I have found Xfce as a very productive desktop since the first time i tried it. But somehow the sad file manager, xffm kept me away from using it as the default desktop environment. But the new Xfce 4.4 sports the new file manager Thunar. Lot has been said and heard about Thunar, its UI design principles and the way it was designed to be non-intrusive from ground-up.
Thunar looks good, is pretty light weight and the frame structure looks friendly. There is a way to add right-clock options to the menu, so you can add things even like "Enqueue in XMMS" using xmms -e command ! But, there is no samba and ftp support. These features could be added i guess as it supports extensions. But due to this it falls a little short of being as usable as Nautilus or Konqueror, which do tons of other tasks too. But again, Thunar does what a file manager should do, why should it burn cds and mount remote shares ? But convergence is the wave; integration of applications with the environment is near to seamless in DEs like KDE, and Xfce is way to behind in this respect. But one should not expect such things from a light-weight, 18MB sized desktop environment.
As for Xfce, the desktop, there are lot of small improvements ... like better panel controls, panel resizing in pixels, Xfce window manager provides newer borders, ALT+TAB window seems to be improved to show things like user's picture for gaim chat window etc.. Other nice but very different feature from a traditional desktop is that now a desktop icon is created for every window running on that desktop ! So you can resume work in a window by clicking the icon. I dont know if this is according to some UI guidelines but its a feature i would rarely use, mainly cause its not my habit to click desktop icons to restore windows. Mousepad is now the default text editor and its just the right Notepad clone ever.
But as a beta release this is pretty stable, not a crash yet. The thing i found missing was some icons on the Xfce-settings main form.
I have been on Freerock Gnome ( a Slackware deviant of standard Gnome) for past few days and i can say that Xfce is catching up fast to be a full fledged replacement of Gnome and still be a lot lighter. But Gnome will be going the heavy-duty way in future with 3D-acceleration equipped window manager and all.
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