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1 <?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>
2
3 <!-- $Header $ -->
4
5 <!DOCTYPE guide SYSTEM "/dtd/guide.dtd">
6
7 <guide link="/doc/en/xfce-config.xml">
8
9 <title>The Xfce Configuration Guide</title>
10
11 <author title="Author">
12 <mail link="nightmorph@gentoo.org">Joshua Saddler</mail>
13 </author>
14
15 <abstract>
16 This guide provides an extensive introduction to Xfce, a fast, lightweight,
17 full-featured desktop environment.
18 </abstract>
19
20 <!-- The content of this document is licensed under the CC-BY-SA license -->
21 <!-- See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5 -->
22 <license/>
23
24 <version>1.2</version>
25 <date>2007-02-18</date>
26
27 <chapter>
28 <title>Introduction</title>
29 <section>
30 <title>The Xfce desktop environment</title>
31 <body>
32
33 <p>
34 <uri link="http://www.xfce.org">Xfce</uri> is a fast, lightweight desktop
35 environment for Unix-like operating systems. It is designed for productivity,
36 and is quite configurable while still adhering to the <uri
37 link="http://www.freedesktop.org">Freedesktop</uri> specifications.
38 </p>
39
40 <p>
41 Unlike heavier desktop environments, such as Gnome and KDE, Xfce uses far fewer
42 system resources. Additionally, it offers greater modularity and fewer
43 dependencies; it takes up less space on your hard disk and takes less time to
44 install.
45 </p>
46
47 <p>
48 This guide will not only show you how to install and configure a minimal Xfce
49 environment, but will also explore options to create a full-featured desktop in
50 keeping with the Xfce philosophy: light, fast, and modular.
51 </p>
52
53 </body>
54 </section>
55 </chapter>
56
57 <chapter>
58 <title>Installing Xfce</title>
59 <section>
60 <title>The basics</title>
61 <body>
62
63 <p>
64 Before we install our fully-functional yet minimal desktop, let's take a moment
65 to review the basic packages we'll be emerging.
66 </p>
67
68 <table>
69 <tr>
70 <th>Name</th>
71 <th>Description</th>
72 </tr>
73 <tr>
74 <ti>xfce4</ti>
75 <ti>The base Xfce desktop environment</ti>
76 </tr>
77 <tr>
78 <ti>xscreensaver</ti>
79 <ti>
80 A screensaver with powersaving features and the ability to lock the screen
81 for security
82 </ti>
83 </tr>
84 <tr>
85 <ti>hal</ti>
86 <ti>
87 A Hardware Abstraction Layer. HAL enables desktop applications to locate and
88 use hardware devices. This makes it easy for you to work with removable
89 media, such as USB sticks and CD/DVD drives. Installing <c>hal</c> will also
90 install <c>dbus</c>, a simple way for applications to talk to each other.
91 </ti>
92 </tr>
93 <tr>
94 <ti>gamin</ti>
95 <ti>
96 This file alteration monitor keeps track of file changes; it's very handy
97 when used in conjunction with a graphical file browser
98 </ti>
99 </tr>
100 </table>
101
102 <p>
103 You're free to install any other packages you wish, but for now, we'll stick
104 with these suggestions for a fast, minimal working environment. Double check
105 your USE flags in <path>/etc/make.conf</path>; you'll probably at least want
106 <c>USE="-gnome"</c> to avoid pulling in unnecessary dependencies.
107 </p>
108
109 <pre caption="Installing Xfce">
110 # <i>emerge -avt xfce4 xscreensaver hal gamin</i>
111 </pre>
112
113 <p>
114 Next, add your regular user(s) to the <c>plugdev</c>, <c>cdrom</c>, <c>cdrw</c>,
115 and <c>usb</c> groups, so that they can take full advantage of <c>hal</c> and be
116 able to mount and use devices such as cameras, optical drives, and USB sticks.
117 </p>
118
119 <pre caption="Adding users to the hardware groups">
120 <comment>(Replace username with your actual user)</comment>
121 # <i>for x in plugdev cdrom cdrw usb ; do gpasswd -a username $x ; done</i>
122 </pre>
123
124 <p>
125 Next, update your environment variables:
126 </p>
127
128 <pre caption="Updating environment variables">
129 # <i>env-update &amp;&amp; source /etc/profile</i>
130 </pre>
131
132 <p>
133 Now start up <c>hald</c> and add it to the default runlevel:
134 </p>
135
136 <pre caption="Starting hald">
137 # <i>/etc/init.d/hald start</i>
138 # <i>rc-update add hald default</i>
139 </pre>
140
141 </body>
142 </section>
143 </chapter>
144
145 <chapter>
146 <title>Configuring Xfce</title>
147 <section>
148 <title>Starting Xfce</title>
149 <body>
150
151 <p>
152 Now that Xfce is now installed, we'll configure it to be the default desktop
153 environment when we issue the <c>startx</c> command. Exit your root shell and
154 log on as a regular user.
155 </p>
156
157 <pre caption="Setting Xfce as the default desktop environment">
158 $ <i>echo "exec startxfce4" > ~/.xinitrc</i>
159 </pre>
160
161 <p>
162 Now start your graphical environment by typing <c>startx</c>:
163 </p>
164
165 <pre caption="Starting Xfce">
166 $ <i>startx</i>
167 </pre>
168
169 <p>
170 Congratulations, and welcome to your new Xfce desktop environment. Go ahead,
171 explore it a bit. Then continue reading to learn how you can configure Xfce to
172 suit your needs.
173 </p>
174
175 </body>
176 </section>
177 <section>
178 <title>Program access</title>
179 <body>
180
181 <p>
182 You might notice right-clicking on the desktop shows you the menu of all your
183 applications. It's useful, but your desktop can easily be completely obscured by
184 open windows, making it hard to to launch a new program. So, one of the first
185 things you may wish to do is give yourself a handy application menu on your
186 panel. Right click on this panel, and choose "Add New Item". Scroll through the
187 list of choices and select "Xfce Menu". You can choose where you want it to be
188 displayed on your panel. When clicked, it displays the application/preferences
189 menu, providing a nicely categorized list of your installed programs.
190 </p>
191
192 </body>
193 </section>
194 <section>
195 <title>Sessions &amp; startup</title>
196 <body>
197
198 <p>
199 If you've installed (or plan to install) popular Gnome or KDE applications such
200 as <c>k3b</c>, <c>nautilus</c>, <c>kmail</c>, <c>evolution</c>, etc. then you
201 should make sure that Xfce launches the appropriate services for these at
202 startup. Navigate to Menu --> Settings --> Sessions &amp; Startup. On the
203 "Advanced" tab, select the appropriate checkbox. This might slightly increase
204 Xfce startup times, but it decreases load times for KDE and Gnome applications.
205 </p>
206
207 <p>
208 Xfce has the ability to save your session settings and running programs from the
209 "General" tab in the Sessions &amp; Startup menu. They can be automatically
210 saved when you logout, or Xfce can ask you each time. This feature is
211 particularly useful for undoing configuration mistakes. Accidentally killed a
212 panel? Just select "No" when prompted to save your current session, and the next
213 time you start Xfce, your old desktop is restored. Want to automatically launch
214 your open webbrowser, terminal, and email client the next time you login? Just
215 save your session before logging out.
216 </p>
217
218 <p>
219 You've now got a basic working environment installed and configured. But if
220 you're interested in doing more, then continue reading!
221 </p>
222
223 </body>
224 </section>
225 </chapter>
226
227 <chapter>
228 <title>Additional Applications</title>
229 <section>
230 <title>Panel plugins</title>
231 <body>
232
233 <p>
234 In this chapter, we'll discuss some useful plugins and applications for everyday
235 use within Xfce.
236 </p>
237
238 <p>
239 There are many plugins for the panel available in Portage; see for yourself with
240 <c>emerge --search xfce</c>. Though for the most part their names are self
241 explanatory, a few deserve some attention, as they are quite helpful. To use
242 them, simply <c>emerge</c> them. They'll be added to the list of available items
243 in the "Add New Item" menu.
244 </p>
245
246 <ul>
247 <li>
248 <c>xfce4-mount</c> gives you a handy method of mounting devices listed in
249 <path>/etc/fstab</path> just by clicking your mouse
250 </li>
251 <!-- xfce4-taskbar is integrated into the panel in 4.4; remove when stable -->
252 <li>
253 <c>xfce4-taskbar</c> can replace the windowlist panel entirely. It's
254 useful if you want to conserve screen space (for small monitors), or don't
255 want your desktop cluttered with more than one panel. Add the taskbar to
256 your main panel, and then you can remove the separate windowlist panel by
257 running <c>killall -9 xftaskbar4</c> from an xterm, thus displaying your
258 application launchers, Xfce menu, clock, etc. all on just one panel.
259 </li>
260 <li>
261 <c>xfce4-battery</c> is perfect for laptop users. It displays battery
262 percentage, time remaining, power source (AC or battery), fan status,
263 warnings, and can even be configured to execute commands at certain power
264 levels. This feature can be used to put the laptop into hibernate mode when
265 the battery is almost exhausted.
266 </li>
267 <li>
268 <!-- xfce4-minicmd has been superceded by verve in 4.4; remove when stable -->
269 <c>xfce4-minicmd</c> is a small command line embedded into the panel. It's
270 quicker than opening up another terminal when you want to run a command.
271 </li>
272 </ul>
273
274 </body>
275 </section>
276 <section>
277 <title>Useful programs</title>
278 <body>
279
280 <p>
281 Now let's see about adding some useful yet lightweight applications, in keeping
282 with Xfce's philosophy.
283 </p>
284
285 <p>
286 First, let's replace the plain, boring old <c>xterm</c> with
287 <c>xfce-extra/terminal</c>. <c>Terminal</c> is far more configurable and useful
288 than xterm, and supports Unicode text, pseudo-transparency and accelerated
289 transparency via Xfce's built-in compositor, all out-of-the-box.
290 </p>
291 <!-- Remove the warning about ~arch once 4.4 and terminal go stable -->
292 <note>
293 At the time of writing, <c>Terminal</c> may not be marked stable for your
294 architecture, so you will need to add it to
295 <path>/etc/portage/package.keywords</path> before emerging it.
296 </note>
297
298 <pre caption="Installing a better terminal">
299 <comment>(Only run this command if you receive a warning about Terminal being masked)</comment>
300 # <i>echo "xfce-extra/terminal" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords</i>
301
302 <comment>(Otherwise, you can emerge Terminal without any extra steps)</comment>
303 # <i>emerge -av xfce-extra/terminal</i>
304 </pre>
305
306 <p>
307 Once it's installed, you may want to change the default action of the terminal
308 launcher on your panel to run <path>/usr/bin/Terminal</path> instead. Just
309 right-click the launcher and choose "Properties" to change the command.
310 </p>
311
312 <p>
313 You may want to replace the rather confusing default filemanager, <c>xffm</c>,
314 with one that's more intuitive and helpful. The <c>rox</c> file manager is
315 icon-based and behaves much more like a traditional file manager. If you're
316 looking for something even more minimal, yet still extremely flexible, then try
317 out the <c>gentoo</c> file manager. (The <c>gentoo</c> file manager is not
318 related to the Gentoo Linux distribution.) Both file managers are lightweight
319 and fully configurable, and are only a short <c>emerge</c> away.
320 </p>
321
322 <!-- Remove the note about masked thunar once 4.4 is stable -->
323 <p>
324 In the future, <c>thunar</c> will replace <c>xffm</c> as Xfce's default file
325 manager, but it is still masked at the time of this writing. However, the most
326 recent versions have been quite useful for daily work, and show great promise.
327 If you're feeling brave, you can try out the release candidates. Please read
328 <uri link="doc/en/handbook/handbook-x86.xml?part=3&amp;chap=3#doc_chap3">Using
329 Masked Packages</uri> to learn how to unmask it and its dependencies. Note that
330 this software is still unfinished. You have been warned!
331 </p>
332 <!-- remove mousepad once 4.4 is stable; right now it's included by default -->
333 <p>
334 Let's install a simple graphical text editor. It's easier to use than
335 <c>gvim</c> or <c>xemacs</c>, and has fewer dependencies.
336 </p>
337
338 <pre caption="Adding a text editor">
339 # <i>emerge mousepad</i>
340 </pre>
341
342 <p>
343 If you need a full-featured word processor but don't want the bloat of
344 OpenOffice, try emerging <c>abiword</c>. <uri
345 link="http://www.abisource.com">AbiWord</uri> is lighter, faster, and is
346 completely interoperable with industry-standard document types.
347 </p>
348
349 <pre caption="Adding a word processor">
350 # <i>emerge -avt abiword</i>
351 </pre>
352
353 <p>
354 Need a nice email client/newsreader that isn't as demanding as
355 <c>mozilla-thunderbird</c> or <c>evolution</c>? Try <c>sylpheed-claws</c>:
356 </p>
357 <!-- replacement seems to be called claws-mail, but still in ~arch -->
358 <pre caption="Adding an email client">
359 # <i>emerge -avt sylpheed-claws</i>
360 </pre>
361
362 <p>
363 For your internet chat needs, <c>irssi</c> is an excellent, tiny, incredibly
364 configurable IRC client that runs in your terminal. If you prefer a compact
365 all-in-one client that handles nearly all chat protocols, you may want to
366 <c>emerge gaim</c>.
367 </p>
368
369 <p>
370 If you need movie and music players, look no further than <c>mplayer</c> and
371 <c>audacious</c>. They can play most every media format available quite nicely,
372 and have a wealth of additional plugins available for additional functionality.
373 </p>
374
375 <p>
376 Finally, you'll need a webbrowser. Nearly all graphical webbrowsers require more
377 resources than most of your other desktop applications. Still,
378 <c>mozilla-firefox</c> (or <c>mozilla-firefox-bin</c>) is always a good choice.
379 Alternatively, you may find <c>opera</c> to be quite fast. However, <c>opera</c>
380 is not available on as many processor architectures as <c>mozilla-firefox</c>,
381 and it has more dependencies unless you override them with a USE flag.
382 </p>
383
384 <pre caption="Adding a webbrowser">
385 <comment>(Installing Mozilla Firefox)</comment>
386 # <i>emerge mozilla-firefox</i>
387 <comment>(Installing Opera)</comment>
388 # <i>echo "www-client/opera qt-static" >> /etc/portage/package.use</i>
389 # <i>emerge opera</i>
390 </pre>
391
392 <p>
393 Now that we've explored some good suggestions for rounding out your desktop
394 applications, let's see what else we can do to enhance your Xfce experience.
395 </p>
396
397 </body>
398 </section>
399 <section>
400 <title>Graphical login</title>
401 <body>
402
403 <p>
404 Remember when we added <c>startxfce4</c> to our <path>~/.xinitrc</path>? All you
405 have to do to get into your desktop is type <c>startx</c> after logging in. This
406 is fine if you prefer a completely text-based boot and login, but let's use a
407 display manager that will automatically start Xfce after booting (so that you
408 can login graphically).
409 </p>
410
411 <p>
412 First, let's make sure Xfce loads at boot:
413 </p>
414
415 <pre caption="Adding xdm to the default runlevel">
416 # <i>rc-update add xdm default</i>
417 </pre>
418
419 <p>
420 We aren't quite finished yet. We have to pick a display manager and set the
421 appropriate variable. Though there are a few choices available in Portage, for
422 this guide, we'll stick with two display manager options: <c>xdm</c> and
423 <c>gdm</c>.
424 </p>
425
426 <p>
427 <c>xdm</c> is speedy and lightweight, but it isn't pretty, and isn't really
428 customizable. If you'd like to use it, first <c>emerge</c> it:
429 </p>
430
431 <pre caption="Installing XDM">
432 # <i>emerge -avt xdm</i>
433 </pre>
434
435 <p>
436 Then edit the DISPLAYMANAGER variable in <path>/etc/conf.d/xdm</path>:
437 </p>
438
439 <pre caption="Editing /etc/conf.d/xdm">
440 DISPLAYMANAGER="xdm"
441 </pre>
442
443 <p>
444 While you can choose to stick with (the rather ugly) <c>xdm</c>, why not try
445 <c>gdm</c> instead? It's far more configurable, and much, much prettier. First,
446 let's <c>emerge</c> it. Note that though it has a few dependencies, they're
447 small, and they're not as nearly as numerous as other display managers.
448 </p>
449
450 <pre caption="Installing GDM">
451 # <i>emerge -avt gdm</i>
452 </pre>
453
454 <p>
455 Next, change the DISPLAYMANAGER variable to use <c>gdm</c> instead of
456 <c>xdm</c>:
457 </p>
458
459 <pre caption="Editing /etc/conf.d/xdm">
460 DISPLAYMANAGER="gdm"
461 </pre>
462
463 </body>
464 </section>
465 <section>
466 <title>Beautifying your desktop</title>
467 <body>
468
469 <p>
470 A little customization of your desktop's appearance can go a long way. Xfce has
471 all the options you'd expect from a modern desktop environment, font
472 antialiasing settings, color schemes, dozens of window decorations, themes, and
473 more. If these aren't enough, it's easy to install third-party themes, icon
474 sets, mouse cursor themes, and wallpapers.
475 </p>
476
477 <p>
478 A selection of nice Gentoo wallpapers in a variety of resolutions are hosted on
479 the <uri link="/main/en/graphics.xml">Gentoo website</uri>. If you're looking
480 for icon sets and complete Xfce themes, <uri
481 link="http://www.xfce-look.org/">Xfce-Look</uri> has a huge collection. The
482 important thing to remember about any third-party eyecandy you download is that
483 it will usually first need to be unpacked and then installed to the proper
484 directory. Icon sets go in <path>/usr/share/icons/</path>, and themes go to
485 <path>/usr/share/themes/</path>; use these directories when you want all users
486 to be able to access themes and icon sets. Individual users can install themes
487 and icon sets to <path>~/.themes/</path> and <path>~/.icons/</path>.
488 </p>
489
490 <p>
491 If you installed GDM as your display manager, take a look at the many GDM themes
492 available on <uri link="http://www.gnome-look.org">Gnome-Look</uri>. To install
493 them, you can either unpack and move them to
494 <path>/usr/share/gdm/themes/</path> on the command line, or you can run
495 <c>gdmsetup</c> as <b>root</b> and drag'n'drop the archive into the GDM window.
496 There are some <uri
497 link="http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php?content=45575">very nice</uri>
498 Gentoo <uri
499 link="http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php?content=20071">themes</uri>
500 available.
501 </p>
502
503 <p>
504 Finally, Xfce has its own built-in compositor to manage window transparency.
505 This option can be found in Menu --> Settings --> Window Manager. For best
506 performance, you will need to be running a graphics card with drivers that
507 support hardware-accelerated rendering, and you will need to enable
508 compositing in <path>/etc/X11/xorg.conf</path> by adding the following section:
509 </p>
510
511 <pre caption="Enabling composite in xorg.conf">
512 Section "Extensions"
513 Option "Composite" "Enable"
514 EndSection
515 </pre>
516
517 <p>
518 This is the bare minimum configuration required for Xfce and Xorg-X11. However,
519 setting up hardware-accelerated rendering depends on your individual graphics
520 card, and is beyond the scope of this guide. Please see the other guides in the
521 <uri link="/doc/en/index.xml?catid=desktop">Desktop Documentation
522 Resources</uri> list to learn about configuring hardware-accelerated rendering
523 for your graphics card.
524 </p>
525
526 </body>
527 </section>
528 </chapter>
529
530 <chapter>
531 <title>Summary</title>
532 <section>
533 <body>
534
535 <p>
536 Congratulations on making it this far! You've installed and configured a speedy
537 desktop environment with a solid suite of applications for your computing
538 needs.
539 </p>
540
541 </body>
542 </section>
543 <section>
544 <title>Resources</title>
545 <body>
546
547 <p>
548 Need additional help on configuring and using Xfce? Need more lightweight
549 application suggestions? Try asking the folks in:
550 </p>
551
552 <ul>
553 <li><uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org">The Gentoo forums</uri></li>
554 <li>#xfce on irc.freenode.net</li>
555 </ul>
556
557 <p>
558 Finally, Gentoo's Xfce team is responsible for making Xfce available in Portage.
559 Send comments, thanks, and suggestions to <mail>xfce@gentoo.org</mail>.
560 </p>
561
562 </body>
563 </section>
564 </chapter>
565 </guide>

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