Ubuntu Studio says no to Unity, adopts Xfce

KDE, GNOME 3 also given cold shoulder

An example Xfce 4.8 desktop environment

An example Xfce 4.8 desktop environment

In another sign Canonical’s Unity desktop environment is not resonating well with the wider Ubuntu community, multimedia-centric Ubuntu derivative, Ubuntu Studio, will move from the GNOME to the Xfce desktop for its next release.

Last month Ubuntu Studio celebrated the 11.04 ‘Natty Narwhal’ release with the rest of the Ubuntu community, but unlike the main Ubuntu release did not turn on the Unity desktop and instead opted to keep GNOME as the default interface.

“Ubuntu Studio does not currently use Unity. As the user logs in it will default to Gnome Classic Desktop (i.e. Gnome2),” according the Ubuntu Studio 11.04 release notes.

Read the rest of the 11.04 release notes here: Ubuntu Studio 11.04 ‘Natty Narwhal’ release notes.

However, just this weekend, the Ubuntu Studio project went one step further and announced it was moving away from Unity and GNOME to the open source Xfce desktop as the default environment.

Ubuntu Studio developer Scott Lavender wrote on his blog the project will be moving to Xfce, a desktop environment promoted as being “lightweight and fast”.

Lavender wrote Ubuntu’s decision to go with Unity raised concerns regarding how the new desktop would “affect the typical Ubuntu Studio user’s work flow”.

“The consensus within the team is that Unity was not an optimal choice for Ubuntu Studio at this time,” according to Lavender.

The Studio developers considered using the ‘classic’ GNOME desktop, but since it won’t be shipped with the next Ubuntu release — 11.10 ‘Oneiric Ocelot’ — they concluded questions remain around the ongoing support of GNOME packages, particularly gnome-panel, by Canonical.

“Therefore, it quickly became evident that staying with GNOME panel as our default DE did not represent a viable choice for project sustainability,” Lavender wrote.

The Studio developers believe Xfce has advantages over GNOME, KDE and Unity because it provides a “familiar desktop metaphor” and is a more “resource friendly environment”.

Xfce and GNOME both use the GTK+ libraries to develop their graphical interfaces. But with the release of GNOME 3 last month, the GNOME Shell UI is taking the project in a new direction on the desktop.

While pushing the innovation bar for a free desktop, both Ubuntu’s Unity and GNOME 3 have attracted criticism for being too radical a departure from their GNOME 2 tradition on the desktop. A few years ago KDE’s move version 4 attracted the same kind of criticism.

The Ubuntu Studio developers will also use the move to Xfce as an opportunity to explore updating the distribution’s user interface.

The Xfce project is online at: http://www.xfce.org/.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

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