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1 <?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>
2 <!DOCTYPE guide SYSTEM "/dtd/guide.dtd">
3 <!-- $Header: /var/cvsroot/gentoo/xml/htdocs/doc/en/xfce-config.xml,v 1.18 2009/04/24 16:42:16 nightmorph Exp $ -->
5 <guide link="/doc/en/xfce-config.xml">
6 <title>The Xfce Configuration Guide</title>
8 <author title="Author">
9 <mail link="nightmorph@gentoo.org">Joshua Saddler</mail>
10 </author>
12 <abstract>
13 This guide provides an extensive introduction to Xfce, a fast, lightweight,
14 full-featured desktop environment.
15 </abstract>
17 <!-- The content of this document is licensed under the CC-BY-SA license -->
18 <!-- See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5 -->
19 <license/>
21 <version>1.15</version>
22 <date>2009-06-10</date>
24 <chapter>
25 <title>Introduction</title>
26 <section>
27 <title>The Xfce desktop environment</title>
28 <body>
30 <p>
31 <uri link="http://www.xfce.org">Xfce</uri> is a fast, lightweight desktop
32 environment for Unix-like operating systems. It is designed for productivity,
33 and is quite configurable while still adhering to the <uri
34 link="http://www.freedesktop.org">Freedesktop</uri> specifications.
35 </p>
37 <p>
38 Unlike heavier desktop environments, such as Gnome and KDE, Xfce uses far fewer
39 system resources. Additionally, it offers greater modularity and fewer
40 dependencies; it takes up less space on your hard disk and takes less time to
41 install.
42 </p>
44 <p>
45 This guide will not only show you how to install and configure a minimal Xfce
46 environment, but will also explore options to create a full-featured desktop in
47 keeping with the Xfce philosophy: light, fast, and modular.
48 </p>
50 </body>
51 </section>
52 </chapter>
54 <chapter>
55 <title>Installing Xfce</title>
56 <section>
57 <title>The basics</title>
58 <body>
60 <p>
61 First, make sure you've configured Xorg as shown in the <uri
62 link="/doc/en/xorg-config.xml">X Server Configuration Howto</uri>.
63 </p>
65 <p>
66 Next, double-check your USE flags in <path>/etc/make.conf</path>; you'll
67 probably at least want <c>USE="-gnome -kde -qt3 -qt4 X alsa cups dbus hal startup-notification xscreensaver"</c>.
68 </p>
70 <p>
71 Now, let's install Xfce.
72 </p>
74 <pre caption="Installing Xfce">
75 # <i>emerge -avt xfce4</i>
76 </pre>
78 <p>
79 Next, add your regular user(s) to the <c>plugdev</c>, <c>cdrom</c>, <c>cdrw</c>,
80 and <c>usb</c> groups, so that they can take full advantage of <c>hal</c> and be
81 able to mount and use devices such as cameras, optical drives, and USB sticks.
82 </p>
84 <pre caption="Adding users to the hardware groups">
85 <comment>(Replace username with your actual user)</comment>
86 # <i>for x in plugdev cdrom cdrw usb ; do gpasswd -a username $x ; done</i>
87 </pre>
89 <p>
90 Next, update your environment variables:
91 </p>
93 <pre caption="Updating environment variables">
94 # <i>env-update &amp;&amp; source /etc/profile</i>
95 </pre>
97 <p>
98 Now start up <c>hald</c> and add it to the default runlevel:
99 </p>
101 <pre caption="Starting hald">
102 # <i>/etc/init.d/hald start</i>
103 # <i>rc-update add hald default</i>
104 </pre>
106 </body>
107 </section>
108 </chapter>
110 <chapter>
111 <title>Configuring Xfce</title>
112 <section>
113 <title>Starting Xfce</title>
114 <body>
116 <p>
117 Now that Xfce is now installed, we'll configure it to be the default desktop
118 environment when we issue the <c>startx</c> command. Exit your root shell and
119 log on as a regular user.
120 </p>
122 <pre caption="Setting Xfce as the default desktop environment">
123 $ <i>echo "exec startxfce4" > ~/.xinitrc</i>
124 </pre>
126 <p>
127 Now start your graphical environment by typing <c>startx</c>:
128 </p>
130 <pre caption="Starting Xfce">
131 $ <i>startx</i>
132 </pre>
134 <p>
135 Congratulations, and welcome to your new Xfce desktop environment. Go ahead,
136 explore it a bit. Then continue reading to learn how you can configure Xfce to
137 suit your needs.
138 </p>
140 </body>
141 </section>
142 <section>
143 <title>Program access</title>
144 <body>
146 <p>
147 You might notice right-clicking on the desktop shows you the menu of all your
148 applications. It's useful, but your desktop can easily be completely obscured by
149 open windows, making it hard to to launch a new program. So, one of the first
150 things you may wish to do is give yourself a handy application menu on your
151 panel. Right click on this panel, and choose "Add New Item". Scroll through the
152 list of choices and select "Xfce Menu". You can choose where you want it to be
153 displayed on your panel. When clicked, it displays the application/preferences
154 menu, providing a nicely categorized list of your installed programs.
155 </p>
157 </body>
158 </section>
159 <section>
160 <title>Sessions &amp; startup</title>
161 <body>
163 <p>
164 If you've installed (or plan to install) popular Gnome or KDE applications such
165 as <c>k3b</c>, <c>nautilus</c>, <c>kmail</c>, <c>evolution</c>, etc. then you
166 should make sure that Xfce launches the appropriate services for these at
167 startup. Navigate to Menu --> Settings --> Sessions &amp; Startup. On the
168 "Advanced" tab, select the appropriate checkbox. This might slightly increase
169 Xfce startup times, but it decreases load times for KDE and Gnome applications.
170 </p>
172 <p>
173 Xfce has the ability to save your session settings and running programs from the
174 "General" tab in the Sessions &amp; Startup menu. They can be automatically
175 saved when you logout, or Xfce can ask you each time. This feature is
176 particularly useful for undoing configuration mistakes. Accidentally killed a
177 panel? Just select "No" when prompted to save your current session, and the next
178 time you start Xfce, your old desktop is restored. Want to automatically launch
179 your open webbrowser, terminal, and email client the next time you login? Just
180 save your session before logging out.
181 </p>
183 <p>
184 You've now got a basic working environment installed and configured. But if
185 you're interested in doing more, then continue reading!
186 </p>
188 </body>
189 </section>
190 </chapter>
192 <chapter>
193 <title>Additional Applications</title>
194 <section>
195 <title>Panel plugins</title>
196 <body>
198 <p>
199 In this chapter, we'll discuss some useful plugins and applications for everyday
200 use within Xfce.
201 </p>
203 <p>
204 There are many plugins for the panel available in Portage; see for yourself with
205 <c>emerge --search xfce</c>. Though for the most part their names are self
206 explanatory, a few deserve some attention, as they are quite helpful. To use
207 them, simply <c>emerge</c> them. They'll be added to the list of available items
208 in the "Add New Item" menu shown when you right-click on the panel.
209 </p>
211 <ul>
212 <li>
213 <c>xfce4-battery</c> is perfect for laptop users. It displays battery
214 percentage, time remaining, power source (AC or battery), fan status,
215 warnings, and can even be configured to execute commands at certain power
216 levels. This feature can be used to put the laptop into hibernate mode when
217 the battery is almost exhausted.
218 </li>
219 <li>
220 <c>xfce4-verve</c> is a small command line embedded into the panel. It's
221 quicker than opening up another terminal when you want to run a command.
222 </li>
223 <li>
224 <c>xfce4-mount</c> gives you a handy method of mounting devices listed in
225 <path>/etc/fstab</path> just by clicking your mouse
226 </li>
227 </ul>
229 <p>
230 If you can't find what you're looking for in the plugins specifically made for
231 Xfce, try searching through the list of Gnome panel applets! That's right, by
232 first emerging <c>xfce4-xfapplet</c>, you can install and run any applet made
233 for Gnome.
234 </p>
236 </body>
237 </section>
238 <section>
239 <title>Useful programs</title>
240 <body>
242 <p>
243 Xfce bundles a few useful applications, including <c>xfce4-appfinder</c>, the
244 Xfce icon theme, xfwm4 window manager themes, <c>terminal</c>, <c>orage</c>, and
245 <c>mousepad</c>. Note that the last three will not be installed if you built
246 <c>xfce4</c> with the <c>minimal</c> USE flag. However, these are all very
247 small, yet terrific applications, so they're well worth installing.
248 </p>
250 <p>
251 <c>orage</c> is a simple, handy calendar. <c>mousepad</c> is a barebones text
252 editor that starts up extremely quickly. <c>terminal</c> is far more
253 configurable and useful than xterm, and supports Unicode text,
254 pseudo-transparency and accelerated transparency via Xfce's built-in
255 compositor, all out-of-the-box. Just make sure that the default action on the
256 terminal launcher of your panel runs <path>/usr/bin/Terminal</path> instead of
257 xterm. Right click the launcher and choose "Properties" to change the command.
258 </p>
260 <p>
261 <c>thunar</c> is Xfce's built-in graphical file manager. It's fast yet quite
262 powerful, can support a few plugins for even more functionality; just install
263 them with <c>emerge</c>. Let's take a look:
264 </p>
266 <ul>
267 <li>
268 <c>thunar-archive</c> lets you create and extract archive files using the
269 right-click menu. It works even better when paired with the <uri
270 link="http://www.foo-projects.org/~benny/projects/thunar-archive-plugin/">graphical
271 archiving application</uri> developed for Xfce, <c>xarchiver</c>. Run
272 <c>emerge xarchiver</c> to install it.
273 </li>
274 <li>
275 <c>thunar-media-tags</c> lets you intelligently rename multiple media files
276 at once, and lets you <uri
277 link="http://thunar.xfce.org/pwiki/projects/thunar-media-tags-plugin">edit</uri>
278 their information tags, such as id3 tags.
279 </li>
280 <li>
281 <c>thunar-thumbnailers</c> lets you <uri
282 link="http://goodies.xfce.org/projects/thunar-plugins/thunar-thumbnailers">preview</uri>
283 certain types of files from within Thunar, such as images and fonts.
284 </li>
285 <li>
286 <c>thunar-volman</c> automatically <uri
287 link="http://foo-projects.org/~benny/projects/thunar-volman/">manages</uri>
288 removable media and drives.
289 </li>
290 </ul>
292 <p>
293 Next, let's see about adding some useful but lightweight desktop applications,
294 in keeping with Xfce's philosophy.
295 </p>
297 <p>
298 Though <c>mousepad</c> is nice enough as a quick text editor, if you need a
299 full-featured word processor but don't want the bloat of OpenOffice, try
300 emerging <c>abiword</c>. <uri link="http://www.abisource.com">AbiWord</uri> is
301 lighter, faster, and is completely interoperable with industry-standard document
302 types. It can also be further extended with <c>abiword-plugins</c>.
303 </p>
305 <p>
306 Need a nice email client/newsreader that isn't as demanding as
307 <c>mozilla-thunderbird</c> or <c>evolution</c>? Try emerging <c>claws-mail</c>.
308 </p>
310 <p>
311 For your internet chat needs, <c>irssi</c> is an excellent, tiny, incredibly
312 configurable IRC client that runs in your terminal. If you prefer a compact
313 all-in-one client that handles nearly all chat protocols, you may want to
314 <c>emerge pidgin</c>.
315 </p>
317 <p>
318 If you need movie and music players, look no further than <c>mplayer</c> and
319 <uri link="/proj/en/desktop/sound/decibel.xml">decibel-audio-player</uri>. They
320 can play most every media format available quite nicely.
321 </p>
323 <p>
324 Finally, you'll need a webbrowser. Nearly all graphical webbrowsers require more
325 resources than most of your other desktop applications. Still,
326 <c>mozilla-firefox</c> (or <c>mozilla-firefox-bin</c>) is always a good choice.
327 Alternatively, you may find <c>opera</c> to be quite fast. However, <c>opera</c>
328 is not available on as many processor architectures as <c>mozilla-firefox</c>,
329 and it has more dependencies unless you override them with a USE flag.
330 </p>
332 <pre caption="Adding a webbrowser">
333 <comment>(Installing Mozilla Firefox)</comment>
334 # <i>emerge mozilla-firefox</i>
335 <comment>(Installing Opera)</comment>
336 # <i>echo "www-client/opera qt-static" >> /etc/portage/package.use</i>
337 # <i>emerge opera</i>
338 </pre>
340 <p>
341 Now that we've explored some good suggestions for rounding out your desktop
342 applications, let's see what else we can do to enhance your Xfce experience.
343 </p>
345 </body>
346 </section>
347 <section>
348 <title>Graphical login</title>
349 <body>
351 <p>
352 Remember when we added <c>startxfce4</c> to our <path>~/.xinitrc</path>? All you
353 have to do to get into your desktop is type <c>startx</c> after logging in. This
354 is fine if you prefer a completely text-based boot and login, but let's use a
355 display manager that will automatically start Xfce after booting (so that you
356 can login graphically).
357 </p>
359 <p>
360 First, let's make sure Xfce loads at boot:
361 </p>
363 <pre caption="Adding xdm to the default runlevel">
364 # <i>rc-update add xdm default</i>
365 </pre>
367 <p>
368 We aren't quite finished yet. We have to pick a display manager and set the
369 appropriate variable. Though there are a few choices available in Portage, for
370 this guide, we'll stick with <uri link="http://slim.berlios.de">SLiM</uri>, the
371 Simple Login Manager.
372 </p>
374 <p>
375 <c>slim</c> is speedy and lightweight, with minimal dependencies. Perfect for
376 Xfce!
377 </p>
379 <pre caption="Installing SLiM">
380 # <i>emerge -avt slim</i>
381 </pre>
383 <note>
384 The <c>branding</c> USE flag will pull in the <c>slim-themes</c> package, which
385 will give you an assortment of login themes, including a Gentoo Linux theme.
386 </note>
388 <p>
389 Then edit the DISPLAYMANAGER variable in <path>/etc/conf.d/xdm</path>:
390 </p>
392 <pre caption="Editing /etc/conf.d/xdm">
394 </pre>
396 <p>
397 SLiM can automatically start your Xfce session if you add
398 <c>XSESSION="Xfce4"</c> to <path>/etc/rc.conf</path>.
399 </p>
401 </body>
402 </section>
403 <section>
404 <title>Beautifying your desktop</title>
405 <body>
407 <p>
408 A little customization of your desktop's appearance can go a long way. Xfce has
409 all the options you'd expect from a modern desktop environment, font
410 antialiasing settings, color schemes, dozens of window decorations, themes, and
411 more. If these aren't enough, it's easy to install third-party themes, icon
412 sets, mouse cursor themes, and wallpapers.
413 </p>
415 <p>
416 A selection of nice Gentoo wallpapers in a variety of resolutions are hosted on
417 the <uri link="/main/en/graphics.xml">Gentoo website</uri>. If you're looking
418 for icon sets and complete Xfce themes, <uri
419 link="http://www.xfce-look.org/">Xfce-Look</uri> has a huge collection. The
420 important thing to remember about any third-party eyecandy you download is that
421 it will usually first need to be unpacked and then installed to the proper
422 directory. Icon sets go in <path>/usr/share/icons/</path>, and themes go to
423 <path>/usr/share/themes/</path>; use these directories when you want all users
424 to be able to access themes and icon sets. Individual users can install themes
425 and icon sets to <path>~/.themes/</path> and <path>~/.icons/</path>.
426 </p>
428 <p>
429 If you installed SLiM as your display manager, there are lots of themes in the
430 <c>slim-themes</c> package available in Portage. Also, be sure to check the SLiM
431 <uri link="http://slim.berlios.de/themes01.php">themes page</uri> for more
432 themes. Creating your own SLiM theme is fairly easy; just read the <uri
433 link="http://slim.berlios.de/themes_howto.php">Themes HowTo</uri>. Gentoo also
434 ships a <c>slim-themes</c> package that you can <c>emerge</c>.
435 </p>
437 <p>
438 Finally, Xfce has its own built-in compositor to manage window transparency.
439 This option can be found in Menu --> Settings --> Window Manager. For best
440 performance, you will need to be running a graphics card with drivers that
441 support hardware-accelerated rendering. Make sure you emerged <c>xfwm4</c> with
442 the <c>xcomposite</c> USE flag. Next, you will need to enable compositing in
443 <path>/etc/X11/xorg.conf</path> by adding the following section:
444 </p>
446 <pre caption="Enabling composite in xorg.conf">
447 Section "Extensions"
448 Option "Composite" "Enable"
449 EndSection
450 </pre>
452 <p>
453 This is the bare minimum configuration required for Xfce and Xorg-X11. However,
454 setting up hardware-accelerated rendering depends on your individual graphics
455 card, and is beyond the scope of this guide. Please see the other guides in the
456 <uri link="/doc/en/index.xml?catid=desktop">Desktop Documentation
457 Resources</uri> list to learn about configuring hardware-accelerated rendering
458 for your graphics card.
459 </p>
461 </body>
462 </section>
463 </chapter>
465 <chapter>
466 <title>Summary</title>
467 <section>
468 <body>
470 <p>
471 Congratulations on making it this far! You've installed and configured a speedy
472 desktop environment with a solid suite of applications for your computing
473 needs.
474 </p>
476 </body>
477 </section>
478 <section>
479 <title>Resources</title>
480 <body>
482 <p>
483 Need additional help on configuring and using Xfce? Need more lightweight
484 application suggestions? Try checking out:
485 </p>
487 <ul>
488 <li><uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org">The Gentoo forums</uri></li>
489 <li>#xfce on irc.freenode.net</li>
490 <li>
491 The installed help files and other documentation provided by Xfce:
492 <path>/usr/share/xfce4/doc/C/index.html</path>. Just point your browser at
493 it and start reading. There are even a lot of "hidden" configuration options
494 detailed in the help files.
495 </li>
496 <li><uri link="http://www.xfce.org">Xfce's home page</uri></li>
497 </ul>
499 </body>
500 </section>
501 </chapter>
502 </guide>

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