TIL - NEXTSPACE, The NeXT UX lovingly re-created in Ukraine

It’s been raining cats and dogs most of the weekend, so I’ve been puttering aimlessly about doing various things.

One of them was reviewing my remote desktop sandboxes (where I usually run Window Maker as a minimal environment), and this weekend was the perfect time to see whether over time, someone had done anything about OpenSTEP, which may be dated but was still wonderful in its own way.

So I had another look at NEXTSPACE, which is arguably the best, most faithful and up to date take on the user experience still being actively maintained.

And, as it happens, NEXTSPACE is developed by a Ukranian living in Kyiv, which makes it all the more obvious that we’re all in together.

And it is gorgeous:

This feels so much better than a conventional Linux desktop environment that it's not even funny.


I was able to build it from git in mere minutes inside a Fedora 35 lxc container, using this as a baseline:

# Find a good enough image
lxc image list images: os=Fedora

# Spin it up
lxc launch images:fedora/35 nextspace

# Get in and set things up
lxc exec nextspace -- sudo /bin/bash

#...clone repo and follow README
#...install Xrdp, Avahi, Firefox

# Give it an IP on my LAN, where it announces itself over Avahi
lxc network attach enp3s0 nextspace eth0

# start afresh
lxc restart nextspace

Good Things

  • Everything is exceptionally fast.
  • I am quite impressed by the way it feels almost exactly like what I remember my NeXT Cube to be like. Linux folk may think Window Maker is an accurate clone, but… it isn’t (it’s actually better than the original experience in many ways, but doesn’t behave like the original).
  • There is zero wasted whitespace, especially when compared to modern GNOME – what you can see on the screen is useful content rather than large swathes of dubiously empty aesthetics.

Needs Improvement

  • Modern applications (including flatpak ones) looked completely out of place – which I suppose is fixable via a GTK theme, but there isn’t one readily available.
  • I got missing Dock icons for , Visual Studio Code and other apps installed via RPM, and standard Linux launcher files seem to be ignored.
  • Using it with a trackpad and without keyboard commands to tile windows feels… awkward.
  • Workspace doesn’t have some creature comforts Window Maker has added over the years–but the only thing I really miss are some of the keyboard commands for basic window placement.
  • The Fedora Xrdp package is ancient packaged differently compared to the Ubuntu one and doesn’t include the X11rdp back-end, so I had some issues with cursors and the like (setting new_cursors=false to /etc/xrdp/xrdp.ini got rid of most issues). Not a NEXTSPACE problem, really, but annoying.

Update: I fixed that by installing the xorgxrdp package.

I suppose I can fix some of these (given time), and I’m really curious to see if I can get this to run on a lower-end machine (like a Raspberry Pi, for which I’d need a RedHat-based distro),

But all in all, it was a great trip down memory lane, and I really hope this keeps being developed (the developer is still safe in Kyiv, but, as you may imagine, has other things in mind right now).

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