The future of Xfce (or beating the Gtk3 horse to death)

Alan Jesser nigot30 at
Mon Mar 18 22:34:45 CET 2013

I love Xfce but I agree that there are worries out there about Gtk and the direction it is heading. Now moving to EFL sounds great but then we run into the issue of being too similar to Enlightenment. How well will Xfce fair if people just see it as the same thing as E17, let alone it's going to take time for people to adopt the EFL since it took E17 so long to release. I've used E17 and achieving a uniform look with EFL/Gtk/Qt is pretty difficult. This may improve in time but for now it would be difficult to know if this would deter people or not. 

Now the only real options to consider are Gtk/EFL/Qt, Gtk is causing concern, thus this conversation. EFL is pretty stable but not widely adopted at this point. Qt is widely used but seen as "heavier" than Gtk. I have been reading that Qt5 is much more modular than Qt4. With this Qt5 may be lighter than Qt4. But the real questions comes down to work required to make such a change. Gtk2->Gtk3 should be the easiest since it's same framework just updated. Gtk2->EFL might be the next easiest to accomplish since it's C based as well. Gtk2->Qt(4/5) would probably be the largest undertaking. 

My two cents would be a move to Qt5. Now here is my reasoning. Enlightenment and Xfce share a lot of the same ideals, with that it would be difficult to differentiate Xfce from Enlightenment. The conversation of moving to Gtk3 was brought up because of the uncertainty, and in the past pointed out that Gtk3 doesn't offer a compelling reason to update from Gtk2. That leaves Qt5, it is widely used and has been setup to work on a wide range of hardware and devices. It has the backing of KDE and Digia. It it will most likely remain one of the most stable and supported options out there. The other thing to look at would be the razor-qt project. They are using Qt to make a lightweight environment akin to lxde. If you look at the razor-qt discussions you will see that one of the lxde developers has actually started to port some of their stuff over for razor-qt because he doesn't want to use Gtk anymore. 

I'm not saying that Xfce should join up with them but it does offer another resource for Qt development/migration. If something like this were to happen I would say it happen after 4.12 is released. Then a focus on Qt5 to create the Xfce 5 branch. The work involved would probably take some time and by that time Qt5 should be widely adopted by distributions, and Digia will have worked out many bugs and missing features. Qt5.1 is actually due out in April and greatly improves OpenGL in the framework. So we see they are still doing lots of work to improve it.

One last thing to think about is what framework is doing the most to work on Wayland. (I didn't bring up Mir because we don't really know if that will be widely used. In either case Conical is going to port Gtk3 and Qt5 to work on Mir. That means Xfce will probably need to select one of those if it plans to work on future Ubuntu releases and forks.)

Just my 2 cents,

> From: landronimirc at
> Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2013 20:54:04 +0100
> Subject: The future of Xfce (or beating the Gtk3 horse to death)
> To: xfce at
> CC: xfce4-dev at
> Dear all,
> After reading a couple of horror stories on the evolution of Gtk3 (and
> Gnome 3), I'm once again pondering the likely future of Xfce.
> If those stories hold even remotely true, it seems that Gtk3 minor
> releases follow hand in hand with Gnome3 releases, including
> (Apple-style-) breaking of 3rd party applications on each new release.
> Some even go to the extremes of saying: “GTK 3 isn’t a reliable API.
> Maybe it should be called libgnome instead… I genuinely get the
> feeling that GTK 3.4 is developed for GNOME 3.4, that it doesn’t
> really matter if it breaks things and that we’re not supposed to use
> it outside of GNOME.” This eerily recalls me Apple-related horror
> stories.
> So if Gtk3 indeed evolves to become incompatible with Xfce by having
> hitherto standard functionality removed, what would Xfce do? Stick
> with Gtk2, as remotely likely as it seems right now? Radically change
> direction and switch to Enlightenment (
> ), as Auke once
> suggested and especially since Enlightenment seems more compatible
> with the Xfce philosophy than Gtk3 given the direction in which the
> latter is currently heading?
> I know that this has already been discussed on the list in the past,
> but it seems to me that Gtk3 just comes back hunting us. Regards,
> Liviu
> -- 
> Do you know how to read?
> Do you know how to write?
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