Xfce

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Xfce is a lightweight and modular Desktop environment currently based on GTK+ 2. To provide a complete user experience, it includes a window manager, a file manager, desktop and panel.

Contents

Installation

Install the xfce4 group. You may also wish to install the xfce4-goodies group which includes extra plugins and a number of useful utilities such as the mousepad editor. Xfce uses the Xfwm window manager by default.

Starting Xfce

Choose Xfce Session from the menu in a display manager of choice, or add exec startxfce4 to Xinitrc.

Note: Do not call the xfce4-session executable directly; startxfce4 is the correct command which, in turn, calls the former when appropriate.

Configuration

Xfce stores configuration options in Xfconf. There are several ways to modify these options:

  • In the main menu, select Settings and the category you want to customize. Categories are programs usually located in /usr/bin/xfce4-* and /usr/bin/xfdesktop-settings.
  • xfce4-settings-editor can see and modify all settings. Options modified here will take effect immediately. Use xfconf-query to change settings from the commandline; see the documentation for details.
  • Settings are stored in XML files in ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/ which can be edited by hand. However, changes made here will not take effect immediately.

Menu

Whisker menu

xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin is an alternate application launcher. It shows a list of favorites, browses through all installed applications through category buttons, and supports fuzzy searching.

Edit entries

A number of graphical tools are available for this task:

  • XAME — GUI tool written in Gambas designed specifically for editing menu entries in Xfce, it will not work in other environments.
http://www.redsquirrel87.com/XAME.html || xameAUR
  • MenuLibre — An advanced menu editor that provides modern features in a clean, easy-to-use interface.
https://launchpad.net/menulibre || menulibreAUR.
  • Alacarte — Menu editor for GNOME
http://www.gnome.org/ || alacarte

Alternatively, create the file ~/.config/menus/xfce-applications.menu manually. See the example configuration below:

<!DOCTYPE Menu PUBLIC "-//freedesktop//DTD Menu 1.0//EN"
  "http://www.freedesktop.org/standards/menu-spec/1.0/menu.dtd">
<Menu>
    <Name>Xfce</Name>
    <MergeFile type="parent">/etc/xdg/menus/xfce-applications.menu</MergeFile>
    <Exclude>
        <Filename>xfce4-run.desktop</Filename>
        <Filename>exo-terminal-emulator.desktop</Filename>
        <Filename>exo-file-manager.desktop</Filename>
        <Filename>exo-mail-reader.desktop</Filename>
        <Filename>exo-web-browser.desktop</Filename>
        <Filename>xfce4-about.desktop</Filename>
        <Filename>xfhelp4.desktop</Filename>
    </Exclude>
    <Layout>
        <Merge type="all"/>
        <Separator/>
        <Menuname>Settings</Menuname>
        <Separator/>
        <Filename>xfce4-session-logout.desktop</Filename>
    </Layout>
</Menu>

The <MergeFile> tag includes the default Xfce menu.

The <Exclude> tag excludes applications which we do not want to appear in the menu. Here we excluded some Xfce default shortcuts, but you can exclude firefox.desktop or any other application.

The <Layout> tag defines the layout of the menu. The applications can be organized in folders or however we wish. For more details see the Xfce wiki.

You can also make changes to the Xfce menu by editing the .desktop files themselves. To hide entries, see Desktop entries#Hide desktop entries. You can edit the application's category by modifying the Categories= line of the desktop entry, see Desktop entries#File example.

Desktop

Transparent background for icon titles

To change the default white background of desktop icon titles to something more suitable, create or edit ~/.gtkrc-2.0:

style "xfdesktop-icon-view" {
    XfdesktopIconView::label-alpha = 10
    base[NORMAL] = "#000000"
    base[SELECTED] = "#71B9FF"
    base[ACTIVE] = "#71B9FF"
    fg[NORMAL] = "#fcfcfc"
    fg[SELECTED] = "#ffffff"
    fg[ACTIVE] = "#ffffff"
}
widget_class "*XfdesktopIconView*" style "xfdesktop-icon-view"

Remove Thunar options from right-click menu

Issue the following command:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-desktop -v --create -p /desktop-icons/style -t int -s 0

Kill window shortcut

Xfce does not have a shortcut to kill a window, for example when a program freezes.

With xorg-xkill, use xkill to interactively kill a window. For the currently active window, use xdotool:

$ xdotool getwindowfocus windowkill

Alternatively:

$ xkill -id "$(xprop -root -notype | sed -n '/^_NET_ACTIVE_WINDOW/ s/^.*# *\|\,.*$//g p')"

To add the shortcut, use Settings > Keyboard or an application like xbindkeys.

Session

Startup applications

To launch custom applications when Xfce starts up, click the Applications Menu > Settings > Settings Manager and then choose the Session and Startup option and click the tab Application Autostart. You will see a list of programs that get launched on startup. To add an entry, click the Add button and fill out the form, specifying the path to an executable you want to run.

Alternatively, add the commands you wish to run (including setting environment variables) to xinitrc (or xprofile when a display manager is being used).

Delay application startup

Sometimes it might be useful to delay the startup of an application. Specifying a command such as sleep 3 && command under Application Autostart does not work. As a workaround, one can use the following syntax instead:

sh -c "sleep 3 && command"

Lock the screen

To lock an Xfce4 session through the xflock4 script one of xscreensaver, gnome-screensaver, slock or xlockmore packages needs to be installed. Alternatively you can set a lock command with

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /general/LockCommand -s "light-locker-command -l" --create -t string

If you want to update the command, you can use

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /general/LockCommand -s "light-locker-command -l"

See List of applications/Security#Screen lockers for a comprehensive list of screen lockers.

Tip: The light-locker session locker integrates with xfce4-power-manager. If light-locker is installed, a Security tab is added to the power manager settings and the existing Lock screen when system is going for sleep setting is relocated under the Security tab.

User switching

Note: For the User Switch action button to work without GDM, a workaround is required:

Xfce4 has support for user switching when used with a Display manager that has this functionality - examples being LightDM and GDM. Please consult your display manager's wiki page for more information. When you have a display manager installed and configured correctly you can switch users from the 'action buttons' menu item in the panel.

Disable saved sessions

Per user, saved sessions can be disabled by executing the following:

$ xfconf-query -t bool -c xfce4-session -p /general/SaveOnExit -s false

Then navigate to Applications -> Settings -> Session and Startup -> Sessions and click the Clear saved sessions button.

Tip: If the command above does not change the setting persistently, use the following command instead: xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /general/SaveOnExit -n -t bool -s false

Alternatively, Xfce kiosk mode can be used to disable the saving of sessions systemwide. To disable sessions, create or edit the file /etc/xdg/xfce4/kiosk/kioskrc and add the following:

[xfce4-session]
SaveSession=NONE

If kiosk mode is not working, the user can set read only permissions for the sessions directory:

$ rm ~/.cache/sessions/* && chmod 500 ~/.cache/sessions

This will prevent Xfce from saving any sessions despite any configuration that specifies otherwise.

Default window manager

Note: For the changes to take effect, you will need to clear the saved sessions and ensure that session saving is disabled when logging out for the first time. Once the window manager of choice is running, session saving can be enabled again.

The files specifying the default window manager are found in the following locations:

  • ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/xfce4-session.xml - per user
  • /etc/xdg/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/xfce4-session.xml - systemwide

The default window manager for the user can be set easily using xfconf-query:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /sessions/Failsafe/Client0_Command -t string -sa wm_name

If you want to start the window manager with command line options, see the command below:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /sessions/Failsafe/Client0_Command -t string -t string -s wm_name -s --wm-option

If you need more command line options, simply add more -t string and -s --wm-option arguments to the command.

If you want to change the default window manager systemwide, edit the file specified above manually, changing xfwm4 to the preferred window manager and adding more <value type="string" value="--wm-option"/> lines for extra command line options if needed.

You can also change the window manager by autostarting wm_name --replace using the autostart facility or by running wm_name --replace & in a terminal and making sure the session is saved on logout. Be aware though that this method does not truly change the default manager, it merely replaces it at login. Note that if you are using the autostart facility, you should disable saved sessions as this could lead to the new window manager being started twice after the default window manager.

Theming

XFCE themes are available at xfce-look.org. Xfwm themes are stored in /usr/share/themes/xfce4, and set in Settings > Window Manager. GTK+ themes are set in Settings > Appearance.

To achieve a uniform look for all applications, see Uniform look for Qt and GTK applications.

See also Cursor themes, Icons, and Font configuration.

Sound

Xfce4 mixer

Note: Xfce4 mixer and Xfce4 volumed are no longer being maintained upstream as they cannot be ported to GStreamer 1.0. For more information, see the 4.12 news post.

Xfce4 mixer, provided by xfce4-mixer, is the GUI mixer app and panel plugin from the Xfce team. It is part of the xfce4 group. For PulseAudio and OSS support, you will need to install gstreamer0.10-good-plugins if it is not installed already.

You might need to change the default sound card for Xfce4 mixer to function correctly. For further details, such as how to set the default sound card, see Advanced Linux Sound Architecture#Set the default sound card. Alternatively you can use PulseAudio together with pavucontrol or OSS. For OSS, see OSS#Applications that use GStreamer.

If you did need to change the default soundcard, logout to ensure that the changes take effect.

Change default sound card in Xfce4 mixer

In some cases (when using PulseAudio or xfce4-volumedAUR for instance) it might be necessary to change the default sound card in Xfce4 Mixer in order for volume control to work as expected. [1]

To change the default sound card, open xfce4-settings-editor and navigate to xfce4-mixer and check the entries under sound-cards. Locate the correct entry for the card you are using and then replace the values of sound-card and active-card with the entry. If you are using PulseAudio then the entry will likely be similar to the following: PlaybackInternalAudioAnalogStereoPulseAudioMixer. Then logout for the changes to take effect.

Keyboard volume buttons

If the xfce4-mixer package is version 4.10.0-3 or greater, then the mixer panel applet provides the ability to control the volume using the keyboard. However, volume notifications will not be shown. Alternatively, xfce4-volumedAUR maps volume keys to Xfce4 mixer, and displays notifications through Xfce4-notifyd. If you are using PulseAudio and you do not wish to use Xfce4 Mixer at all, install xfce4-pulseaudio-pluginAUR. This provides a panel applet which has support for keyboard volume control and volume notifications.

For non desktop environment specific alternatives, see List of applications#Volume managers.

Shortcuts

If you are not using an applet or daemon that controls the volume keys, you can map volume control commands to your volume keys manually using Xfce's keyboard settings. For the sound system you are using, see the sections linked to below for the appropriate commands.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are defined in two places: Settings > Window Manager > Keyboard, and Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts.

Polkit Authentication Agent

The polkit-gnome agent will be installed along with xfce4-session and autostarted automatically; no user intervention is required. For more information, see Polkit#Authentication agents.

A third party polkit authentication agent for Xfce is also available, see xfce-polkit-gitAUR.

Display blanking

Note: There are some issues associated with blanking and resuming from blanking in some configurations. See [2][3].

Some programs that are commonly used with Xfce will control monitor blanking and DPMS (monitor powersaving) settings. They are discussed below.

Xfce Power Manager

Xfce Power Manager will control blanking and DPMS settings. These settings can be configured by running xfce4-power-manager-settings and clicking the Display tab. Note that unticking the Handle display power management option means that the Power Manager will disable DPMS - it does not mean that the Power Manager will relinquish control of DPMS. Also note that it will not disable screen blanking. To disable both blanking and DPMS, right click on the power manager system tray icon or left click on the panel applet and make sure that the option labelled Presentation mode is ticked.

XScreenSaver

See XScreenSaver#DPMS and blanking settings. Note that if XScreenSaver is running alongside Xfce Power Manager, it may not be entirely clear which application is in control of blanking and DPMS as both applications are competing for control of the same settings. Therefore, in a situation where it is important that the monitor not be blanked (when watching a film for instance), it is advisable to disable blanking and DPMS through both applications.

xset

If neither of the above applications are running, then blanking and DPMS settings can be controlled using the xset command, see DPMS#Modifying DPMS and screensaver settings using xset.

Tips and tricks

Hide partitions from thunar and xfdesktop

See Udisks#Hide selected partitions.

Screenshots

Xfce has its own screenshot tool, xfce4-screenshooter. It is part of the xfce4-goodies group.

Go to Applications > Settings > Keyboard, Application Shortcuts. Add the xfce4-screenshooter -f (or -w for the active window) command to use the Print key in order to take fullscreen screenshots. See screenshooter's man page for other optional arguments.

Alternatively, an independent screenshot program like scrot can be used.

Disable Terminal F1 and F11 shortcuts

The xfce terminal binds F1 and F11 to help and fullscreen, respectively, which can make using programs like htop difficult. To disable those shortcuts, create or edit its configuration file, then log out and log back in. F10 can disabled in the Preferences menu.

~/.config/xfce4/terminal/accels.scm
(gtk_accel_path "<Actions>/terminal-window/fullscreen" "")
(gtk_accel_path "<Actions>/terminal-window/contents" "")

Terminal color themes or palettes

Terminal color themes or palettes can be changed in GUI under Appearance tab in Preferences. These are the colors that are available to most console applications like Emacs, Vi and so on. Their settings are stored individually for each system user in ~/.config/xfce4/terminal/terminalrc file. There are also so many other themes to choose from. Check forum thread Terminal Colour Scheme Screenshots for hundreds of available choices and themes.

Changing default color theme

XFCE's extra/terminal package comes with a darker color palette. To change this, append the following in your terminalrc file for a lighter color theme, that is always visible in darker Terminal backgrounds.

~/.config/xfce4/terminal/terminalrc
ColorPalette5=#38d0fcaaf3a9
ColorPalette4=#e013a0a1612f
ColorPalette2=#d456a81b7b42
ColorPalette6=#ffff7062ffff
ColorPalette3=#7ffff7bd7fff
ColorPalette13=#82108210ffff

Terminal tango color theme

To switch to tango color theme, open with your favorite editor

~/.config/xfce4/terminal/terminalrc

And add(replace) these lines:

ColorForeground=White
ColorBackground=#323232323232
ColorPalette1=#2e2e34343636
ColorPalette2=#cccc00000000
ColorPalette3=#4e4e9a9a0606
ColorPalette4=#c4c4a0a00000
ColorPalette5=#34346565a4a4
ColorPalette6=#757550507b7b
ColorPalette7=#060698989a9a
ColorPalette8=#d3d3d7d7cfcf
ColorPalette9=#555557575353
ColorPalette10=#efef29292929
ColorPalette11=#8a8ae2e23434
ColorPalette12=#fcfce9e94f4f
ColorPalette13=#72729f9fcfcf
ColorPalette14=#adad7f7fa8a8
ColorPalette15=#3434e2e2e2e2
ColorPalette16=#eeeeeeeeecec

Colour management

Xfce has no native support for colour management. [4] See ICC profiles for alternatives.

Multiple monitors

As of xfce4-settings version 4.11.4, Xfce has support for multiple monitors. Settings can be configured in the Applications -> Settings -> Display dialog. For more information, see the display article from the Xfce documentation.

SSH agents

By default Xfce 4.10 will try to load gpg-agent or ssh-agent in that order during session initialization. To disable this, create an xfconf key using the following command:

xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /startup/ssh-agent/enabled -n -t bool -s false

To force using ssh-agent even if gpg-agent is installed, run the following instead:

xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /startup/ssh-agent/type -n -t string -s ssh-agent

To use GNOME Keyring, simply tick the checkbox Launch GNOME services on startup in the Advanced tab of Session Manager in Xfce's settings. This will also disable gpg-agent and ssh-agent.

Source: http://docs.xfce.org/xfce/xfce4-session/advanced

Scroll a background window without shifting focus on it

Go to Main Menu > Settings > Window Manager Tweaks > Accessibility tab. Uncheck Raise windows when any mouse button is pressed.

Mouse button modifier

By default, the mouse button modifier in Xfce is set to Alt. This can be changed with xfconf-query. For instance, the following command will set the Super key as the mouse button modifier:

$ xfconf-query -c xfwm4 -p /general/easy_click -n -t string -s "Super"

Strictly speaking, using multiple modifiers is not supported. However, as a workaround, multiple modifiers can be specified if the key names are separated with ><. For instance, to set Ctrl+Alt as the mouse button modifier, you can use the following command:

$ xfconf-query -c xfwm4 -p /general/easy_click -n -t string -s "Ctrl><Alt"

Troubleshooting

Action buttons are missing icons

This happens if icons for some actions (Suspend, Hibernate) are missing from the icon theme, or do not have the expected names. To fix this, install an icon theme which has the necessary icons already added; see Icons#Xfce icons.

Then, you can switch to that icon theme using Applications -> Settings -> Appearance -> Icons.

Alternatively you can use the required icons provided by the icon theme you installed in your current icon theme. To do so, you first need to find out what the currently used icon theme is called. You can do so by using the command below:

$ xfconf-query -c xsettings -p /Net/IconThemeName

Then set the following variable:

$ icontheme=/usr/share/icons/theme-name

where theme-name is the name of the current icon theme.

Then create symbolic links from the current icon theme into the icon theme providing the icons (this example assumes the icons are being provided by the elementary-xfce-iconsAUR theme.)

ln -s /usr/share/icons/elementary-xfce/apps/16/system-suspend.svg           ${icontheme}/16x16/actions/system-suspend.svg
ln -s /usr/share/icons/elementary-xfce/apps/16/system-suspend-hibernate.svg ${icontheme}/16x16/actions/system-hibernate.svg
ln -s /usr/share/icons/elementary-xfce/apps/22/system-suspend.svg           ${icontheme}/22x22/actions/system-suspend.svg
ln -s /usr/share/icons/elementary-xfce/apps/22/system-suspend-hibernate.svg ${icontheme}/22x22/actions/system-hibernate.svg
ln -s /usr/share/icons/elementary-xfce/apps/24/system-suspend.svg           ${icontheme}/24x24/actions/system-suspend.svg
ln -s /usr/share/icons/elementary-xfce/apps/24/system-suspend-hibernate.svg ${icontheme}/24x24/actions/system-hibernate.svg
ln -s /usr/share/icons/elementary-xfce/apps/48/system-suspend.svg           ${icontheme}/48x48/actions/system-suspend.svg
ln -s /usr/share/icons/elementary-xfce/apps/48/system-suspend-hibernate.svg ${icontheme}/48x48/actions/system-hibernate.svg

Log out and in again, and you should see icons for all actions.

Desktop icons rearrange themselves

At certain events (such as opening the panel settings dialog) icons on the desktop rearrange themselves. This is because icon positions are determined by files in the ~/.config/xfce4/desktop/ directory. Each time a change is made to the desktop (icons are added or removed or change position) a new file is generated in this directory and these files can conflict.

To solve the problem, navigate to the directory and delete all the files other than the one which correctly defines the icon positions. You can determine which file defines the correct icon positions by opening it and examining the locations of the icons. The topmost row is defined as row 0 and the leftmost column is defined by col 0. Therefore an entry of:

[Firefox]
row=3
col=0

means that the Firefox icon will be located on the 4th row of the leftmost column.

GTK themes not working with multiple monitors

Some configuration tools may corrupt displays.xml, which results in GTK themes under Applications Menu > Settings > Appearance ceasing to work. To fix the issue, delete ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/displays.xml and reconfigure your screens.

Icons do not appear in right-click menus

Note: Despite the deprecation of GConf, this method does still work.

Users may find that icons do not appear when right-clicking options within some applications, including those made with Qt. This problem only appears to happen within Xfce. Run these two commands:

$ gconftool-2 --type boolean --set /desktop/gnome/interface/buttons_have_icons true
$ gconftool-2 --type boolean --set /desktop/gnome/interface/menus_have_icons true

Keyboard settings are not saved in xkb-plugin

There is a bug in xfce4-xkb-plugin 0.5.4.1-1 which causes it to lose keyboard, layout switching and compose key settings. [5] As a workaround, enable Use system defaults in xfce4-keyboard-settings, then reconfigure xfce4-xkb-plugin.

NVIDIA and xfce4-sensors-plugin

To detect and use sensors of nvidia gpu you need to install libxnvctrl and then rebuild xfce4-sensors-plugin with ABS. You also have the option of using xfce4-sensors-plugin-nvidiaAUR which replaces xfce4-sensors-plugin.

Preferred Applications preferences have no effect

Most applications rely on xdg-open for opening a preferred application for a given file or URL.

In order for xdg-open and xdg-settings to detect and integrate with the Xfce desktop environment correctly, you need to install the xorg-xprop package.

If you do not do that, your preferred applications preferences (set by exo-preferred-applications) will not be obeyed. Installing the package and allowing xdg-open to detect that you are running Xfce makes it forward all calls to exo-open instead, which correctly uses all your preferred applications preferences.

To make sure xdg-open integration is working correctly, ask xdg-settings for the default web browser and see what the result is:

# xdg-settings get default-web-browser

If it replies with:

xdg-settings: unknown desktop environment

it means that it has failed to detect Xfce as your desktop environment, which is likely due to a missing xorg-xprop package.

Restore default settings

If for any reason you need to revert back: to the default settings, rename ~/.config/xfce4-session/ and ~/.config/xfce4/

$ mv ~/.config/xfce4-session/ ~/.config/xfce4-session-bak
$ mv ~/.config/xfce4/ ~/.config/xfce4-bak

Relogin for changes to take effect. If you get Unable to load a failsafe session upon login, see the #Session failure section.

Session failure

Symptoms include:

  • The mouse is an X and/or does not appear at all;
  • Window decorations have disappeared and windows cannot be closed;
  • (xfwm4-settings) will not start, reporting These settings cannot work with your current window manager (unknown);
  • Errors reported by a display manager such as No window manager registered on screen 0.
  • Unable to load a failsafe session:
Unable to load a failsafe session.
Unable to determine failsafe session name.  Possible causes: xfconfd isn't running (D-Bus setup problem); environment variable $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS is set incorrectly (must include "/etc"), or xfce4-session is installed incorrectly. 

Restarting xfce or rebooting your system may solve the problem, but a corrupt session is the likely cause. Delete the session folder:

$ rm -r ~/.cache/sessions/

Also make sure that the relevant folders in $HOME are owned by the user starting xfce4. See Chown.

Fonts in window title crashing xfce4-title

Install ttf-droid and ttf-dejavu. See also FS#44382.

Laptop lid settings ignored

You may find that the lid close settings in Xfce4 Power Manager are ignored, meaning that the laptop will always suspend on lid close, no matter what settings are chosen in the power manager. This is because the power manager is not set to handle lid close events by default. Instead, logind handles the lid close event. To change this behavior so that the the power manager handles lid close events, execute the following command:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-power-manager -p /xfce4-power-manager/logind-handle-lid-switch -s false

Note that each time the laptop lid settings are changed in the power manager, this setting will be reset.

Rendering issues with Adwaita theme

Since the upgrade of gnome-themes-standard from 3.18.0-1 version to 3.20.0-1 the Adwaita theme exhibits several issues when being used in Xfce, like a frame around the notification area and dark background of the tooltip in eclipse.

A ugly solution is to downgrade the gnome-themes-standard to the old 3.18.0-1 meanwhile. The package can be downloaded at:

$ wget https://archive.archlinux.org/repos/2016/04/08/extra/os/$(uname -m)/gnome-themes-standard-3.18.0-1-$(uname -m).pkg.tar.xz

and installed via pacman's -U option.

See also