Ideas for the Xubuntu desktop (Was: [TEAM] Gathering "testimonials" for marketing purposes)

Pasi Lallinaho pasi at
Mon Aug 22 21:44:05 UTC 2016

Hello Mark,

please find my comments inline.

On 2016-08-22 22:28, Mark F wrote:
> I'm a new Xubuntu user. I've been using Lubuntu for over a year. I saw 
> this topic in the mailing-list archives and thought this post 
> (questions, observations) might be welcome here. I think it ties into 
> marketing?
> I looked at Mint Xfce and, to be honest, I like it *much* more. The 
> only reason I went with Xubuntu is the larger community of support 
> (Ubuntu's forums). I'd rather try to make Xubuntu better than to 
> contribute to a fork.
> What I'm wondering is whether you guys ever evaluate Mint Xfce and 
> consider evolving the desktop in that direction? Is it ever even 
> discussed? (Is there a way to find a past discussion like that in the 
> mailing-list archive?).

The desktop ideology has been discussed many times, often in small 
pieces rather than a discussion whether some other existing desktop is 
something the Xubuntu desktop should more or less imitate. With these 
discussions, the Xubuntu desktop has evolved to what it is now. Of 
course that doesn't mean nothing can be changed; we've reverted changes 

The development list archives can be found at Unfortunately Mailman 
doesn't have a search feature, but the message subject lines can be used 
to finding some stuff.

> For example:
> - Wisker menu progresses right to left (categories are on right open 
> to reveal contents on the left). Using MintX, right-to-left stood out 
> to me immediately as more intuitive.

I don't use Whisker myself, but I think this is configurable.

> - Right/left clicking on taskbar entries seems unintuitive to me. It 
> seems like left clicks are passed through the applet and into the 
> underlying taskbar. (Right clicks access the applet's options?). MintX 
> seems to have addressed this. It works differently.

Please specify differently? What in the left/right clicks is unintuitive 
for you?

> - Wisker menu's categories automatically reveal content by mousing 
> over each one. (No click required).

This is configurable via Whisker's settings.

> - How is inclusion into Wisker's "Settings" and "System" chosen? It's 
> like everything is in Settings. I'm not sure I could differentiate 
> between those two categories. But, it seems like no differentiation is 
> occuring. (But, it is because two items are in "System.").

Theoretically everything should be under Settings. This is controlled by 
the so-called desktop files in the system. If you install 
custom/non-default software to Xubuntu, it's likely that they will 
appear under System though. We do try to gather everything that's 
shipped by default to Settings.

> - A lot of things seem unintuitive to me. What's called "[Distro] 
> Software Center" in other distros is just "Software" in Xubuntu. It's 
> in the "Favorites" category, not in "System" nor "Settings."
> - The "Software" tool seems very slow and uninformative compared to 
> Lubuntu's "Software Center" (And MintX's). I tried to install 
> Keepass2, which was available in Lubutu's software center. It's not in 
> Xubuntu's.
>     - I found a Keepass package, but it made me authenticate with my
>     Ubuntu single-signon. It wouldn't authenticate me, giving a
>     repeated error (even though I can login to the Ubuntu One site). I
>     like the goal behind this. But, it's a free package. I shouldn't
>     have to go through these hurdles. It's a *big* problem if I can't
>     access my passwords in a new install.

The Software software (no pun intended) is created and maintained by 
Canonical, and the Xubuntu team is not involved in the development at 
all. The only thing we do with it is some quality assurance tasks to 
make sure it more or less "works" with Xubuntu for the most basic tasks.

Software indeed does not show all packages installable on a system; it's 
designed to list GUI packages only. Apparently this sometimes fails and 
stuff like Keepass2 isn't listed.

The default package manager has been under discussion many times, but so 
far the team hasn't been convinced enough that the other ones would be 
good enough for the beginner users to make the switch. Power users 
usually have a preferred package manager anyway, and they can find their 
way to install it. If you are looking for GUI alternatives, take a look 
at Synaptic.

> - Menu bar on top. Not easy to figure out how to put it on the bottom. 
> Not "mainstream" if you're trying to appeal to new users (familiar 
> with Windows)?

Personally, I think it's a slippery slope to start deciding on defaults 
based on the potential new users from other non-Linux operating systems. 
To clarify, I'm welcoming all Windows users to use Xubuntu, I just don't 
think imitating Windows visually is the way we can attract new users.

As you implied, Xubuntu does have (at least) decent support, and if the 
panel position makes or breaks the deal for somebody, we can handle 
instructing the users who can't figure it out themselves (or find the 
answer online).

> So, I'm just wondering (in terms of marketing, appealing to more 
> users), has this topic ever come up before? Evaluating what draws 
> people to other Xfce environments? What the others are doing right?

I would say this is done fairly regularly by some people on the team, 
though it's not an active task that we schedule to do.

> Why they chose to fork (and duplicate efforts)? Would it make sense to 
> solicit surveys (instead of testimonials)?

"Fork" is a strong (and a bit wrong) word; we are mostly talking about 
default settings, not changing any code or any settings permanently or 

Different people like different things and as you say below, there's no 
way to make everybody happy. I would imagine running a survey about 
things you have mentioned (for example) would leave the team with a 
mixed set of results and with no clear idea in which direction to go.

That said, I don't understand how such surveys could replace 
testimonials or how they are comparable.

The surveys would in the ideal (though unrealistic) situation let the 
Xubuntu team know what the users want and make Xubuntu better – for the 
existing users at least.

The testimonials would be used to tell potential Xubuntu users why other 
people like Xubuntu, and draw more people who like what we are doing 
already to Xubuntu.

> I hope this doesn't sound like I'm complaining. I understand no 
> desktop will meet everyone's needs. But, this thread implies outreach, 
> seeking to gain popularity.

While marketing can be about outreach and popularity, I wouldn't say 
that would describe the kind of marketing Xubuntu has done so far and I 
don't see this changing. (While Xubuntu wouldn't exist without the users 
we have now, the future of Xubuntu doesn't rely on marketing being 
successful, as opposed to a company that needs to sell its products to 
be able to cover their costs.)

And because we do not rely on successful marketing, we can focus on 
doing what we believe in instead of letting potential users define what 
Xubuntu should become.

> MintX seems more popular (according to distrowatch?). I'm just 
> wondering if this discussion has ever occurred? (I.e., should Xubuntu 
> try to incorporate any of MintX's features?).

As I said before, all the time. As an example, it isn't a long time ago 
we introduced Whisker into Xubuntu.

> Is it possible to install MintX's desktop in Xubuntu? Would it make 
> sense to offer that desktop more clearly (or a desktop made 
> specifically to be more like MintX, so people who might choose that 
> distro could more easily choose Xubuntu?).

Again, what we are talking about is mostly configuration, not 
differences in code. Technically you could create a package that shipped 
different defaults, but I'm not sure if that would be worth it or 
something the Xubuntu team would do.

Instead of trying to ship many different setups and configurations, 
people should embrace the configurability in Xfce and create their own. 
The default configuration is "only" designed to be something sensible.

> Again, I hope I'm not causing a problem. This topic seemed to be about 
> advocacy, increasing relevancy. Since I've just been comparing Xfce 
> desktops, the topic of "why is Xubuntu's desktop the way it is?" 
> seemed like a natural question. It makes me wonder if anyone has gone 
> back to "square one" and questioned everything. (When I see everything 
> lumped into "Settings," I get the impression that discussion hasn't 
> occured. The desktop is just an evolution and hasn't been re-thought 
> from the ground up?).

The desktop is indeed an evolution, but we're always re-evaluating it as 
we go. The desktop ideology we are shipping is pretty much what we want 
to ship and no dramatic changes have been necessary. If the desktop 
becomes something we don't believe in any more, then a complete 
re-evaluation will be done.

That said, all ideas are always welcome and heard.

Ultimately the people who make Xubuntu define what Xubuntu is. We always 
welcome new contributors too!

> I look forward to reading responses. I just feel like something is 
> missing. Ubuntu has the support and immediacy of security patches. 
> But, Mint has the appeal to new users (IMO). I just wonder if anyone 
> has tried to bridge that gap.
> Thanks!

Finally, discussion is always welcome, no need to think you're causing 


Pasi Lallinaho (knome)       ›
Leader of Shimmer Project    ›
Xubuntu Website Lead         ›

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