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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Tags multimediaLinuxUbuntu Studioopen sourceXfceunitygnomeubuntu

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Another victory for the XFCE project!



I like Xfce, I think it has potential. It would be cool to see Xfce (starting at version 5?) ported over to GTK3. In addition, easy integration of Xfce with Compiz would be awesome! Running on top of Wayland of course ;)

The existing desktop paradigm actually works quite well for many. Regardless of whatever issues anyone has with Microsoft, do you not think they haven't spent millions testing UI design? I am not saying it is perfect, but for many it works and works well. There might be a reason for some of that.



Good - I dislike Unity - not user friendly at all.....

Arrogant Redhead


That Lavender guy is a radical. Only a matter of time before he is on a Government watch list for his rejection of authority!

Scott Lavender


I would like to thank you for the article, Rodney, and also further a few points.

As project lead for Ubuntu Studio, I have many responsibilities to our users, not the least of which is to provide a stable, familiar distribution in which their creative work flows are not compromised.

To explore these concerns I am using both GNOME3 and Unity and find them brilliantly different and fundamentally enjoyable. I feel that GNOME3 clearly has the current advantage , but Unity has the weight of Canonical behind it and given the incredible pace of development exhibited, I expect to see further great and impressive developments.

But unfortunately, I believe these desktop environments were developed for the "typical Linux desktop user" and their minimal requirements for windows management.

In contrast, a Ubuntu Studio user could easily have more than ten applications open (perhaps upwards to twenty) while creating music, especially a musician using synthesizers and softsynths. Managing this quantity of windows may prove highly disruptive under the new DE's.

I don't view this as Ubuntu Studio moving away from Unity (the counterargument could be as easily made that Ubuntu via Unity is moving away from Ubuntu Studio), rather, this is a matter of what makes Linux great...choice.

The Ubuntu Studio team is choosing to follow the path, which may be viewed unpleasantly by some, to provide the best environment to our users.

Thank you for your time,
Scott Lavender
Ubuntu Studio Project Lead

P.S. Arrogant Redhead, get back to fixing my Pro/E model ;)

Rodney Gedda


Thanks for the comment Scott. I couldn't agree with you more - open source is all about choice so use what's best for you or your distro.

I first tried Xfce about 10 years ago, so this article reminded me of the project and how far it has come!

Feel free to keep me up to date with any Ubuntu Studio developments.


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