Linux: Improving the XFCE Settings UI
It often irritates me how the settings of XFCE, a light-weight desktop environment, are distributed across Appearance, Window Manager,
Window Manager Tweaks and Workspaces in
xfce4-settings-manager, the configuration application that ships with XFCE:
Selecting the theme of window contents (the GTK theme) is done in Appearance, but selecting the style for the window borders (the window manager theme) is done in Window Manager › Style.
The font selection resides in Appearance › Fonts, except for fonts of window titles, which are in Window Manager › Style.
Window Manager › Shortcuts allows defining window manager-specific shortcuts, but there is also Keyboard › Application Shortcuts to define shortcuts for running commands.
Workspace configuration exists in Workspaces, but Window Manager Tweaks › Workspaces provides settings, too.
Considering where the individual settings come from, it becomes more obvious that the settings are mostly organized by application.
This requires users to make a mental mapping between the application (e.g. “which application is in charge of drawing the title bar? … That should be the window manager!”) and the settings panel associated with it (“let’s open Window Manager as this is the panel to configure XFWM4, XFCE’s window manager”).
I believe this makes it a bit harder for users to discover the right place for customizing their settings.
Instead of organizing settings based on the application in XFCE’s stack that makes use of the setting, settings should grouped according to the general topic that is being configured.
- move Window Manager’s appearance-related settings to Appearance
- merge Window Manager’s keyboard shortcuts with Keyboard › Shortcuts
- move Window Manager Tweaks’s workspace-related settings to Workspaces
- move Window Manager Tweaks’s accessibility-related settings to Accessibility
- merge and consolidate Window Manager and Window Manager Tweaks
I made some rough sketches how the user interface could like with these changes.
Appearance › Themes
The theme tab looks almost like it does today, but consolidates the GTK theme and the window theme selector:
By default only themes that provide themes for both GTK and XFWM4 are displayed – this has the nice benefit of encouraging theme authors to ship with XFWM4 themes.
If the checkbox Select theme for applications and window borders individually is enabled, the theme list receives a second column, which allows picking a window manager theme, while the first column acts as the GTK theme selector.
Appearance › Icons
The icons tab is unchanged.
Appearance › Fonts
This tab gets settings to configure the font of the window title:
Appearance › Title bar
A new tab is added to configure how the window title bar is displayed:
Appearance › Menu and Toolbar
The Settings tab is renamed to Menu and Toolbar, and the “event sounds” items are moved elsewhere (probably to the Accessibility panel):
Appearance › Effects
A new tab for effects holds appearance-related settings of the compositor:
Window Manager and Window Manager Tweaks
This is how Window Manager and Window Manager Tweaks look today:
The proposal renames Window Manager to Window Management and merges it with the remaining settings from Window Manager Tweaks.
Compared to the current state, the following changes are made:
- Window Manager › Style: removed, settings have been moved to Appearance › Themes, Appearance › Fonts and Appearance › Title bar
- Window Manager › Keyboard: removed, settings have been merged with Keyboard › Shortcuts
- Window Manager › Focus: kept, merged with settings from Window Manager Tweaks › Focus
- Window Manager › Advanced: moved workspace-related parts to new Workspaces › Behavior tab, general parts to Window Manager › General, renamed tab with remaining settings to Window Management › Tiling and Snapping
- Window Manager Tweaks › Cycling: renamed to Window Management › Switcher, but appearance-related settings might be moved to a new Appearance › Switcher tab
- Window Manager Tweaks › Focus: removed, moved to Window Management › Focus
- Window Manager Tweaks › Accessibility: removed, moved settings to more appropriate places
- Window Manager Tweaks › Workspaces: removed, settings have been moved to Workspaces
- Window Manager Tweaks › Placement: kept, but could be moved to Window Management › General
- Window Manager Tweaks › Compositor: removed, moved most settings to Appearance › Effects
This is the result:
I would love to receive feedback, criticism, ideas …!