Xfce 4.8 released after nearly two years of development. Hopefully, there are no added features or functionality! (That’s a joke.)
(In fact, there is a loss of functionality for BSD users who implement the *nix desktop environment. But let’s not even talk about that problem because it opens a whole ‘nuther can of worms.)
Xfce is a Linux desktop enviornment like Gnome or KDE, but supposedly leaner and meaner, and thus more suitable where few bells and whistles are required, or older hardware is being used. If you are a Ubuntu user or otherwise familar with Linux, you’ve heard of Xubuntu. Xfce is the “X” in Xubuntu.
There are all kinds of improvements and changes, and you can find out more about it here.
There was an interesting article in Linux Journal comparing desktops in which memory use was compared between a pristine instantiation of Gnome and a pristine instantiation of Xfce (i.e., turn the computer on and don’t do anything yet). They were essentially the same. Despite what everyone seems to say, Xfce is not a stripped down desktop environment. A distribution like Xubuntu gets its leanness and its meanness not from the desktop being highly efficient, but from the applications that are default to the distro being selectively low-demand.
I’ve tried Xfce a few times but noticed that there was no palpable improvement in efficiency on an older machine compared to Gnome, but certain functionality was missing, so I’ve not gone back. I am toying with the idea of skipping the “desktop” thing entirely and going with a simple window manager and nothing more on my laptop. However, now that Xfce is out in a new version, I suppose I’ll give it a try.