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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 1.26 2010/06/07 08:57:56 nightmorph Exp $ -->
5 <guide>
6 <title>The Xfce Configuration Guide</title>
8 <author title="Author">
9 <mail link="nightmorph"/>
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>1.22</version>
22 <date>2010-06-07</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 <uri
39 link="http://www.gnome.org">Gnome</uri> and <uri
40 link="http://www.kde.org">KDE</uri>, Xfce uses far fewer system resources.
41 Additionally, it offers greater modularity and fewer dependencies; it takes up
42 less space on your hard disk and takes less time to install.
43 </p>
45 <p>
46 This guide will not only show you how to install and configure a minimal Xfce
47 environment, but will also explore options to create a full-featured desktop in
48 keeping with the Xfce philosophy: light, fast, and modular.
49 </p>
51 </body>
52 </section>
53 </chapter>
55 <chapter>
56 <title>Installing Xfce</title>
57 <section>
58 <title>The basics</title>
59 <body>
61 <p>
62 First, make sure you've configured Xorg as shown in the <uri
63 link="/doc/en/xorg-config.xml">X Server Configuration Howto</uri>.
64 </p>
66 <p>
67 Next, double-check your USE flags in <path>/etc/make.conf</path>; you'll
68 probably at least want <c>USE="-gnome -kde -minimal -qt4 branding dbus
69 hal jpeg lock session startup-notification thunar X"</c>.
70 </p>
72 <p>
73 Now, let's install Xfce.
74 </p>
76 <pre caption="Installing Xfce">
77 # <i>emerge -avt xfce4-meta</i>
78 </pre>
80 <p>
81 Next, add your regular user(s) to the <c>plugdev</c>, <c>cdrom</c>, <c>cdrw</c>,
82 and <c>usb</c> groups, so that they can take full advantage of <c>hal</c> and be
83 able to mount and use devices such as cameras, optical drives, and USB sticks.
84 </p>
86 <pre caption="Adding users to the hardware groups">
87 <comment>(Replace username with your actual user)</comment>
88 # <i>for x in plugdev cdrom cdrw usb ; do gpasswd -a username $x ; done</i>
89 </pre>
91 <p>
92 Next, update your environment variables:
93 </p>
95 <pre caption="Updating environment variables">
96 # <i>env-update &amp;&amp; source /etc/profile</i>
97 </pre>
99 <p>
100 Now start up <c>hald</c> and add it to the default runlevel:
101 </p>
103 <pre caption="Starting hald">
104 # <i>/etc/init.d/hald start</i>
105 # <i>rc-update add hald default</i>
106 </pre>
108 </body>
109 </section>
110 </chapter>
112 <chapter>
113 <title>Configuring Xfce</title>
114 <section>
115 <title>Starting Xfce</title>
116 <body>
118 <p>
119 Now that Xfce is now installed, we'll configure it to be the default desktop
120 environment when we issue the <c>startx</c> command. Exit your root shell and
121 log on as a regular user.
122 </p>
124 <pre caption="Setting Xfce as the default desktop environment">
125 $ <i>echo "exec startxfce4" > ~/.xinitrc</i>
126 </pre>
128 <note>
129 If you have ConsoleKit installed, your <path>~/.xinitrc</path> should instead
130 contain <c>exec ck-launch-session startxfce4</c>. Otherwise, some of your
131 applications may stop working. You'll also need to add consolekit to the
132 default runlevel by running the following command as root: <c>rc-update add
133 consolekit default</c>.
134 </note>
136 <p>
137 Now start your graphical environment by typing <c>startx</c>:
138 </p>
140 <pre caption="Starting Xfce">
141 $ <i>startx</i>
142 </pre>
144 <p>
145 Congratulations, and welcome to your new Xfce desktop environment. Go ahead,
146 explore it a bit. Then continue reading to learn how you can configure Xfce to
147 suit your needs.
148 </p>
150 </body>
151 </section>
152 <section>
153 <title>Program access</title>
154 <body>
156 <p>
157 You might notice right-clicking on the desktop shows you the menu of all your
158 applications. It's useful, but your desktop can easily be completely obscured by
159 open windows, making it hard to to launch a new program. So, one of the first
160 things you may wish to do is give yourself a handy application menu on your
161 panel. Right click on this panel, and choose "Add New Item". Scroll through the
162 list of choices and select "Xfce Menu". You can choose where you want it to be
163 displayed on your panel. When clicked, it displays the application/preferences
164 menu, providing a nicely categorized list of your installed programs.
165 </p>
167 </body>
168 </section>
169 <section>
170 <title>Sessions &amp; startup</title>
171 <body>
173 <p>
174 If you've installed (or plan to install) popular Gnome or KDE applications such
175 as <c>k3b</c>, <c>nautilus</c>, <c>kmail</c>, <c>evolution</c>, etc. then you
176 should make sure that Xfce launches the appropriate services for these at
177 startup. Navigate to Menu --> Settings --> Sessions &amp; Startup. On the
178 "Advanced" tab, select the appropriate checkbox. This might slightly increase
179 Xfce startup times, but it decreases load times for KDE and Gnome applications.
180 </p>
182 <p>
183 Xfce has the ability to save your session settings and running programs from the
184 "General" tab in the Sessions &amp; Startup menu. They can be automatically
185 saved when you logout, or Xfce can ask you each time. This feature is
186 particularly useful for undoing configuration mistakes. Accidentally killed a
187 panel? Just select "No" when prompted to save your current session, and the next
188 time you start Xfce, your old desktop is restored. Want to automatically launch
189 your open webbrowser, terminal, and email client the next time you login? Just
190 save your session before logging out.
191 </p>
193 <p>
194 You've now got a basic working environment installed and configured. But if
195 you're interested in doing more, then continue reading!
196 </p>
198 </body>
199 </section>
200 </chapter>
202 <chapter>
203 <title>Additional Applications</title>
204 <section>
205 <title>Panel plugins</title>
206 <body>
208 <p>
209 In this chapter, we'll discuss some useful plugins and applications for everyday
210 use within Xfce.
211 </p>
213 <p>
214 There are many plugins for the panel available in Portage; see for yourself with
215 <c>emerge --search xfce</c>. Though for the most part their names are self
216 explanatory, a few deserve some attention, as they are quite helpful. To use
217 them, simply <c>emerge</c> them. They'll be added to the list of available items
218 in the "Add New Item" menu shown when you right-click on the panel.
219 </p>
221 <ul>
222 <li>
223 <c>xfce4-battery-plugin</c> is perfect for laptop users. It displays battery
224 percentage, time remaining, power source (AC or battery), fan status,
225 warnings, and can even be configured to execute commands at certain power
226 levels. This feature can be used to put the laptop into hibernate mode when
227 the battery is almost exhausted.
228 </li>
229 <li>
230 <c>xfce4-verve-plugin</c> is a small command line embedded into the panel.
231 It's quicker than opening up another terminal when you want to run a
232 command.
233 </li>
234 <li>
235 <c>xfce4-mount-plugin</c> gives you a handy method of mounting devices
236 listed in <path>/etc/fstab</path> just by clicking your mouse
237 </li>
238 <li>
239 <c>xfce4-sensors-plugin</c> lets you monitor your hardware sensors, such as
240 CPU temperature, fan RPM, hard drive temp, motherboard voltage, and more
241 </li>
242 </ul>
244 <p>
245 If you can't find what you're looking for in the plugins specifically made for
246 Xfce, try searching through the list of Gnome panel applets! That's right, by
247 first emerging <c>xfce4-xfapplet-plugin</c>, you can install and run any applet
248 made for Gnome.
249 </p>
251 </body>
252 </section>
253 <section>
254 <title>Useful programs</title>
255 <body>
257 <p>
258 We should now <c>emerge</c> some useful applications and utilities:
259 <c>xfce4-mixer</c>, <c>xfprint</c>, <c>xfce4-taskmanager</c>,
260 <c>xfwm4-themes</c>, <c>orage</c>, <c>mousepad</c>, <c>x11-terms/terminal</c>,
261 and <c>thunar</c>.
262 </p>
264 <p>
265 <c>xfce4-mixer</c> is a volume control for your sound card. It can also be run
266 as a panel applet, giving you fast access to playback volume. <c>xfprint</c>
267 provides easy printer management and job control; it's a must if you intend to
268 do any printing from your desktop. <c>xfce4-taskmanager</c> displays a list of
269 all running programs, and the CPU and memory consumption each one takes up. By
270 right-clicking an item, you can kill a misbehaving application, pause and
271 restart it, or even alter its runtime priority, which lets you fine-tune how
272 much of a demand it puts on your system's resources.
273 </p>
275 <p>
276 <c>xfwm4-themes</c> adds several window manager themes. You may want to add a
277 more full-coverage icon theme such as <c>tango-icon-theme</c> just to round out
278 your desktop.
279 </p>
281 <p>
282 <c>orage</c> is a simple, handy calendar. <c>mousepad</c> is a barebones text
283 editor that starts up extremely quickly. <c>x11-terms/terminal</c> is an X11
284 terminal emulator, far more configurable and useful than the barebones
285 <c>xterm</c> supplied with <c>xorg-server</c>. <c>terminal</c> supports Unicode
286 text, pseudo-transparency and accelerated transparency via Xfce's built-in
287 compositor, all out-of-the-box. Just make sure that the default action on the
288 terminal launcher of your panel runs <path>/usr/bin/Terminal</path> instead of
289 xterm. Right click the launcher and choose "Properties" to change the command.
290 </p>
292 <p>
293 <c>thunar</c> is Xfce's default graphical file manager. It's fast yet quite
294 powerful, can support several plugins for even more functionality; just install
295 them with <c>emerge</c>. Let's take a look:
296 </p>
298 <ul>
299 <li>
300 <c>thunar-archive-plugin</c> lets you create and extract archive files using
301 the right-click menu. It provides a handy <uri
302 link="http://www.foo-projects.org/~benny/projects/thunar-archive-plugin">front-end</uri>
303 for graphical archiving applications such as <c>xarchiver</c>,
304 <c>squeeze</c>, and <c>file-roller</c>.
305 </li>
306 <li>
307 <c>thunar-media-tags-plugin</c> lets you intelligently rename multiple media
308 files at once, and lets you <uri
309 link="http://thunar.xfce.org/pwiki/projects/thunar-media-tags-plugin">edit</uri>
310 their information tags, such as id3 and ogg tags.
311 </li>
312 <li>
313 <c>thunar-thumbnailers</c> lets you <uri
314 link="http://goodies.xfce.org/projects/thunar-plugins/thunar-thumbnailers">preview</uri>
315 certain types of files from within Thunar, such as images and fonts.
316 </li>
317 <li>
318 <c>thunar-volman</c> automatically <uri
319 link="http://foo-projects.org/~benny/projects/thunar-volman/">manages</uri>
320 removable media and drives.
321 </li>
322 </ul>
324 <p>
325 Next, let's see about adding some useful but lightweight desktop applications,
326 in keeping with Xfce's philosophy.
327 </p>
329 <p>
330 Though <c>mousepad</c> is nice enough as a basic text editor, if you need a
331 full-featured word processor but don't want the bloat of OpenOffice, try
332 emerging <c>abiword</c>. <uri link="http://www.abisource.com">AbiWord</uri> is
333 lighter, faster, and is completely interoperable with industry-standard document
334 types. It can also be further extended with <c>abiword-plugins</c>.
335 </p>
337 <p>
338 Need a nice email client/newsreader that isn't as demanding as
339 <c>mozilla-thunderbird</c> or <c>evolution</c>? Try emerging <c>claws-mail</c>.
340 </p>
342 <p>
343 For your internet chat needs, <c>irssi</c> is an excellent, tiny, incredibly
344 configurable IRC client that runs in your terminal. If you prefer a compact
345 all-in-one client that handles nearly all chat protocols, you may want to
346 <c>emerge pidgin</c>.
347 </p>
349 <p>
350 If you need movie and music players, look no further than <c>mplayer</c> and
351 <uri link="/proj/en/desktop/sound/decibel.xml">decibel-audio-player</uri>. They
352 can play most every media format available quite nicely.
353 </p>
355 <p>
356 Finally, you'll need a webbrowser. Nearly all graphical webbrowsers require more
357 resources than most of your other desktop applications. Still,
358 <c>mozilla-firefox</c> (or <c>mozilla-firefox-bin</c>) is always a good choice.
359 Alternatively, you may find <c>opera</c> to be quite fast. However, <c>opera</c>
360 is not available on as many processor architectures as <c>mozilla-firefox</c>,
361 and it has more dependencies unless you override them with a USE flag.
362 </p>
364 <pre caption="Adding a webbrowser">
365 <comment>(Installing Mozilla Firefox)</comment>
366 # <i>emerge mozilla-firefox</i>
367 <comment>(Installing Opera)</comment>
368 # <i>echo "www-client/opera qt-static" >> /etc/portage/package.use</i>
369 # <i>emerge opera</i>
370 </pre>
372 <p>
373 Now that we've explored some good suggestions for rounding out your desktop
374 applications, let's see what else we can do to enhance your Xfce experience.
375 </p>
377 </body>
378 </section>
379 <section>
380 <title>Graphical login</title>
381 <body>
383 <p>
384 Remember when we added <c>startxfce4</c> to our <path>~/.xinitrc</path>? All you
385 have to do to get into your desktop is type <c>startx</c> after logging in. This
386 is fine if you prefer a completely text-based boot and login, but let's use a
387 display manager that will automatically start Xfce after booting (so that you
388 can login graphically).
389 </p>
391 <p>
392 First, let's make sure Xfce loads at boot:
393 </p>
395 <pre caption="Adding xdm to the default runlevel">
396 # <i>rc-update add xdm default</i>
397 </pre>
399 <p>
400 We aren't quite finished yet. We have to pick a display manager and set the
401 appropriate variable. Though there are a few choices available in Portage, for
402 this guide, we'll stick with <uri link="http://slim.berlios.de">SLiM</uri>, the
403 Simple Login Manager.
404 </p>
406 <p>
407 <c>slim</c> is speedy and lightweight, with minimal dependencies. Perfect for
408 Xfce!
409 </p>
411 <pre caption="Installing SLiM">
412 # <i>emerge -avt slim</i>
413 </pre>
415 <note>
416 The <c>branding</c> USE flag will pull in the <c>slim-themes</c> package, which
417 will give you an assortment of login themes, including a Gentoo Linux theme.
418 </note>
420 <p>
421 Then edit the DISPLAYMANAGER variable in <path>/etc/conf.d/xdm</path>:
422 </p>
424 <pre caption="Editing /etc/conf.d/xdm">
426 </pre>
428 <p>
429 SLiM can automatically start your Xfce session if you add
430 <c>XSESSION="Xfce4"</c> to <path>/etc/env.d/90xsession</path>:
431 </p>
433 <pre caption="Setting XSESSION">
434 # <i>echo XSESSION=\"Xfce4\" > /etc/env.d/90xsession</i>
435 # <i>env-update &amp;&amp; source /etc/profile</i>
436 </pre>
438 </body>
439 </section>
440 <section>
441 <title>Beautifying your desktop</title>
442 <body>
444 <p>
445 A little customization of your desktop's appearance can go a long way. Xfce has
446 all the options you'd expect from a modern desktop environment, font
447 antialiasing settings, color schemes, dozens of window decorations, themes, and
448 more. If these aren't enough, it's easy to install third-party themes, icon
449 sets, mouse cursor themes, and wallpapers.
450 </p>
452 <p>
453 A selection of nice Gentoo wallpapers in a variety of resolutions are hosted on
454 the <uri link="/main/en/graphics.xml">Gentoo website</uri>. If you're looking
455 for icon sets and complete Xfce themes, <uri
456 link="http://www.xfce-look.org/">Xfce-Look</uri> has a huge collection. The
457 important thing to remember about any third-party eyecandy you download is that
458 it will usually first need to be unpacked and then installed to the proper
459 directory. Icon sets go in <path>/usr/share/icons/</path>, and themes go to
460 <path>/usr/share/themes/</path>; use these directories when you want all users
461 to be able to access themes and icon sets. Individual users can install themes
462 and icon sets to <path>~/.themes/</path> and <path>~/.icons/</path>.
463 </p>
465 <p>
466 If you installed SLiM as your display manager, there are lots of themes in the
467 <c>slim-themes</c> package available in Portage. Also, be sure to check the SLiM
468 <uri link="http://slim.berlios.de/themes01.php">themes page</uri> for more
469 themes. Creating your own SLiM theme is fairly easy; just read the <uri
470 link="http://slim.berlios.de/themes_howto.php">Themes HowTo</uri>. Gentoo also
471 ships a <c>slim-themes</c> package that you can <c>emerge</c>.
472 </p>
474 <p>
475 Finally, Xfce has its own built-in compositor to manage window transparency.
476 This option can be found in Menu --> Settings --> Window Manager. For best
477 performance, you will need to be running a graphics card with drivers that
478 support hardware-accelerated rendering. Make sure you emerged <c>xfwm4</c> with
479 the <c>xcomposite</c> USE flag. Next, you will need to enable compositing in
480 <path>/etc/X11/xorg.conf</path> by adding the following section:
481 </p>
483 <pre caption="Enabling composite in xorg.conf">
484 Section "Extensions"
485 Option "Composite" "Enable"
486 EndSection
487 </pre>
489 <p>
490 This is the bare minimum configuration required for Xfce and Xorg-X11. However,
491 setting up hardware-accelerated rendering depends on your individual graphics
492 card, and is beyond the scope of this guide. Please see the other guides in the
493 <uri link="/doc/en/index.xml?catid=desktop">Desktop Documentation
494 Resources</uri> list to learn about configuring hardware-accelerated rendering
495 for your graphics card.
496 </p>
498 <p>
499 Once you've finished setting up a beautiful Xfce desktop, the next thing to do
500 is take a picture of it to share with other folks! Just install
501 <c>xfce4-screenshooter</c> and post your pictures somewhere for all to admire.
502 </p>
504 </body>
505 </section>
506 </chapter>
508 <chapter>
509 <title>Summary</title>
510 <section>
511 <body>
513 <p>
514 Congratulations on making it this far! You've installed and configured a speedy
515 desktop environment with a solid suite of applications for your computing
516 needs.
517 </p>
519 </body>
520 </section>
521 <section>
522 <title>Resources</title>
523 <body>
525 <p>
526 Need additional help on configuring and using Xfce? Need more lightweight
527 application suggestions? Try checking out:
528 </p>
530 <ul>
531 <li><uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org">The Gentoo forums</uri></li>
532 <li>#xfce on irc.freenode.net</li>
533 <li>
534 The installed help files and other documentation provided by Xfce:
535 <path>/usr/share/xfce4/doc/C/index.html</path>. Just point your browser at
536 it and start reading. There are even a lot of "hidden" configuration options
537 detailed in the help files.
538 </li>
539 <li><uri link="http://www.xfce.org">Xfce's home page</uri></li>
540 </ul>
542 </body>
543 </section>
544 </chapter>
545 </guide>

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