Menu issues

Drew Leske dleske at
Fri Sep 11 05:35:47 CEST 2009

On Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 05:27:47PM -0700, Jannis Pohlmann wrote:
> Developing a desktop environment is a bit of a tightrope walk. Some
> people are very happy with just a panel and a desktop menu (like those
> Fluxboxers). Others prefer to have a lot of hardware and
> online services features directly integrated into the desktop
> environment. And then there are people who still think that the UNIX
> way of using different tools for different things is a good idea.

I probably lean towards the first group, and I am definitely covered by
the last.  I fiddled with Fluxbox a bit but Xfce for me has the nicest
balance, in the interface, of leanness and ease-of-use.  For the most
part (nearly without exception) it works the way I want it to work.

In fact, anytime there's something that doesn't work the way I want it
to work, it's fixed in the next upgrade.  The menu system is the first
example of it going the other way for me.

And the Unix thing you mentioned is exactly what I go off about to
people when I tell them about Xfce, using the example I mentioned
earlier about my task management prog working with the generic monitor
and the task manager.

> So, I think of Xfce as a more traditional environment because we
> clearly don't have the manpower to follow most of todays trends. For
> instance, I kinda doubt that we'll in the near future jump on that
> "revolutionize the desktop" train GNOME is riding on with things like
> gnome-shell, zeitgeist, wizbit and others. 

I should probably explore Gnome again--I haven't lately.  But everytime
I walk into a coworker's office they've got 700 bits of eye-candy on
their screen and it's like looking at a game show all day.  But they
like it, just like I like Xfce.

It's a luxury to have the choice.

> You can still auto-generate custom menus from a simpler representation.
> It's just not as easy as it was before. The things that need to be
> generated are:
>   1) a .menu XML file
>   2) one .directory file per root and sub menu
>   3) one .desktop file for each menu item
> Neither of these are really complicated. The .menu file just defines
> the hierarchy of menus, where to look for .directory and .desktop
> files and which categories or items to include in which menu.

You're probably right, and I don't really have a choice about it, and
with what you said earlier about the compliancy with
giving us more tools in 4.8 is something I didn't realise.  I probably
won't use them much, but that's clearly a win.  I recall seeing some
confusion with the old system and people asking for editing tools, and
this will give the community a whole set of tools.

> > 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.
> No, that's unlikely to happen. But if someone thinks it's worth it, he
> can always write a separate menu plugin for supporting the old format.
> That of course doesn't bring the old format back in the desktop menu
> but it's something at least.

Sorry, I wasn't asking if you, or anyone else, would be willing to
support both systems.  My question to you was, as architect (if I
understand correctly) of the current menuing system, and presumably the
one who ripped the old one out, if it is architecturally feasible for
the two to co-exist, and whether that would be a lot of work--for me to
decide on your response whether it would be realistic for me to look at
that.  I'd certainly be stoked to contribute that if I could, if people
would find it useful.  And it would be nice to have the option of
backward compatibility.

But given what you've said about 4.8, it seems like the effort would be
better spent writing an XSLT to convert my (and others', ideally) old
menus to the new format, or some similar thing.

> We simply don't have the manpower to maintain the same thing twice. And
> it doesn't make much sense either.

I don't know enough about the menuing subsystem to understand this
statement fully, but I really just meant "leave the old one in" as well.
All new development goes to the new menuing system, but Xfce still
recognises the old one and can generate the menu or a submenu based on
that.  So I was wondering if that was possible, and again, I wasn't
asking you to do it.

Thanks for the discussion.  It has been informative and I think I'll be
sticking with Xfce for a while!


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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