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GSoC 22 – The First Blog Post

  • May 28, 2022
  • Pratyaksh Gautam

I’m really looking forward to this summer, since my project proposal for this year’s Google Summer of Code has been selected! I’ll be working on adding features to Thunar file manager, an XFCE application, with the help of my mentor Alexander Schwinn.

My history with XFCE

I’ve been big on open-source ever since my school days, and actually ran Xubuntu (an Ubuntu distribution with XFCE as its desktop environment) on my daily driver, an old netbook back in eleventh grade. It was too slow of a device to run GNOME, so I absolutely had to use a lighter-weight desktop environment, and compared to alternatives like LXDE which I didn’t like the aesthetics of, and pantheon (the default DE for elementaryOS) which still felt lacking in terms of performance, XFCE was the perfect balance of form and functionality.

Since then, I’ve done some distro-hopping before settling on my current setup, hand-rolled with awesome window manager and no DE. While I generally prefer to use the command-line, Thunar has been by GUI file manager of choice ever since I started using this setup a little over 2 years ago. It’s fast, light-weight, and gets the job done without getting in your way, which is exactly what I need.

Planned features

Thunar does however lack a few features that would be really handy to have, which is exactly what I’ll be working on.

Undo-redo

Adding undo and redo is an absolute no-brainer for me, and would probably be the single biggest thing I think Thunar is currently missing. If you’re anything like me, you’ve often selected the wrong file to move into another directory, and you have to manually undo it and move the correct file once you realize your mistake. Implementing this would do away with such frustrating tedium in the case of minor mistakes.

File counts for folders

Currently, the list view in Thunar has a ‘size’ column which shows the size of the corresponding file in the listing. However, this column is blank for folders (or directories). As such, it’s essentially wasted space for directories, but it could be put to good use showing the count of the files in the folder instead.

Picture-specific maximized thumbnail view

Managing pictures is primarily based on the content of the picture itself, rather than metadata like the name, date etc. So it would be very convenient to have a specific view optimized for folders with a large number of pictures, where the thumbnails take up as much space on the screen as possible. Think Pinterest, Google images etc.

If somehow I complete the work enlisted in my proposal ahead of time, I plan on looking at some of the file system synchronisation bugs that some Thunar users have reported.

Conclusion

I’m glad to have the opportunity to be able to work on open-source tools I myself use everyday, and feel really lucky to have the support of Google to be able to work on this over this summer. I’m really grateful for the help I’ve gotten along the way to getting my proposal accepted from Sergios Kefalidis, Alexander Schwinn, and other members of the XFCE community.

I’d like to congratulate my fellow XFCE GSoC contributors Yogesh Kaushik and Amrit Borah as well (who coincidentally are also from different IIITs :grin:).

Settings GUI

  • April 22, 2022
  • Sergios - Anestis Kefalidis

  Welcome back! It's time to talk about hidden preferences.

The problem

  It's a sunny day and you boot up your PC, which uses Xfce, ready to do some file-organizing. You open Thunar and suddenly you realise something. All this time you would have prefered sorting to be case-sensitive. You open the Preferences Dialog but alas, there is no relevant setting. You are left disappointed, hoping that Thunar devs add this option in a future release. You might even create a feature request.

  Little do you know, Thunar does have a preference to enable this functionality but it is hidden away. You can only find it in the wiki and even that is not a guarantee because we might forget about updating the wiki. Then you have to go and manually enable it in the Settings Editor or using xfconf-query.

  Thunar is not the only Xfce application that has hidden settings, Terminal is another prominent application that has preferences that don't showup in its preferences dialog.

Settings Editor à la Shortcuts Editor

  If you have been following the development of Xfce you probably know that I created a Shortcuts Editor widget that can be easily integrated in Xfce apps. Presently, Thunar, Mousepad and Terminal use that widget to give users an easy way of editing shortcuts.

  I've been working on a similar widget for Settings based on the Xfce Settings Editor. The end goal is to have a simplified version of that settings editor that can be easily integrated in Xfce Apps that use xfconf. That will allow us to eliminate hidden preferences (or at least, greatly reduce them).

XfceSettingsEditor integrated in Thunar's Preferences Dialog

XfceSettingsEditor integrated in Thunar's Preferences Dialog.

Searching in the Xfce Settings Editor

  The other big feature that I've been working on is Search/Filtering for the existing Xfce Settings Editor. Simon had started working on a patch for this but never finished it, so I continued where he left off. I am not planning to include this functionality in the separate widget that was described previously.


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xfce4-terminal 1.0.0 stable release

  • April 2, 2022
  • Sergios - Anestis Kefalidis

  After 15 months a new stable release of Xfce Terminal is out full of improvements for everybody to enjoy!

A new maintainer

  From 2016 until 2020, Terminal was in the capable hands of Igor Zakharov. It became unmaintained for a few months in 2021 until I took up its development in September. This is Terminal's first stable release with me as its maintainer, and I hope you will find it worthy of the quality standards set by my predecessors and the Xfce desktop environment as a whole.

A new versioning scheme

  After asking around the Xfce community about Terminal's versioning scheme and looking into its history, I decided to adopt Thunar's old versioning. That means that the next cycle of development releases will be 1.1.x, and the next major stable release will be 1.2.0. That will continue until we reach 2.0.0 or some major change happens (for example, porting to GTK 4).

Improvements

  For anyone who hasn't kept up with Terminal's development here are the major improvements:

  • The `Scrolling on ouput` preference has been improved and will now be temporarily disabled if you scroll up.
  • Overlay scrollbars are now supported.
  • You can now send signals to the foreground process through the UI.
  • The '--tab' and '--window' command line arguments have been reworked to be more intuitive.
  • For those who use background images, 'Fill' is a new style option.
  • The 'Unsafe Paste' dialog has been significantly revamped and now also gives you an option to temporarily disable it.
  • You can now change the behavior of right click.
  • Accelerators that contain the 'Tab' key can now be changed at runtime.
  • A new Shortcuts Editor was created for Xfce applications, and Xfce Terminal is one of the first apps to support it (requires libxfce4ui 4.17.2 or greater).
  • XfceTitledDialog is used where possible for better synergy with the rest of your Xfce desktop.
For a more extensive look into all the new features you can read my previous blogs (0.9.0, 0.9.1, 0.9.2) or the NEWS file in the code repository.

Under the hood

As far as under the hood improvements go, I spent most of my time rewriting the code that handles the accelerators and the creation of various menus. This removed most of the deprecated code in Xfce Terminal and fixed various small issues or inconsistencies that existed in the old code while also reducing the size of the codebase. At first, this transition introduced a bunch of regressions but thanks to testers in the community it looks like any shortcuts or UI issues created by it have been fixed. A nice bonus of this transition is being able to customize the goto-tab accelerators.

I did also spent some time fixing build warnings and removing code for ancient versions of VTE. All in all, I believe that the codebase is in a better place than it was one year ago and this will enable me to make 1.2.0 an even bigger release.

Future plans

Xfce Terminal

  The future of Xfce Terminal is bright. Some of my goals for 1.2.0 are:

  • Rewriting the Preferences Dialog to use XfceTitledDialog and integrate the Shortcuts Editor into it.
  • Creating a new Settings Editor widget in libxfce4ui by reusing code from the exisitng Settings Editor and using that to eliminate hidden preferences.
  • Documenting all public functions in Xfce Terminal.
  • Introducing Profiles-like functionality which will close a bunch of open issues.
  • Tab restoration outside of Xfce environments.
  • Improved FreeBSD support.
Before I start working on all that, I will take care of any regressions that get reported in this release (there has already been one).


Videos showcasing features and improvements in this release:

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xfce4-terminal 0.9.2 development release

  • March 5, 2022
  • Sergios - Anestis Kefalidis

xfce4-terminal 0.9.2 development release

  A new xfce4-terminal development release is here, and this time it is special. This version serves also as the release candidate for xfce4-terminal 1.0.0. If you want to help keep xfce4-terminal bug-free, this is the time to test and report any bugs you find!

Changes

  For this release I focused on fixing regressions and minor annoyances, so I have no fancy new features to write about in this post. Most improvements are related to accelerator-handling and most fixes related to UI/UX regressions (or accidental changes) that were introduced in the transition to XfceGtkActionEntry. You can see the full list of changes in our wiki.

I want to thank Gael and Theo for bringing a lot of these issues to my attention.

Future plans

  If no major bugs are discovered, I will release xfce4-terminal 1.0.0 in a couple of weeks. After that I will focus on my long list of Thunar issues.


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A shortcuts editor for Xfce and a couple of other things

  • November 25, 2021
  • Sergios - Anestis Kefalidis

A shortcuts editor for Xfce and a couple of other things

  Welcome to another Xfce development update! In this one you will learn about the new Xfce Shortcuts Editor and a couple of upcoming Thunar features.

Shortcuts Editor

  As you may know, I'm the maintainer of xfce4-terminal and a developer for Thunar. It just so happens that both of these programs have a ton of shortcuts. Until now, there was no GUI for changing shortcuts. Users had to manually edit the `accels.scm` file which is doable yet cumbersome.

  Additionally xfce4-terminal, being a terminal emulator, has the problem of its shorcuts colliding with the shorcuts of terminal applications, rendering them unusable. To fix that issue users needed to once again dive into the `accels.scm` file and change the default shortcuts manually.

  That is why I created a new widget called XfceShortcutsEditor in libxfce4ui. Applications that use XfceGtkActionEntries for their accelerators can easily integrate that editor in their UI and enjoy the benefits without any additional complexity.

Thunar Shortcuts

The XfceShortcutsEditor integrated in Thunar's Preferences dialog.

Termianl Shortcuts

The XfceShortcutsEditor as a separate dialog for xfce4-terminal.

Thunar improvements

  As far as Thunar specific improvements go, I'm happy to announce that the next version of Thunar will have a customizable Statusbar. By right-clicking, users will be able to hide/show information that they (don't) need.

 Additionally the folder properties dialog now displays the type of contents of the folder (i.e. the number of files and folders insdie the folder).


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xfce4-terminal 0.9.0 development release

  • October 16, 2021
  • Sergios - Anestis Kefalidis

  Welcome back! Since I became maintainer of xfce4-terminal I've worked on replacing deprecated parts of the codebase, closing old bugs and merging Merge Requests which have been sitting around for a while.

GtkActions

  The majority of my time was spent on dealing with the, now deprecated, GtkActions/GtkActionEntries and GtkUiManager which were used for creating the menubar, toolbar, right click context menu and for handling the shortcuts. All of that logic was moved to Xfce's own XfceGtkAction entries which are supported by the Xfce team. As a nice bonus, this transition slightly reduced the size of the codebase. Some deprecated parts remain, like the UI for changing encoding from the menubar but I've decided to transition slowly to make sure that things remain stable.

Sending signals

  The most exciting new feature is the ability to send signals to foreground processes. This is done either through the right click menu, or through the `Terminal` entry of the menubar. We have Cyrille Pontivieux to thank for the initial implementation of this, which I simplified and later transitioned to the new menu/shortcut system.

Release notes

  You can find the full release notes at the following link: Release Notes


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A couple of big features for Thunar

  • September 16, 2021
  • Sergios - Anestis Kefalidis

A couple of big features for Thunar

  Welcome to my first post-GSoC blogpost. Google Summer of Code might have ended but I'm continuing my daily work on Thunar and Xfce Terminal (more on that later). This blog-post is accompanied by a video that showcases what is written here.

Recursive Search

  I'm happy to inform you that my work on implementing a performant recursive-search in Thunar has been met with success. Users will be able to recursively search their filesystem (including remote folders and other special locations like Recent and Trash) and sort the results like they would in any folder. Presently, searching is depth limited but in the final version you will be able to select a custom depth or no depth at all, to make sure that this is useful even for older machines and at the same time makes use of the resources of faster systems. As this is a work in progress there are some bugs and crashes but it looks like the big issues have been solved at last. You can see for yourself at: link.

Shared Thumbnail Repositories

  Additionally, I wanted to give users the option to create shared thumbnail repositories from within Thunar. That's why I've been working on creating a script to create Shared Thumbnail Repositories using any thumbnailer that implements the D-Bus thumbnailing spec (tumbler being an example of such a thumbnailer). You will be able to use this script from Thunar through a custom action.

Xfce Terminal

  Lastly, I wanted to let you know that I've become the maintainer of xfce4-terminal. I've been working on resolving old issues, fixing bugs and merging MRs that have been sitting stagnant for months. I've got a lot of exciting things to show you on that front, so stay tuned.


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Shiny new things in Thunar thanks to GSoC 2021

  • September 11, 2021
  • Alexxcon's Software Development Blog

GSoC 2021 is over now and I am happy to tell you that both students working on thunar did an excellent job. Alot of nice stuff has been added thanks to them !

In order to allow you to discover all these new features, Thunar 4.17.5 was just released. (Note that this is a development release. It still might have some rough edges)

For details about the new features check the summaries provided by Sergios and Yongha:

Sergios GSoC Summary

Yongha’s GSoC Summary

Besides these, here as well some more new features added during GSoC for which I thought they would be worth to mention:

  • Bookmarks got moved into a separate ‘Bookmarks Menu’ and a ‘create bookmark’ option was added (MR !109 and MR !71)

bookmark menu

  • A new menu item “Set Default Application” was added to the “Open with” submenu (MR !79)

Open with - Set Default App

  • A new section ‘Default Application’ was added to the ‘thunar-chooser-dialog’ (MR !81)

Default App Section

On top there are still various open merge requests with partial finished features, most of them from GSoC students for which I did not find time so far. So expect more new stuff to arrive soon !

You as well might want to keep an eye on xfce4-terminal, which received alot of activity recently, since it is now maintained by Sergios Kefalidis.

If you find a bug on any of these new features, please make use of the xfce bugtracker.

Happy testing !

GSOC contribution summary

  • August 17, 2021
  • Yongha Hwang

Secure .desktop handling (Thunar !117, !121, Exo !44, Libxfce4util !16)

.desktop file is a special kind of script that is optimized for launching application. It can use custom icon and name to represent application. However, this feature can be abused as it can disguise it as any type of file. To prevent this security breach, I introduced a “trused” flag to mark whether this .desktop file is safe to execute. By utilizing GVFS-metadata, there is no way that the flag of any downloaded file. A user will be warned about the safety hazard until the user sets “trusted” flag up.

File copy improvements

Implement queued transfer management (Thunar !116)

Sequential transfer, which is introduced in 4.16, caused freuqent freeze and/or crash. Now sequential transfer is handled by a queue, and now this feature works without a problem.

Keep modified time for the file copied from foreign location (Thunar !127)

When copying from remote locations, all the metadata gets lost. The original plan was to use g_file_build_attribute_list_for_copy() to overwrite metadata of the copied file, but for now, it only copies modified time of the original file.

Use “copy name” when copying from gvfs-google backend (Thunar !121)

When copying a file from gvfs-google (google-drive:// protocol), the filename was replaced with unreadable number-alphabet combination. Now the filename is maintained without a problem.

Use intermediate file to copy files (!130)

When a file transfer gets interrupted for any reason, the file that is not fully transferred is left on the destination. Since that the single file on the destination is guaranteed to be corrupted, a user cannot just retry copying the same file on the destination and skip duplicate files. To solve this problem, Thunar will try to delete the incomplete file if it can. In case the destination is not accessible at the time, there is a safer option that first copies a file with a different name than the original and then change the name of the copied file to its original.

Fix invalid filenames when copying to FAT-like filesystem (!137, !138)

FAT and NTFS have a stricter naming rule than EXT filesystem. Also, Windows has a reserved word for filename. For this reason, when copying a file to FAT-like system, Thunar will automatically rename to avoid illegal names before copy.

Check if a target directory is a subdirectory of the moved folder (!139)

Now Thunar will check if a target directory is a subdirectory of the moved folder before trying to copy files.

Implement “safe copy” (!144)

New option “safe copy” will compare checksum of the original and the copy if enabled. This will largely increase copy time, but it would be useful if the source location or the destination is unreliable.

Miscellaneous

For directories, leave size column blank (Thunar !83)

For some reason, Thunar has shown a block size of the filesystem as the “file size” of the directory. This value might be confusing to a user, so now the file size is only shown for regular files.

On “Select by Pattern” add option for case sensitivity (Thunar !89, !98)

“Select by Pattern” feature was not case sensitive, so now case insensitive select is introduced and set as a default.

Improve computer:// panel (Thunar !92)

Detail view for computer:// was incomplete since it cannot be handled like a normal directory. Now “size” column shows disk usage info, and “type” column shows a device type.

Deprecate ExoBinding (Exo !42, ThunarMediaTagsPlugin !4, Xfce4PlacesPlugin !7, Thunar !113, ThunarVolman !8)

Since ExoBinding in Exo can be replaced with GBinding in GLib, ExoBinding is deprecated and the usage within XFCE project is replaced with GBinding.

Preserve metadata when editing desktop item (Exo !43)

When editing a desktop item with exo-desktop-item-edit, all the metadata got lost since the modified file was actually a new file that replaces older one. This problem is fixed and the file modified maintains its info.

A journey comes to an end

  • August 16, 2021
  • Sergios - Anestis Kefalidis
A journey comes to an end

  As this year's Google Summer of Code comes to a close, so does this series of blogposts. Since this is my last post related to GSoC I have decided to summarize my contributions to Xfce and give you a glimpse of what I'll be working on in the foreseeable future. If you have read my previous posts, you can skip right to the end since you have already read most of the stuff that I'm going to write.

What has been done

  My project's goal was to improve various aspects of Thunar, dealing with several important deficiencies that existed. In the roughly two and a half months that my work lasted I made the following contributions:

  • Add zoom-level as a per-directory setting MR, giving users the ability to have the zoom-levels of their directories restored upon opening them.
  • Support for GTK-Recent MR, adding support for the `recent:///` location, and all that this entails.
  • GTK-Recent
  • Provide additional menu item for trashed files: "restore and open folder" MR, giving users the option to immediately open the location of files restored from the Trash folder.
  • Add a preference to restore tabs on startup MR, or as it is known in other programs a preference to 'restore the last session'.
  • Preference
  • Support shared thumbnail repositories MR, making Thunar one of the relatively few programs that support the #SHARED part of the freedesktop.org thumbnail spec. For more info about what this I've uploaded a video in a previous blogpost.
  • Search improvements for Thunar MR, which completely reworks Thunar's search functionality and makes Catfish easily accessible from Thunar.
  • Some bugfixes and minor additions.

 Additionally since I've started working on Thunar, in the beginning of this year's GSoC I've worked on improving the `Trash` location by adding a new `Date Deleted` column and making the `Empty` and `Restore` actions more accessible.
Trash

  I've also made minor improvements to the `Renamer` as well as dealing with various small bugs or missing features of Thunar.

The future

  Google Summer of Code might be ending, but my job isn't done. I will continue working on adding a decent recursive-search. A lot of progress has been made on that front, but the performance isn't quite there yet. Besides that, I want to give Thunar users an option to easily create Shared Thumbnail Repositories which is something that I will probably do through a new plugin.

Acknowledgements

 All in all, I've had a great deal of fun and I'm very much looking forward to continue working with the Xfce community on improving the Xfce Desktop Environment. I want to thank my mentor Alexander Schwinn (@alexxcons) for his continuous support and exceptional mentoring, as well as his calm and motivational attitude. I also want to thank Yousuf Philips (@philipz) for promoting all of our work, posts and videos and being a really friendly and kind person to talk to (which was especially great when I first came in contact with the Xfce community).


Link to all my Thunar Merge Requests: link
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