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overhaul the xfce guide for all the crazy unannounced changes to the xfce package names, categories, USE flags, and dependencies. i think i managed to cover them all. i also added some recommended apps and utilities.

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 1.20 2009/08/12 08:22:17 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>1.17</version>
22 <date>2009-08-28</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 branding dbus hal lock
68 session startup-notification thunar"</c>.
69 </p>
71 <p>
72 Now, let's install Xfce.
73 </p>
75 <pre caption="Installing Xfce">
76 # <i>emerge -avt xfce4-meta</i>
77 </pre>
79 <p>
80 Next, add your regular user(s) to the <c>plugdev</c>, <c>cdrom</c>, <c>cdrw</c>,
81 and <c>usb</c> groups, so that they can take full advantage of <c>hal</c> and be
82 able to mount and use devices such as cameras, optical drives, and USB sticks.
83 </p>
85 <pre caption="Adding users to the hardware groups">
86 <comment>(Replace username with your actual user)</comment>
87 # <i>for x in plugdev cdrom cdrw usb ; do gpasswd -a username $x ; done</i>
88 </pre>
90 <p>
91 Next, update your environment variables:
92 </p>
94 <pre caption="Updating environment variables">
95 # <i>env-update &amp;&amp; source /etc/profile</i>
96 </pre>
98 <p>
99 Now start up <c>hald</c> and add it to the default runlevel:
100 </p>
102 <pre caption="Starting hald">
103 # <i>/etc/init.d/hald start</i>
104 # <i>rc-update add hald default</i>
105 </pre>
107 </body>
108 </section>
109 </chapter>
111 <chapter>
112 <title>Configuring Xfce</title>
113 <section>
114 <title>Starting Xfce</title>
115 <body>
117 <p>
118 Now that Xfce is now installed, we'll configure it to be the default desktop
119 environment when we issue the <c>startx</c> command. Exit your root shell and
120 log on as a regular user.
121 </p>
123 <pre caption="Setting Xfce as the default desktop environment">
124 $ <i>echo "exec startxfce4" > ~/.xinitrc</i>
125 </pre>
127 <p>
128 Now start your graphical environment by typing <c>startx</c>:
129 </p>
131 <pre caption="Starting Xfce">
132 $ <i>startx</i>
133 </pre>
135 <p>
136 Congratulations, and welcome to your new Xfce desktop environment. Go ahead,
137 explore it a bit. Then continue reading to learn how you can configure Xfce to
138 suit your needs.
139 </p>
141 </body>
142 </section>
143 <section>
144 <title>Program access</title>
145 <body>
147 <p>
148 You might notice right-clicking on the desktop shows you the menu of all your
149 applications. It's useful, but your desktop can easily be completely obscured by
150 open windows, making it hard to to launch a new program. So, one of the first
151 things you may wish to do is give yourself a handy application menu on your
152 panel. Right click on this panel, and choose "Add New Item". Scroll through the
153 list of choices and select "Xfce Menu". You can choose where you want it to be
154 displayed on your panel. When clicked, it displays the application/preferences
155 menu, providing a nicely categorized list of your installed programs.
156 </p>
158 </body>
159 </section>
160 <section>
161 <title>Sessions &amp; startup</title>
162 <body>
164 <p>
165 If you've installed (or plan to install) popular Gnome or KDE applications such
166 as <c>k3b</c>, <c>nautilus</c>, <c>kmail</c>, <c>evolution</c>, etc. then you
167 should make sure that Xfce launches the appropriate services for these at
168 startup. Navigate to Menu --> Settings --> Sessions &amp; Startup. On the
169 "Advanced" tab, select the appropriate checkbox. This might slightly increase
170 Xfce startup times, but it decreases load times for KDE and Gnome applications.
171 </p>
173 <p>
174 Xfce has the ability to save your session settings and running programs from the
175 "General" tab in the Sessions &amp; Startup menu. They can be automatically
176 saved when you logout, or Xfce can ask you each time. This feature is
177 particularly useful for undoing configuration mistakes. Accidentally killed a
178 panel? Just select "No" when prompted to save your current session, and the next
179 time you start Xfce, your old desktop is restored. Want to automatically launch
180 your open webbrowser, terminal, and email client the next time you login? Just
181 save your session before logging out.
182 </p>
184 <p>
185 You've now got a basic working environment installed and configured. But if
186 you're interested in doing more, then continue reading!
187 </p>
189 </body>
190 </section>
191 </chapter>
193 <chapter>
194 <title>Additional Applications</title>
195 <section>
196 <title>Panel plugins</title>
197 <body>
199 <p>
200 In this chapter, we'll discuss some useful plugins and applications for everyday
201 use within Xfce.
202 </p>
204 <p>
205 There are many plugins for the panel available in Portage; see for yourself with
206 <c>emerge --search xfce</c>. Though for the most part their names are self
207 explanatory, a few deserve some attention, as they are quite helpful. To use
208 them, simply <c>emerge</c> them. They'll be added to the list of available items
209 in the "Add New Item" menu shown when you right-click on the panel.
210 </p>
212 <ul>
213 <li>
214 <c>xfce4-battery-plugin</c> is perfect for laptop users. It displays battery
215 percentage, time remaining, power source (AC or battery), fan status,
216 warnings, and can even be configured to execute commands at certain power
217 levels. This feature can be used to put the laptop into hibernate mode when
218 the battery is almost exhausted.
219 </li>
220 <li>
221 <c>xfce4-verve-plugin</c> is a small command line embedded into the panel.
222 It's quicker than opening up another terminal when you want to run a
223 command.
224 </li>
225 <li>
226 <c>xfce4-mount-plugin</c> gives you a handy method of mounting devices
227 listed in <path>/etc/fstab</path> just by clicking your mouse
228 </li>
229 <li>
230 <c>xfce4-sensors-plugin</c> lets you monitor your hardware sensors, such as
231 CPU temperature, fan RPM, hard drive temp, motherboard voltage, and more
232 </li>
233 </ul>
235 <p>
236 If you can't find what you're looking for in the plugins specifically made for
237 Xfce, try searching through the list of Gnome panel applets! That's right, by
238 first emerging <c>xfce4-xfapplet-plugin</c>, you can install and run any applet
239 made for Gnome.
240 </p>
242 </body>
243 </section>
244 <section>
245 <title>Useful programs</title>
246 <body>
248 <p>
249 We should now <c>emerge</c> some useful applications and utilities:
250 <c>xfce4-mixer</c>, <c>xfprint</c>, <c>xfce4-taskmanager</c>,
251 <c>xfce4-icon-theme</c>, <c>xfwm4-themes</c>, <c>orage</c>, <c>mousepad</c>,
252 <c>x11-terms/terminal</c>, and <c>thunar</c>.
253 </p>
255 <p>
256 <c>xfce4-mixer</c> is a volume control for your sound card. It can also be run
257 as a panel applet, giving you fast access to playback volume. <c>xfprint</c>
258 provides easy printer management and job control; it's a must if you intend to
259 do any printing from your desktop. <c>xfce4-taskmanager</c> displays a list of
260 all running programs, and the CPU and memory consumption each one takes up. By
261 right-clicking an item, you can kill a misbehaving application, pause and
262 restart it, or even alter its runtime priority, which lets you fine-tune how
263 much of a demand it puts on your system's resources.
264 </p>
266 <p>
267 <c>xfce4-icon-theme</c> and <c>xfwm4-themes</c> add a basic icon theme and
268 several window manager themes, respectively. You may want to add a more
269 full-coverage icon theme such as <c>tango-icon-theme</c> just to round out your
270 desktop.
271 </p>
273 <p>
274 <c>orage</c> is a simple, handy calendar. <c>mousepad</c> is a barebones text
275 editor that starts up extremely quickly. <c>x11-terms/terminal</c> is an X11
276 terminal emulator, far more configurable and useful than the barebones
277 <c>xterm</c> supplied with <c>xorg-server</c>. <c>terminal</c> supports Unicode
278 text, pseudo-transparency and accelerated transparency via Xfce's built-in
279 compositor, all out-of-the-box. Just make sure that the default action on the
280 terminal launcher of your panel runs <path>/usr/bin/Terminal</path> instead of
281 xterm. Right click the launcher and choose "Properties" to change the command.
282 </p>
284 <p>
285 <c>thunar</c> is Xfce's default graphical file manager. It's fast yet quite
286 powerful, can support several plugins for even more functionality; just install
287 them with <c>emerge</c>. Let's take a look:
288 </p>
290 <ul>
291 <li>
292 <c>thunar-archive-plugin</c> lets you create and extract archive files using
293 the right-click menu. It provides a handy <uri
294 link="http://www.foo-projects.org/~benny/projects/thunar-archive-plugin">front-end</uri>
295 for graphical archiving applications such as <c>xarchiver</c>,
296 <c>squeeze</c>, and <c>file-roller</c>.
297 </li>
298 <li>
299 <c>thunar-media-tags-plugin</c> lets you intelligently rename multiple media
300 files at once, and lets you <uri
301 link="http://thunar.xfce.org/pwiki/projects/thunar-media-tags-plugin">edit</uri>
302 their information tags, such as id3 and ogg tags.
303 </li>
304 <li>
305 <c>thunar-thumbnailers</c> lets you <uri
306 link="http://goodies.xfce.org/projects/thunar-plugins/thunar-thumbnailers">preview</uri>
307 certain types of files from within Thunar, such as images and fonts.
308 </li>
309 <li>
310 <c>thunar-volman</c> automatically <uri
311 link="http://foo-projects.org/~benny/projects/thunar-volman/">manages</uri>
312 removable media and drives.
313 </li>
314 </ul>
316 <p>
317 Next, let's see about adding some useful but lightweight desktop applications,
318 in keeping with Xfce's philosophy.
319 </p>
321 <p>
322 Though <c>mousepad</c> is nice enough as a basic text editor, if you need a
323 full-featured word processor but don't want the bloat of OpenOffice, try
324 emerging <c>abiword</c>. <uri link="http://www.abisource.com">AbiWord</uri> is
325 lighter, faster, and is completely interoperable with industry-standard document
326 types. It can also be further extended with <c>abiword-plugins</c>.
327 </p>
329 <p>
330 Need a nice email client/newsreader that isn't as demanding as
331 <c>mozilla-thunderbird</c> or <c>evolution</c>? Try emerging <c>claws-mail</c>.
332 </p>
334 <p>
335 For your internet chat needs, <c>irssi</c> is an excellent, tiny, incredibly
336 configurable IRC client that runs in your terminal. If you prefer a compact
337 all-in-one client that handles nearly all chat protocols, you may want to
338 <c>emerge pidgin</c>.
339 </p>
341 <p>
342 If you need movie and music players, look no further than <c>mplayer</c> and
343 <uri link="/proj/en/desktop/sound/decibel.xml">decibel-audio-player</uri>. They
344 can play most every media format available quite nicely.
345 </p>
347 <p>
348 Finally, you'll need a webbrowser. Nearly all graphical webbrowsers require more
349 resources than most of your other desktop applications. Still,
350 <c>mozilla-firefox</c> (or <c>mozilla-firefox-bin</c>) is always a good choice.
351 Alternatively, you may find <c>opera</c> to be quite fast. However, <c>opera</c>
352 is not available on as many processor architectures as <c>mozilla-firefox</c>,
353 and it has more dependencies unless you override them with a USE flag.
354 </p>
356 <pre caption="Adding a webbrowser">
357 <comment>(Installing Mozilla Firefox)</comment>
358 # <i>emerge mozilla-firefox</i>
359 <comment>(Installing Opera)</comment>
360 # <i>echo "www-client/opera qt-static" >> /etc/portage/package.use</i>
361 # <i>emerge opera</i>
362 </pre>
364 <p>
365 Now that we've explored some good suggestions for rounding out your desktop
366 applications, let's see what else we can do to enhance your Xfce experience.
367 </p>
369 </body>
370 </section>
371 <section>
372 <title>Graphical login</title>
373 <body>
375 <p>
376 Remember when we added <c>startxfce4</c> to our <path>~/.xinitrc</path>? All you
377 have to do to get into your desktop is type <c>startx</c> after logging in. This
378 is fine if you prefer a completely text-based boot and login, but let's use a
379 display manager that will automatically start Xfce after booting (so that you
380 can login graphically).
381 </p>
383 <p>
384 First, let's make sure Xfce loads at boot:
385 </p>
387 <pre caption="Adding xdm to the default runlevel">
388 # <i>rc-update add xdm default</i>
389 </pre>
391 <p>
392 We aren't quite finished yet. We have to pick a display manager and set the
393 appropriate variable. Though there are a few choices available in Portage, for
394 this guide, we'll stick with <uri link="http://slim.berlios.de">SLiM</uri>, the
395 Simple Login Manager.
396 </p>
398 <p>
399 <c>slim</c> is speedy and lightweight, with minimal dependencies. Perfect for
400 Xfce!
401 </p>
403 <pre caption="Installing SLiM">
404 # <i>emerge -avt slim</i>
405 </pre>
407 <note>
408 The <c>branding</c> USE flag will pull in the <c>slim-themes</c> package, which
409 will give you an assortment of login themes, including a Gentoo Linux theme.
410 </note>
412 <p>
413 Then edit the DISPLAYMANAGER variable in <path>/etc/conf.d/xdm</path>:
414 </p>
416 <pre caption="Editing /etc/conf.d/xdm">
418 </pre>
420 <p>
421 SLiM can automatically start your Xfce session if you add
422 <c>XSESSION="Xfce4"</c> to <path>/etc/rc.conf</path>.
423 </p>
425 </body>
426 </section>
427 <section>
428 <title>Beautifying your desktop</title>
429 <body>
431 <p>
432 A little customization of your desktop's appearance can go a long way. Xfce has
433 all the options you'd expect from a modern desktop environment, font
434 antialiasing settings, color schemes, dozens of window decorations, themes, and
435 more. If these aren't enough, it's easy to install third-party themes, icon
436 sets, mouse cursor themes, and wallpapers.
437 </p>
439 <p>
440 A selection of nice Gentoo wallpapers in a variety of resolutions are hosted on
441 the <uri link="/main/en/graphics.xml">Gentoo website</uri>. If you're looking
442 for icon sets and complete Xfce themes, <uri
443 link="http://www.xfce-look.org/">Xfce-Look</uri> has a huge collection. The
444 important thing to remember about any third-party eyecandy you download is that
445 it will usually first need to be unpacked and then installed to the proper
446 directory. Icon sets go in <path>/usr/share/icons/</path>, and themes go to
447 <path>/usr/share/themes/</path>; use these directories when you want all users
448 to be able to access themes and icon sets. Individual users can install themes
449 and icon sets to <path>~/.themes/</path> and <path>~/.icons/</path>.
450 </p>
452 <p>
453 If you installed SLiM as your display manager, there are lots of themes in the
454 <c>slim-themes</c> package available in Portage. Also, be sure to check the SLiM
455 <uri link="http://slim.berlios.de/themes01.php">themes page</uri> for more
456 themes. Creating your own SLiM theme is fairly easy; just read the <uri
457 link="http://slim.berlios.de/themes_howto.php">Themes HowTo</uri>. Gentoo also
458 ships a <c>slim-themes</c> package that you can <c>emerge</c>.
459 </p>
461 <p>
462 Finally, Xfce has its own built-in compositor to manage window transparency.
463 This option can be found in Menu --> Settings --> Window Manager. For best
464 performance, you will need to be running a graphics card with drivers that
465 support hardware-accelerated rendering. Make sure you emerged <c>xfwm4</c> with
466 the <c>xcomposite</c> USE flag. Next, you will need to enable compositing in
467 <path>/etc/X11/xorg.conf</path> by adding the following section:
468 </p>
470 <pre caption="Enabling composite in xorg.conf">
471 Section "Extensions"
472 Option "Composite" "Enable"
473 EndSection
474 </pre>
476 <p>
477 This is the bare minimum configuration required for Xfce and Xorg-X11. However,
478 setting up hardware-accelerated rendering depends on your individual graphics
479 card, and is beyond the scope of this guide. Please see the other guides in the
480 <uri link="/doc/en/index.xml?catid=desktop">Desktop Documentation
481 Resources</uri> list to learn about configuring hardware-accelerated rendering
482 for your graphics card.
483 </p>
485 <p>
486 Once you've finished setting up a beautiful Xfce desktop, the next thing to do
487 is take a picture of it to share with other folks! Just install
488 <c>xfce4-screenshooter</c> and post your pictures somewhere for all to admire.
489 </p>
491 </body>
492 </section>
493 </chapter>
495 <chapter>
496 <title>Summary</title>
497 <section>
498 <body>
500 <p>
501 Congratulations on making it this far! You've installed and configured a speedy
502 desktop environment with a solid suite of applications for your computing
503 needs.
504 </p>
506 </body>
507 </section>
508 <section>
509 <title>Resources</title>
510 <body>
512 <p>
513 Need additional help on configuring and using Xfce? Need more lightweight
514 application suggestions? Try checking out:
515 </p>
517 <ul>
518 <li><uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org">The Gentoo forums</uri></li>
519 <li>#xfce on irc.freenode.net</li>
520 <li>
521 The installed help files and other documentation provided by Xfce:
522 <path>/usr/share/xfce4/doc/C/index.html</path>. Just point your browser at
523 it and start reading. There are even a lot of "hidden" configuration options
524 detailed in the help files.
525 </li>
526 <li><uri link="http://www.xfce.org">Xfce's home page</uri></li>
527 </ul>
529 </body>
530 </section>
531 </chapter>
532 </guide>

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