Things are coming together slowly

It’s slow developing a distro/branch when you’re a one-man show – thankfully the base system is pretty solid and most of the packages I need are included so hats off to the Unity Linux development team.

Anyway, I am making steady progress, but I really want the next release to be just about perfect – certainly in terms of features. As the base system is minimal (Openbox/LXPanel), I am busily working on GUIs and testing software that I think will bring everything together. For instance I am currently working on a Control Centre style window written in pygtk which will pull together all the GUI tools for complete control of the desktop experience (a bit like the XFCE Setting Panel). I want to make it easy for a user to customize the desktop without having to manually edit files.

I have also been experimenting with different techniques for displaying desktop icons and looking at the memory consumption involved. It will come as no surprise to see that the lightest combination is idesk, with PCManFM second and that Xfdesktop uses the most memory. However, the differences are really not that great and each bring strengths and weaknesses to the table:

idesk
Pros: lightweight and good looking icons with a good level of control over mouse over and mouse click events eg you can set a double-right-click command.  You can also use a range of icon sizes and drag icons into new positions and/or lock in place.
Cons: difficult to configure and create new icons. Does not provide a true desktop, ie doesn’t show contents of ~/Desktop folder. Icons have to manually created (although I am working on a script to automate this). Most GUIs are out of date and don’t work properly.

PCManFM
Pros: A good all-round solution to having a resource light desktop manager and file manager. Follows contents of ~/Desktop folder. Option to show window manager menu on right-click. The default app in LXDE.
Cons: Cannot move or sort desktop icons. Icons automatically sorted on creation date.

Xfdesktop
Pros: Follows contents of ~/Desktop folder. Icons can be moved anywhere on desktop. Right-click menu provides conventional applications menu. Integrates well with Thunar if using as default file-manager.
Cons: If using Thunar-volman, uses 15-20MB more RAM than others. No option to show window manager menu (though I have a Thunar custom action for this).

I am seriously considering including all 3 in the next release so that users can use what they feel the most comfortable with…

And finally, just come across a wonderfully simple and fast file manager – xfe. Xfe is written in C using the Fox toolkit (which is the only dependency). As such it doesn’t tie in with your GTK theme, but there are some pre-included themes for a Gnome or KDE3 look. Xfe supports dual-pane browsing with a 3rd tree pane (much like the *commander interfaces) and can sync across panes. It includes a built in image viewer and text editor, though you can set preferences to use other apps. If you are doing some serious file management/moving tasks, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Just see how quickly it will display the contents of a large directory like /usr/bin. The only drawback is that it does not show the contents of image files in place of the icon. Anyway, I think it’s going to make it into the next release.

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