Xfce

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From Xfce - About:

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.

Contents

What is Xfce?

Xfce is a Desktop Environment, like GNOME or KDE. It contains a suite of apps like a root window app, window manager, file manager, panel, etc. Xfce is written using the GTK2 toolkit, and contains its own development environment (libraries, daemons, etc), similar to other big DEs. Unlike GNOME or KDE, Xfce is lightweight and designed more around CDE than Windows or Mac. It has a much slower development cycle, but is very stable and extremely fast. Xfce is great for older hardware.

Why use Xfce?

Here is a (subjective) list of reasons to use Xfce:

  • It's fast; faster than the other major DEs.
  • It's stable. In the long time Xfce-4 has been out, only a relatively small handful of bugs has been discovered, despite it having a rather large following.
  • It's pretty. It uses GTK2 and is themable. You can make Xfce look very nice. The fonts are completely AA as well.
  • It works great with multiple monitors. Xfce's Xinerama support is arguably the best out of any WM/DE.
  • It doesn't get in your way. You'll find Xfce helps your work flow, rather than always making itself "present."
  • It comes with a built-in compositor which allows for true transparency, among other cool things.

Why not use Xfce?

Here is a (subjective) list of reasons not to use Xfce:

  • Doesn't contain all the features and integration of the major DEs.
  • Slower development cycle.
  • Because it's based on the CDE design, the layout may not be as familiar.

How to Install Xfce

Xfce is somewhat modular. That means there is no need for you to run every part, you can pick and choose some of them. Because of this, Xfce has some separate Arch packages.

Installing Xfce

To install the base Xfce system, run:

# pacman -S xfce4

Pacman will ask you to select the packages to install, you probably want to get them all by simply pressing enter.

Note: Or you can install only a few needed core packages:
# pacman -S xfwm4 xfce4-panel xfdesktop thunar xfce4-session xfce4-settings xfce4-appfinder xfce-utils xfconf

If you want extras, like panel plugins, run this:

# pacman -S xfce4-goodies

Like before, pacman will ask you which packages you want to install.

Note: xfce4-xfapplet-plugin (a plugin that allows the use of GNOME applets in the Xfce4 panel) is part of the xfce4-goodies group and depends on gnome-panel, which in turn depends on gnome-desktop. You may wish to take this into consideration before installing, since it represents a significant number of extra dependencies.

If you don't want xfce4-xfapplet-plugin, you can install xfce4-goodies this way:

# pacman -S $(pacman -Sgq xfce4-goodies | grep -v xfce4-xfapplet-plugin)

If you wish to admire 'Tips and Tricks' on login, install the fortune-mod package:

# pacman -S fortune-mod

In order to get the xfce4-mixer to work with alsa, you need to install gstreamer0.10-base-plugins. (See below for help with OSS.)

# pacman -S gstreamer0.10-base-plugins
Installing and configuring the Daemons

Install dbus:

# pacman -S dbus

To start automatically on boot, you should add dbus to your DAEMONS array in Template:Filename:

DAEMONS=(syslog-ng dbus network crond)

If you need to start dbus without rebooting, run

# /etc/rc.d/dbus start

Install gamin (the successor of fam). It is configured to automatically run in the background by default, do not add it to rc.conf.

# pacman -S gamin

Running Xfce

Automatically at boot time

See Display Manager to install and configure a Display Manager. Be sure to configure it properly for PolicyKit.

Manually

You can execute:

$ startxfce4

from the console, or configure xinitrc and use xinit or startx.

If you have not created a ~/.xinitrc yet, do so with:

$ cp /etc/skel/.xinitrc ~/.xinitrc

and add the following line:

exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch --exit-with-session startxfce4

Example:

#!/bin/sh
#
# ~/.xinitrc
#
# Executed by startx (run your window manager from here)

# exec gnome-session
# exec startkde
# exec startxfce4
# ...or the Window Manager of your choice
exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch --exit-with-session startxfce4

dbus-launch starts a dbus-daemon instance to provide communication with PolicyKit. ck-launch-session starts a clean consolekit session needed by Xfce for power management, automounting, shutting down/rebooting etc. ConsoleKit/PolicyKit capable display managers such as gdm do this for you automatically. Notice dbus-launch must be placed after ck-launch-session, or there will be problems when mounting disks.

Shutting down, rebooting, and automounting from withing Xfce
  • Make sure that dbus is enabled in the DAEMONS array in /etc/rc.conf.
  • Make sure you are a member of the power group for shutting down and rebooting.
  • Make sure you are a member of the storage group for automounting.
  • Make sure that you are using exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch --exit-with-session startxfce4 in ~/.xinitrc or a ConsoleKit/PolicyKit capable display manager, such as GDM or SLiM. (see above)

Tips

Panel

How to customize xfce panel background

Edit ~/.gtkrc-2.0. Note that you must place the image in the same directory as the configuration, which is ~/. You can not specify the path to the image, or it won't work.

 style "panel-background" {
   bg_pixmap[NORMAL]        = "foo.bar"
   bg_pixmap[PRELIGHT]      = "foo.bar"
   bg_pixmap[ACTIVE]        = "foo.bar"
   bg_pixmap[SELECTED]      = "foo.bar"
   bg_pixmap[INSENSITIVE]   = "foo.bar"
 }
 widget_class "*Panel*" style "panel-background"

Replacements for the default 'menu' panel applet

The "Ubuntu System Panel" (Gnome) panel applet has similar features to those found in its KDE v4.2 equivalent. It can be added to an Xfce panel via the 'XfApplet' panel applet, which allows Gnome applets to be used in Xfce.

It is available in the AUR

How to remove menu entries from the System menu

With the built-in menu editor, you cannot remove menu entries from the System menu. Here’s how to hide them:

  1. Go to the /usr/share/applications folder. Type in the terminal (Xfce menu > System > Terminal):
    $ cd /usr/share/applications
  2. This folder should be full of .desktop files. To see how many there are, type:
    $ ls
    Say the one you want to edit is Firefox. Type in the terminal:
    $ sudo mousepad firefox.desktop
  3. In the bottom of the file, paste the following:
    NoDisplay=true
  4. Save and exit. Now Firefox won’t show up in the System menu. You can do this with any program.


Another method is to copy the entire contents of the global applications directory over to your local applications directory, and then proceed to modify and/or disable unwanted .desktop entries. This will survive application updates that overwrite changes under /usr/share/applications/.

  1. In a terminal, copy everything from /usr/share/applications to ~/.local/share/applications/:
    $ cp /usr/share/applications/* ~/.local/share/applications/
  2. For any entry you wish to hide from the menu, add the NoDisplay=true option:
    $ echo "NoDisplay=true" >> ~/.local/share/applications/foo.desktop

You can also edit the application's category by editing the .desktop file with a text editor and modifying the Categories= line.

But what do you do with menu entries which do not show up in /usr/share/applications (e.g., apps installed via wine)?

I've found some shortcuts that show in the category “Other” in this directory: ~/.local/share/applications/wine/.

Desktop

Why doesn't my desktop refresh?

Xfce 4.6 uses FAM (File Alteration Monitor) or gamin (FAM's successor) to get notification when a file or directory changes. If you decide to use FAM, don't forget to add 'fam' to the list of DAEMONS in /etc/rc.conf. This step is not necessary for gamin.

NOTE: After recent updates, FAM may have issues opening some mounts, such as sshfs. Use gamin if this is the case.

Use a transparent background for desktop icon titles

To change the default white background of desktop icon titles to something more suitable, edit the .gtkrc-2.0 file in your home directory (or create the file if needed) and add the following:

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

Hide selected partitions on the desktop

If you wish to prevent certain partitions or drives appearing on the desktop, you can create a udev rule, for example Template:Filename:

KERNEL=="sda1", ENV{UDISKS_PRESENTATION_HIDE}="1"
KERNEL=="sda2", ENV{UDISKS_PRESENTATION_HIDE}="1"

Would show all partitions with the exception of sda1 and sda2 on your desktop.

Switch to old desktop right click menu without Thunar things

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

App suggestions

A drop down console like in quake

# pacman -S tilda

will install tilda, a drop down console, similar to yakuake. A more lightweight alternative would be stjerm which can be found in the AUR.

To configure tilda, type

# tilda -C

which opens a configuration window in X.

Guake

Another functional alternative is guake, which is available in the community repo:

# pacman -S guake

XFWM4

How to enable the compositor in Xfce 4.6

Xfce 4.6 comes with a builtin compositor adding the option for fancy window effects, shadows and transparency and so on. It can be enabled in the Window Manager Tweaks and works on the fly. No additional settings are needed in your /etc/xorg.conf. To enable and adjust settings, go to:

Menu  -->  Settings  -->  Window Manager Tweaks

Persistent window placement per-app

Commands for the settings manager

There is no official documentation for the commands executed. One must look at .desktop files /usr/share/applications/ folder. For the people who like to know exactly what is happening, here is a handy list to save the effort:

xfce-setting-show backdrop
xfce-setting-show display
xfce-setting-show keyboard
xfce4-menueditor
xfce-setting-show sound
xfce-setting-show mouse
xfce-setting-show session
xfce-setting-show
xfce-setting-show splash
xfce-setting-show ui
xfce-setting-show xfwm4
xfce-setting-show wmtweaks
xfce-setting-show workspaces
xfce-setting-show printing_system
xfce4-appfinder
xfce4-autostart-editor
xfce4-panel -c

To review all the available setting manager commands run the following in a terminal:

$ grep xfce-setting-show /usr/share/applications/xfce*settings*

Session

Customizing Startup Applications

This includes getting necessary environment variables into the GUI runtime.

  • Copy the file /etc/xdg/xfce4/xinitrc to ~/.config/xfce4/
  • Edit this file. For example, you can add something like this somehwere in the middle:
   source $HOME/.bashrc
   # start rxvt-unicode server
   urxvtd -q -o -f

Switch between users

It is possible to switch between X sessions thanks to xfswitch-plugin . It adds an icon to the Xfce panel, and requires gdm to work at the moment.

xfswitch-plugin is available through AUR

Modify XML settings files directly

It may be useful, especially when upgrading, to manually edit .xml files in the ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/ folder. For application keyboard shortcuts for example, the file is ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts.xml. It's faster to copy and paste the XML keys that you want rather than using the GUI.


How to add themes to XFCE

1. Go to xfce-look.org and click "Themes" in the left navbar. Look around for a theme you want and click "Download".

2. Go to the directory where you downloaded the tarball/file and extract it using Squeeze/Xarchiver/CLI.

3. Move the extracted folder to /usr/share/themes (for all users) or ~/.themes (for just you). Inside /usr/share/themes/abc, there is a folder that you create called xfwm4 that will contain whatever files that is included with that theme.

4. GTK theme is available here:

Menu --> Settings --> Appearance

You select your xfwm theme in:

Menu --> Settings --> Window Manager

Cursors

By default, X uses a plain black cursor. If you have alternative X cursor themes installed, Xfce can find them with:

Menu --> Settings --> Mouse --> Theme

To install new cursor themes, install Template:Package Official or another Template:Package Official package, or see X11 Cursors.

Fonts

If you find the standard fonts rather thick and or slightly out of focus open Settings>Appearence click on the Fonts tab and under Hinting: change to Full

You could also try using a custom DPI setting.

Sound

How do I get xfce4-mixer and OSS4 to work together?

Xfce 4.6 uses gstreamer as the backend to control volume, so first you have to make gstreamer cooperate with xfce4-mixer.

 pacman -S xfce4-mixer gstreamer0.10-base-plugins

(Optional) Second, try to install gstreamer0.10-good-plugins, gstreamer0.10-bad-plugins

 pacman -S gstreamer0.10-good-plugins gstreamer0.10-bad-plugins

login and logout, or just remove the mixer plugin and add it again. If it doesn't work at all, then you have to compile gstreamer0.10-good-plugins yourself. and can

Download the PKGBUILD and other files needed from ABS or here, edit the PKGBUILD, add --enable-oss.

 ./configure --prefix=/usr --sysconfdir=/etc --localstatedir=/var --enable-oss\
   --disable-static --enable-experimental \
   --enable-ladspa \
   --with-package-name="GStreamer Good Plugins (Arch Linux)" \
   --with-package-origin="http://www.archlinux.org/" || return 1

and then run makepkg -i.

 makepkg -i

Still not working? Try tis package in AUR gstreamer0.10-good-plugins-ossv4, modify the pkgver to the newest in the PKGBUILD, and it should work.

Other LINKS: OSS forum

Change volume with keyboard volume buttons

Go to

Settings --> Keyboard

Click the "Application Shortcuts" tab and add click the "Add" button. Add the following by entering the command, then pressing the corresponding button at the next window:

ALSA

For the raise volume button:

amixer set Master 5%+

For the lower volume button:

amixer set Master 5%-

For the mute button:

amixer set Master toggle

You can also run these commands to set the above commands to the standard XF86Audio keys:

xfconf-query -c xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts -p /commands/custom/XF86AudioRaiseVolume -n -t string -s "amixer set Master 5%+"
xfconf-query -c xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts -p /commands/custom/XF86AudioLowerVolume -n -t string -s "amixer set Master 5%-"
xfconf-query -c xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts -p /commands/custom/XF86AudioMute -n -t string -s "amixer set Master toggle"

If Template:Codeline does not work, try the PCM channel (Template:Codeline) instead.

The channel must have a "mute" option for the toggle command to work. To check whether or not your Master channel supports toggling mute, run Template:Codeline in a terminal and look for the double M's (MM) under the Master channel. If they are not present, then it does not support the mute option. If, for example, you had to change the toggle button to use the PCM channel, make sure to also set the PCM channel as the Mixer Track under Xfce Mixer properties.

OSS

Use one of these scripts: [http://www.opensound.com/wiki/index.php/Tips_And_Tricks#Using_multimedia_keys_with_OSS ]

If using ossvol (recommended), add:

ossvol -i 1

for the volume up button

ossvol -d 1

for the volume down button

ossvol -t

for the mute/unmute button


Screenshots

Using print-screen key

A simple way is to use a command-line screenshot utility:

# pacman -S scrot

Then

XFCE Menu  -->  Settings  -->  Keyboard  >>>  Application Shortcuts.

Add the "scrot" command to use the "PrintScreen" key.

All screenshots will be placed in your home folder with unique names like

"2009-02-19-063052_1280x1024_scrot.png".

Screenshooter

There is also an a screenshot plugin for the Xfce panel, which can be used instead of scrot, that is available in extra:

# pacman -S xfce4-screenshooter

You can add a keyboard binding for it using the command

xfce4-screenshooter -f

instead of "scrot". You'll get a dialog window after pressing "Print" where you can copy the image to the clipboard or save it.

Change mount options

A common problem when automounting USB sticks formatted with fat filesystem is the inability to properly show characters as umlauts, ñ, ß, etc. This may be solved changing the default iocharset to utf8, which is easily done adding a line to /etc/xdg/xfce4/mount.rc:

[vfat]
uid=<auto>
shortname=winnt
utf8=true
# FreeBSD specific option
longnames=true

Note that when using utf-8, the system will distinct between upper- and lowercases, potentially corrupting your files. Be careful.

It is also recommendable to mount vfat devices with the flush option, so that when copying to usb sticks data flushes more often, thus making thunar's progress bar to stays up until things are on the disk.

[vfat]
flush=true

Removable Devices

If you want a icon appearing on your desktop and in thunar when you plug in external devices, make sure gvfs is installed

# pacman -S gvfs

It is also a good idea to install thunar-volman

# pacman -S thunar-volman

Troubleshooting

Keyboard shortcuts aren't working

Under Xfce 4.6 there is a problem where the user's keyboard shortcuts will intermittently not work. This is usually the case when the settings helper is either not running or has been started improperly due to a conflict. This bug has been fixed in Xfce 4.8, which replaced 4.6 in the main repositories.

A workaround is to disable xfce4-settings-helper-autostart from autostarting in a user's session. The settings helper daemon will start upon loading an Xfce session, anyways. The following two steps seem to have resolved this issue.

Remove or rename the global autostart .desktop file:

mv /etc/xdg/autostart/xfce4-settings-helper-autostart.desktop /etc/xdg/autostart/xfce4-settings-helper-autostart.desktop.disabled

Remove or rename the local autostart .desktop file:

mv ~/.config/autostart/xfce4-settings-helper-autostart.desktop ~/.config/autostart/xfce4-settings-helper-autostart.desktop.disabled

After logging out and logging back in, your shortcut keys should be working fine now.

Restore default settings

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

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

Logout and login for changes to take effect.

Related Articles

External Resources