Xfce 4.18 looks exciting – Check out its best new features

I can lie: My excitement is rising because a brand new version of the Xfce desktop environment is on its way to release.

Almost two years of development has gone into shaping Xfce 4.18, which is due for release on December 15, 2022. The release will be the stable serial follow-up to Xfce 4.16, which debuted back in Christmas 2020 (and brought some cool new) features like fractional scaling support ).

Eager to find out what’s new and improved in the latest version of this lightweight desktop, I’ve dug through code commits, developer tweets and the odd bug report or two to write this overview of what to expect .

Let’s dive in!

Xfce 4.18: New features

Note: this post is does not an introduction to Xfce. Anyone unfamiliar with the unique selling points of this desktop environment should head over to the official Xfce website or Wikipedia page. They provide a better starting point than this post (which only looks at what’s new-since-last).

Thunar

Thunar is Xfce’s default file manager. It’s a lightweight, capable tool. As part of the Xfce 4.18 release, the tool picks up a ton of new features and expanded capabilities – more than many people might have expected.

For example, it is now possible to activate a image preview sidebar. By default, this displays a larger preview of a selected image to the left of the app, taking up space in the sidebar. A more practical option lets you display it ‘standalone’ on the right, where there is more space for the preview itself.

Thunar’s newly editable toolbar lets you add and rearrange toolbar icons based on your needs. With the 4.18 release, you can add one new Split View icon for Thunar’s toolbar (this is also available in View menu, or by pressing F3). Split View splits the active window into independently navigable columns with drag/drop support between them.

a screenshot of Xfce 4.18 desktop with Thunar file manager open with split view active
Split View, and File Highlighting in Thunar 4.18

There is also a rather interesting news file highlighting function (accessed from the file properties dialog box). This lets you set a custom background color and a custom foreground text color – an effective way to draw attention to specific files in a folder full of similar mimes.

In terms of finding files, Thunar 4.18 includes recursive search. Search can be activated by clicking the spyglass icon on the toolbar (it replaces the reload icon in previous versions). This changes the style bar to a text field where you can enter a keyword.

Thunar 4.18 displays on-screen messages when invoking undo/redo actions. There is also extended “undo/redo” support. This includes all copy, move, link, create, rename and trash actions, and includes multi-level undo/redo – a definite plus for indecisive deleters like me!

Other changes:

  • New bookmark menu (add folders to sidebar)
  • New “Recent” sidebar entry
  • The ‘Go’ menu has ‘recent’ and file search options
  • Keyboard shortcuts can now be customized in the app
  • Improved status bar information layout
  • Additional preferences for loading thumbnails
  • Ability to restore tabs on startup
  • Option to show full folder path in tab title
  • Ability to execute shell scripts

Everything plus the usual kind of stability improvements, bug fixes and performance boosts you’d expect from an update. Top job, Thunar developers!

Desktop

Prominent new features and visual changes you can’t help but notice are a regular attraction in desktop environments like GNOME and KDE Plasma. Xfce is more conservative. That might sound like a disadvantage to some, but for people who want a reliable, predictable desk that doesn’t shift under them, it’s a huge plus.

Why am I telling you this? Because the “desktop” changes mentioned below might seem to some rather small or insignificant when compared to the big DEs. Still, those who are fans of the Xfce user experience are welcome.

Some notable new desktop tweaks

The Xfce4 panel picks up a few new preferences. First, panel length is now configured in pixels instead of percentages, as before. Second, there is a new “hold panel over windows” option. This allows maximized app windows to fill the area behind panel instead of maximizing its bottom or top edge to sit flush with it.

Flexible new fonts are available in the Xfce4 clock applet. We can now change the clock’s font family and font size. New options let you show only the date; only the time; date and then time; or time and then date (or enter your own custom layout).

It’s time for more options in Xfce 4.18

And if you don’t want the calendar to appear when you click the clock, you can now assign a custom calendar command to run instead.

Settings

Xfce’s “control center” analogue groups all the desktop’s various modules for managing the system into one easy-to-use window. New possibilities are present in many of these.

You can disable header lines in dialogs from Appearance module; show or hide a ‘delete’ option in the file’s context menus Desktop; and select a default behavior for multiple monitors Before you attach an extra screen – dead handy, that.

The Xfce4 app finder app has better default settings and a wider window size by default (although it can still be changed).

Summary

All in all, there are some exceptionally interesting (and in a few cases, often desired) changes coming to the Xfce desktop. Additionally, further work is being done to improve Wayland support through the various modules that make up the Xfce desktop (although it may take a few more releases before everything is 100% perfect under Wayland).

This post is a cherry-picked snapshot of the most striking changes I noticed while testing the latest Xfce development release (on EndeavourOS, FYI). So no, this post is not exhaustive. I recommend trawling through the commits and merges during the Xfce 4.17 development cycle to learn (even) more details.

Are you excited for Xfce 4.18? Share your hopes and expectations in the comments section.

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