actually felt any bloat in the
upgrade.  I was more concerned about some of the commentary I had seen
which almost seemed to indicate people were more interested in a
feature-rich environment.

Not that feature-rich is a bad thing, and "complete" means different
things to different people with different needs--complete for one person
might mean bloat for another.

> Besides that, our increasing use of D-Bus could be seen as a
> "slow-downer" of Xfce but it also ensures loose coupling, flexibility
> and a nice overall architecture.

I sometimes wrestle with this same issue in my own development, so I
understand the dance there.  There's nothing like when you can get better
performance from a more flexible architecture, but sometimes the payoff
in performance comes a lot later.

> I'm sure that there's a lot of room for speed and memory optimizations
> without the need to sacrifice the maintainability of our codebase. But
> people have to accept that we're just a small team consisting of half a
> dozen core developers working on Xfce in their free time. For this
> situation to improve there would have to be more participants in the
> development and/or systematic funding. 

I sort of rushed the e-mail and was thinking on the way home, "Damn."
because I probably gave the wrong impression.  Given the amount of free
time I have these days, I'm amazed anybody is able to produce stuff like
this in their free time.

> And hey, we're using git now, so please start cloning our repositories
> and work on fixes and play with new ideas!

Well, these days I barely have time to read the instructions on custom
menus.  And reading through the threads it looked like somebody already
wrote a code frag that displays the workspace name you're switching
to--which was something I kinda wanted to do.

I wrote an XFCE panel applet back in the day to display the time I have
worked on various tasks.  This integrated with my little task management
app I use.  Later on, when I went back to upgrade it, I found the Generic
Monitor applet and just switched to that.  So for some time I had full
desktop integration of my command-line task management app, with the
customised menus for task selection and the generic monitor to tell me
my status.  It was... beautiful.  Not my app, which is a goofy little
thing at version 0.003, but the minimal fuss I had to engage in to get
it integrated with XFCE.

It was a very unixey experience.

> > (2) For those using custom menus, have you found a reasonable
> > solution?
> For 4.6 we have adopted the menu specification which
> ensures compatibility with most desktop applications available today. 
> I agree that custom menus are now more complicated to maintain.
> Pleasing all participants on involves a certain level
> of complexity and compromises.
> There are menu editors out there (like Alacarte) which do a decent job
> at making it easier to edit menus. The bad news is that 4.6 doesn't
> support the bits in the specification dealing with menu editing. For
> that you'll need to wait for 4.8 (scheduled for next April) or possible
> development releases between 4.6 and 4.8. 

For me I occasionally would update menu.xml directly, but taskmenu.xml
and hostmenu.xml were generated by scriptage and data from other
sources.  It was super-simple.

> (I don't feel comfortable myself to tell you this because I am the one
> responsible for the menu library and all that... I certainly made life
> more complicated for a lot of people.)

Given the interoperability with established tools that will be available
in 4.8, you may have made things less complicated for more people, if
indeed much of the XFCE user base customises their menus.  I could
easily be in the minority here and I can respect that, and I'll just
have to adjust one way or another.

However, in the recent archives for this list I read one question where
somebody asked, "would it be possible to have the option to use the
old-style XML menus" and that was dismissed summarily.  Do you think
it's doable?  If the ramp-up wasn't huge, I might look into contributing
a patch for this.  If it allowed both menuing systems, that would, at
least to me, seem ideal.

> Thanks, this kind of feedback is always welcome. (Not saying that I
> don't like critical response though. ;))

I spent less time on the original posting than I usually do and hope I
didn't give anybody the wrong impression.  So I really appreciate the
thoughtful response.

Best regards,

Drew Leske, Senior Systems Administrator    | dleske at
Unix Services Team, University Systems      | 250-472-5055 (office)
University of Victoria                      | 250-588-4311 (cel)

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