The main desktop component to the Xfce desktop environment, xfdesktop, has received a few underlying improvements over the past 18 months. Xfdesktop now has a redesigned preferences dialog and a completely new menu system. The libxfce4menu library implements the FreeDesktop.org menu standard, but it's still a work in progress. Of interest to us is also support for display hot-plugging. If you are using GTK+ 2.14, a new X.Org release (X Server 1.3 or later), and a supported graphics card driver, there is this hot-plugging support. If a new monitor is enabled, the xfdesktop should automatically detect the change and start managing the desktop on that monitor. Should you disable one of the monitors, xfdesktop should be smart enough to stop managing that desktop too.
The window manager for Xfce, xfwm4, hasn't received any major changes in this first alpha build other than a handful of fixes and the ability to resize a window from the top. Thunar, the file manager for Xfce, has also gone without any major changes in this release. One minor change to the Xfce utilities with Xfce 4.6 Alpha (v4.5.90) is support for using gnome-screensaver if xscreensaver isn't detected.
This alpha release was originally set to appear at the end of June, then August, and then in early September, but it was finally released on this Sunday morning in the middle of September. If the Xfce developers are able to stick with their revised release schedule, the first beta of Xfce 4.6 is set to appear on October 12. This beta release will mark the feature freeze and all components must be integrated for Xfce 4.6.0. Following that release, Xfce 4.6.0 will be undergoing bug fixes with two more beta releases planned for November. The final release of Xfce 4.6.0 is planned for the 21st of December, but prior to that are two release candidates for earlier in the month. For today's testing we had built Xfce 4.5.90 from source on an Ubuntu 8.04 system.
Xfce 4.6.0 is arriving much later than anticipated, but at least it looks like it will still arrive in 2008. Since the release of Xfce 4.4.0 there has been several revisions to both KDE and GNOME, including KDE 4.0 and even KDE 4.1 along with GNOME 2.22 and GNOME 2.24. The new settings management and desktop improvements in Xfce 4.6 are nice, but it's more along the lines of an incremental update. What though is more interesting is their new underlying xfconf configuration system. Xfconf is modeled around GConf and is a significant upgrade over their previous MCS system and should serve as a foundation for future work. We will have more on Xfce 4.6 as its development cycle goes forward.
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