News from the Pinkie front

Now that I have an account for this weblog I thought it might be nice to keep everyone informed about what’s going on inside Xfce every now and then. Unlike Erik with the weekly news he wrote some time ago I’ll probably not be that funny (you can tell from the picture in my previous post that I really suck at this) and maybe not even as informative as the weekly news were, but I hope I can at least keep you posted on the latest and hottest news from the Xfce front.

So, let’s first talk about what’s going on right now. For the last two weeks we’ve been busy finishing the new settings dialogs. For those who do not know yet: for Xfce 4.6 we developed a completely new configuration backend based on D-Bus. It’s called xfconf and is really cool. As the name already suggests it’s somewhat similar to GConf – you have a daemon which acts as an abstraction layer for the actual storage backend and you have clients which can read and write their configs from/to the daemon via D-Bus. So why use D-Bus at all? In the case of xfconf it helped us designing a new property change notification mechanism. Applications interested in a property (usually a settings dialog that modifies a property or an application that uses this property) can ask the daemon to be notified whenever this property changes. And this works really well.

Anyway, back to the initial topic: almost all settings dialogs have now been ported to xfconf and we have started to package the alpha. We’ve agreed on preparing the release notes together and hopefully we’ll be able to finish those tomorrow so we can release the alpha named Pinkieon Saturday or Sunday.

We would be lousy developers if we didn’t already make plans for the beta. Alpha doesn’t mean feature freeze, right? So while Stephan has plans to finish work on his editor for xfconf (which makes it possible to skip the settings dialogs and just edit all properties by hand using a GUI) I thought about our settings dialogs again. I’ve always hated how all those dialogs cluttered the screen.

So instead of using dialogs, what about embedding the widgets into the main settings dialog of Xfce? I had only found out about GtkSocket/GtkPlug one or two days before and so I read the reference manual on how to use them and started modifying the new main settings dialog and two of the other dialogs for keyboards and the user interface settings to see whether embedding these into the main dialog was actually possible.

You can see the results of this short hacking session (it still needs some work) in this video. Instead of having dialogs popping up whenever you click on an item in the settings dialog the dialog content is now embedded into the dialog and you’re provided with a back button to return to the overview. The video also shows some of the new features like customizable the DPI value and dialogs designed to aid in resolving keyboard shortcut conflicts.

So, I leave you with this for tonight (damn, 3am already …) and hope we can surprise (ha…ha…) you with the alpha release this weekend.


BTW, recordMyDesktop rocks! Creating short videos for demonstrations does no longer require any brain power at all and it doesn’t even require you to have a flash plugin installed!

Edit: New video online!

4 thoughts on “News from the Pinkie front

  1. @Jos: It’s not comitted yet, it’s just an experiment so far.

    @Diete_ber, @Vincent: I think there are several reasons why we wrote xfconf. One reason is we just wanted to. It’s exciting to write something like this and it’s great to see how it slowly starts to work when applications connect to the daemon. Another reason is that there are things in GConf that we just don’t need like schemas. I don’t think this is too bad for GNOME apps integration since these apps usually don’t need to know about the Xfce settings.

    @Fred: Yeah, it would also be nice to replace the title with something item-specific. Working on it ;)

  2. Yo Jannis! Thanks for doing this. I started the updates because I always felt out of the loop. This is just like doing them for me, only without the work. Keep it up!

    Also, I’m not sure about the embedded dialog idea. It’s a nice concept but I’m not sure it scales. I worry that we’ll go down the path of the KDE control center, which was the nightmare at the heart of any beginning Linux user back in the day. Still, I might just be curmudgeonly

  3. @Erik: Thanks, I’ll do my best.
    Concerning the embedded dialog concept: Dunno. Having all those separate dialogs feels kinda messy. This concept helps cleaning up the user interface a bit. And even with it it is still possible to open the different items in their own dialogs (e.g. by running xfce4-appearance-settings). Only the main settings wil try to embed them for a better UI experience.

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