When comparing Xfce vs Gnome, the Slant community recommends Xfce for most people. In the question“What are the best desktop environments for people migrating from Windows to Linux?” Xfce is ranked 2nd while Gnome is ranked 8th. The most important reason people chose Xfce is:
Xfce offers plenty of settings, and even things like theming XFWM is a simple task (it's just a handful of images.) Many possible permutations of window colors, borders, fonts, etc. Compositing can make it look downright [sexy](http://xfce-look.org/).
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Highly customizable
Xfce offers plenty of settings, and even things like theming XFWM is a simple task (it's just a handful of images.)
Many possible permutations of window colors, borders, fonts, etc. Compositing can make it look downright sexy.
Pro Low system resource consumption
Not just helpful for older computers where few system resources are available, but also simply for those who want to get the most out of their systems.
Pro Classic and familiar
Xfce works very much like the classic Gnome & Windows desktops, taskbars (panels) and desktop icons, letting you get your work done without being frustrated.
Xfce embodies the traditional UNIX philosophy of modularity and re-usability. It consists of a number of components that provide the full functionality one can expect of a modern desktop environment. They are packaged separately and you can pick among the available packages to create the optimal personal working environment.
Pro Works on a wide variety of platforms
Xfce can be installed on several UNIX platforms. It is known to compile on Linux, NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, Cygwin and MacOS X, on x86, PPC, Sparc, and Alpha.
Pro Designed for productivity
It loads and executes applications fast, while conserving system resources.
Pro Rock solid stability
Xfce will never be the cause of your crash.
Pro Adheres to standards
A priority of Xfce is adherence to standards, specifically those defined at freedesktop.org allowing for interoperability and shared technology for X Window System desktops. This interoperability is particularly significant for users looking to, e.g., run alternative window managers.
Pro A true UNIX Desktop Environment
Xfce adheres to the UNIX philosophy, which means it strives for being modular, minimal and expandable. This makes it very much customizable. You can make it as minimal as you want and as heavyweight as you want depending on the features and modules/plugins you use.
Pro Does what it's meant to do easily and efficiently
XFCE is a desktop environment first and foremost, it does not waste time being overly flashy or by being bloated with features.
Pro Best for newcomers
Any one new to Linux feels comfortable using it.
Pro Low resource usage combined with flexible configuration
Pro Window manager (XFWM) is a compositing WM by default
By having a compositing WM as the default WM makes way for a lot of visual tweaks and tricks that can and do make Xfce look great. You can adjust the transparency, shadows, borders, etc. and many other advanced tweaks are also available.
Pro Well defined Session Manager
Pro Easy to export or import configurations
Pro Easy to use
GNOME 3 has been designed to make it simple and easy to use. Press a button to view your open windows, launch applications or check if you have new messages.
Pro Very productive
With a clean layout and well-thought keyboard shortcuts, Gnome 3 is simply the best for people looking to be productive with their computer.
Pro Touchscreen friendly
It works well with any touchscreen-enabled system, including newer laptops, even to the point of including a well-designed on-screen keyboard.
Pro Adheres to standards
Allowing for interoperability and shared technology for X Window System desktops.
Pro Does not get in the way
GNOME 3 lets you do the things you want without getting in the way. It won't bother you or badger you with demands, and it has been designed to help you comfortably deal with notifications.
Pro Great for high dpi displays
Adjustable scaling factor makes it great for high resolution laptops and far away TVs.
Pro Online account management
GNOME 3 integrates with your online accounts, so that all your data can be accessed from the same place.
Pro Customizable with easy-to-install extensions
With the right plugin enabled in your browser (comes with Firefox by default) you can browse and install with two clicks the many Shell Extensions available from http://extensions.gnome.org. These are listed automatically based upon the version of Gnome Shell you currently have installed.
Pro Powerful search
A powerful search feature lets you access all your work from one place.
Pro Easy theming
Changing the look (and feel) of Gnome Shell is easy, shell theme, icon, windows and graphical elements (gtk). individually for each user. Mostly its installing some packages or unpacking some archive to a themes folder and using selecting the new theme in e.g. gnome-tweak-tool. There a lot of really good theme on deviantart.
Pro Keyboard friendly
It's (mostly) usable without touching a mouse, so you can keep your hands on the keyboard. Shortcuts can be defined in the gnome setting. There are even more shortcuts available when using the gesetting or dconf tool, e.g. switch to desktop 5 to 9.
Pro Fallback mode offers a classic look
For people looking for older, more classic looks, Fallback mode offers just that. Ubuntu users can have this option by installing a package called "GNOME-Session-Fallback." In the future to be released GNOME 3.8, the Fallback Mode will not be included, so this is really not a long-term solution.
Con Missing some basic functionality for a desktop environment
Xfce is missing essential functionality like a file-archiver or a polkit-client, so you have to find alternatives for those applications (eg: by stealing them from MATE or GNOME, however this adds additional dependencies that will bloat Xfce).
Con Screen tearing issues
The built-in compositor for Xfce does not handle VSync, meaning that it does not address screen tearing for those with Intel integrated graphics. A third party solution will have to be used for those that do want VSync such as using Nvidia proprietary drivers to handle VSync or installing a third party compositor such as Compton.
Con Looks ugly out of the box
Out of the box, Xfce is the one of the ugliest if not the ugliest DE out there. It definitely can become the most beautiful and gorgeous DE after a bit of tinkering and theming, but the default theme is not that good.
Con Looks dated
It just looks like a 20 year old desktop in its stock form. However, it is possible for you to to give it a more elegant look using themes, icons and other customizations.
Con No HiDPI support
Since Xfce is still based on GTK2 there is no HiDPI support (scaling UI elements).
Con Terrible project infrastructure
The whole project is split across various sites so contributing is really hard. You also need to register on every site separately.
Con Lacks modern design and effects
No support for transparency, effects in opening or closing a file browser, or other effects like cube or cylinder, unlike, say, KDE.
Con Lack of useful tools
Con One pixel wide window borders
The non-configurable, one pixel wide window borders make resizing difficult. Work-arounds exist but those are clunky at best.
Con Not a full DE
With a pure Xfce environment you cannot do as much as with Gnome or KDE.
Con Not good for different users' locales on one system
When you have users with different personal locales, XfcE has problems using the right locale for the right user.
Con Gtk 2
Con No taskbar by default
GNOME doesn't have a taskbar by default, and might be confusing to people migrating from Windows for that reason. It is however possible to install it through http://extensions.gnome.org.
Con Some areas are unpolished and lack features
Some aspects are still unpolished and lack features - the gnome design team works well, but seems to not be taking input from the outside world.
Con Extension system is basically unsupported
Backward compatibility is not guaranteed and extensions seems like second class citizens in the GNOME environment.
Con Session Manager does NOT work,
Session Manager does NOT work, and not for 8 years - yes EIGHT!. Don't get me wrong I LOVE Ubuntu-Gnome but a recent re-attempt at KDE Neon is working FLAWLESSLY, and FINALLY type in session in the search and a great GUI called Desktop Session opens up giving ALL expected options and a few more.