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After almost three years of development, Xfce 4.12 was released over the weekend and it includes numerous improvements, including a new Display settings dialog with proper multi-monitor support, improved alt-tab with two new modes, support for loading GTK3 plugins for the Xfce Panel, client-side decorations (header bars) support and much more. Let's take a look at what's new!

Xfce 4.12

While Xfce 4.12 has only been released for a couple of days, many of the new features / changes included in this release were already available in various Linux distributions. For instance, Xubuntu started shipping with Xfce 4.12 development builds with Xubuntu 13.04, and applications like Parole and Thunar were updated to the latest version which each Xubuntu release.


Xfce 4.12 video


As usual, I'll start the article with a video which shows some of the new features available with the latest Xfce 4.12 (recorded under Xubuntu 15.04):


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Changes in Xfce 4.12


One of the most important changes in Xfce 4.12 is probably the new Display settings, which comes with a new UI and includes proper multi-monitor support along with a quick setup dialog with most used modes:

Xfce 4.12


That's not all related to multiple monitors. The Desktop Manager was updated with a new wallpaper settings dialog which allows setting per-workspace/monitor wallpapers - simply drag the settings dialog to the display or workspace where you want to change the wallpaper and set a new background image:

Xfce 4.12

As you can see from the screenshot above, there's one more interesting change in the Desktop settings: the automatic built-in wallpaper changer now allows changing the wallpaper at startup and at a configurable number of minutes/hours/days/etc., (previously it only supported changing the wallpaper after X minutes).


With Xfce 4.12, the Xfce Window Manager has received quite a few Alt-Tab improvements: the Alt-Tab dialog is now fully themable, it comes with two new modes (a list mode and a window preview mode), you can select windows in Alt-Tab by using the mouse and more:

Xfce 4.12

Xfce 4.12

Other changes in the Xfce Window Manager changes include support for client-side decorations (requires compositor) and corner tiling:

Xfce 4.12


Also, two new Xfwm4 themes were added (hdpi and xhdpi) for better hi-resolution screen support:

Xfce 4.12

And speaking of themes, Xfce 4.12 can display previews for theme styles and icons:

Xfce 4.12

Xfce 4.12

I should also say that despite this not being mentioned anywhere (in the Xfce 4.12 tour/release notes/changelogs), Xfce 4.12 appears to be using Greybird as the default GTK theme with an Adwaita-like theme (called just "default") for window borders (all the screenshots in this article use this).

With this release, the Xfce Panel can load GTK3 plugins alongside GTK2 plugins and it ships with a new hide mode: intelligent hide (the panel hides when there's a window near it):

Xfce 4.12

Another component that has received special attention for the Xfce 4.12 release is the Power Manager, which now supports logind and upower and comes with a new panel plugin which allows changing the brightness and shows all connected devices and their power status.

Xfce 4.12

Furthermore, the Power Manager settings dialog has been restructured and includes settings for pretty much everything you may need, including Light Locker integration:

Xfce 4.12

Xfce 4.12

Xfce 4.12

Other changes:
  • zoom the desktop via ALT + mouse scrollwheel;
  • Xfsettingsd now supports libinput;
  • option to hide window title for maximized windows, useful on small screens (System Settings > Accessibility > Hide title of windows when mximized) - this requires compositing;
  • sync to VBlank support for the Xfwm4 compositor (System Settings > Window Manager Tweaks > Compositor).


Applications


Since the Xfce 4.10 release, applications like Thunar, Parole or Xfce4 Terminal have received a significant number of updates and with them, quite a few major improvements.

Thunar, the default Xfce file manager, has received support for tabs and GTK3 bookmarks, along with many other minor but useful improvements like displaying the remaining free space in a bar in the folder properties, support for displaying the properties for multiple files in the same time, etc.:

Xfce 4.12

Parole Media Player has received numerous improvements. The app was ported to GTK3 and Gstreamer 1.0 and it comes with a new UI with media controls overlay:

Xfce 4.12

Furthermore, the app has gained support for multiple video backends, CD and DVD playlist and navigation support, subtitles can now be added manually, etc.:

Mousepad text editor was rewritten, getting support for GTK3 along with a settings dialog:

Xfce 4.12

Xfce4 Terminal has received support for being used as a drop-down terminal, support for color presets including some built-in presets like Solarized, along with other improvements:

Xfce 4.12

The Xfce Task Manager has received a new user interface with GTK3 support along with a process filter:

Xfce 4.12

Also, with Xfce 4.12, Whisker Menu (an alternative to the Xfce Applications Menu which Xubuntu already uses by default) and XfDashboard (a GNOME Shell-inspired application launcher and workspace switcher) have joined the Xfce family:

Xfce 4.12

Xfce 4.12

Xfce 4.12


Other changes include:
  • users can now use pkexec instead of gksu(do), with Thunar and Mousepad;
  • the Xfce Screenshooter can now upload screenshots to Imgur;
  • Squeeze (Archive manager) was partially rewritten;
  • Xfburn gained BluRay Disc burning support;
  • the GNOME2 hardware monitor plugin was ported to Xfce Panel;
  • the Weather plugin got a new user interface;
  • the Clipboard Manager plugin optionally displays a QR code;
  • the Cpufreq plugin now supports Intel P-state.

It's also important to note that with Xfce 4.12, the Xfce4 Mixer and Volumed were dropped because they were using Gstreamer 0.10 and according to the release notes, they couldn't be ported to Gstreamer 1.0. Furthermore, to prepare for the switch to GTK3 which no longer uses themes engines, the development of the Xfce GTK3 theme engine was stopped.




Xfce 4.12 availability


Fedora: Xfce 4.12 should be available in Fedora 23 (but it might make it in 22) and it's already available in Rawhide.

Arch Linux: at the time I'm writing this article, Xfce 4.12 is available in the Testing repo.

Debian: Sid continues to use Xfce 4.10 while Debian Experimental currently provides Xfce 4.12 development builds (4.11.x).

Xubuntu:
  • Development builds of Xfce 4.12 were available in Xubuntu starting with Xubuntu 13.04 so if you're a Xubuntu user, you already have many of the features presented in this article;
  • As for the final Xfce 4.12, Xubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet includes parts of it while the rest is available in a staging PPA. The final Xubuntu 15.04 release should include the complete Xfce 4.12 desktop.
  • The Xfce 4.12 PPA is in the process of being updated with the latest Xfce 4.12 stable (for Ubuntu 14.10 only but 14.04 will probably follow). I won't add installation instructions right now because the PPA still provides Xfce 4.12 development builds (4.11.x) for Ubuntu 14.04 and Xfce Power Manager failed to build for Ubuntu 14.10. Update: the PPA is now ready for installing the latest Xfce 4.12 (stable, not using development builds) in Xubuntu 14.04 or 14.10 - installation instructions.

References / more info: