Clarity in the Desktop

22 Apr, 2016

by Ikey Doherty & Auke Kok

Clear Linux* recently introduced a series of updates that incorporate a developer-optimized desktop experience. This experience is built upon Xfce 4.12, created with the goal of enabling you to get what you need perform your work quickly and efficiently.

Atypical desktop challenge

Whenever a Linux* project announces that it’s working on a desktop UI, invariably it is accompanied with the usual buzzwords: user-friendly, modern, lightweight. As a team that regularly contributes to the desktop Linux world, we know the usual set of challenges we face.

However, when it comes to specifically targeting the developer or administrator, we see an entirely different set of challenges.

Remote efficiency

Many of us would like to simplify remote access from the desktop to our deployed machines, to facilitate an efficient workflow. As such, we took certain points into consideration when building the developer desktop experience. We eliminated heavy gradients, introduced a simplified and contrast-rich palette, and disabled heavy use of compositing, which results in a desktop that can be efficiently compressed and transmitted across the network, with little to no latency.

Simplicity - aka “get out of my way”

We’re developers. We know what we want from our machines. Our first port of call is going to be pulling up a terminal and getting to work right away, with no interruptions. In Clear Linux* we aimed for a first-class developer experience, even down to the small details such as featuring the Terminal Emulator shortcut immediately on the desktop.

If you need to browse some API documentation, or check mails, Mozilla Firefox* and Thunderbird* are both immediately accessible via the included installer stubs. Just launch them from the menu and we’ll set you up with the newest version in no time.


No developer or professional wants to spend their time looking for keyboard shortcuts, reconfiguring their desktop layout, or searching for settings and knobs. For this very reason we must select a Desktop UI that is highly familiar and comfortable for most users.

Many developers have developed habits and personal preferences that would make it difficult for them to use certain Desktop UIs. As a result, we have chosen a Desktop UI that has an interface that is well-respected and consistent, and doesn’t pose any barriers to anyone, regardless of their personal preferences. 

Sane defaults

A recurring theme throughout the Clear Linux* project is the use of sane defaults. This philosophy is so enshrined that the Operating System is entirely stateless. We also extended this to the visuals of the desktop, using the beautiful Arc GTK+ Theme,  and the elementary Xfce icon theme (an adaptation of elementary OS’s default icon theme.

Ready for Desktop performance

Of course, this experience is all powered by Clear Linux*. As such, you have access to the raw speed and power of the project. The Clear Linux* graphics stack is optimized for graphics performance and is ready for 3D OpenGL applications, whether you want to run Blender*, view a WebGL* application in Firefox* or play Minetest*! If you run Clear Linux* in a Virtual Machine, you will have near native 3D performance using Spice*. 

Everything you need - a single command away

 In Clear Linux*, you can get up and running with the desktop experience in one simple command:

          $ sudo swupd bundle-add os-utils-gui


Need gdb? No problem

          $ sudo swupd bundle-add dev-utils


For a reference of the current bundles, check out the Available bundles.

Go give it a try yourself 

Live images of Clear Linux* can be downloaded from here:


If you’re looking for more information on how to choose the correct image for your purpose, please visit our Getting Started page explaining the purpose of the various images that Clear Linux* provides:

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