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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 1.34 2011/01/23 07:28:31 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>3</version>
22 <date>2011-01-23</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 dbus jpeg lock session
69 startup-notification thunar udev X"</c>.
70 </p>
72 <p>
73 Now that you've set your <c>USE</c> variables in
74 <path>/etc/make.conf</path>, it's time to install Xfce.
75 </p>
77 <pre caption="Installing Xfce">
78 # <i>emerge -avt xfce4-meta</i>
79 </pre>
81 <p>
82 Next, add your regular user(s) to the <c>plugdev</c>, <c>cdrom</c>, <c>cdrw</c>,
83 and <c>usb</c> groups, so that they can mount and use devices such as cameras,
84 optical drives, and USB sticks.
85 </p>
87 <pre caption="Adding users to the hardware groups">
88 <comment>(Replace username with your actual user)</comment>
89 # <i>for x in plugdev cdrom cdrw usb ; do gpasswd -a username $x ; done</i>
90 </pre>
92 <p>
93 Next, update your environment variables:
94 </p>
96 <pre caption="Updating environment variables">
97 # <i>env-update &amp;&amp; source /etc/profile</i>
98 </pre>
100 <p>
101 You'll also need a graphical terminal so that you can continue working with your
102 new desktop environment. <c>x11-terms/terminal</c> is a good choice, as it's
103 made specifically for Xfce. Install Terminal as shown:
104 </p>
106 <pre caption="Installing Terminal">
107 # <i>emerge x11-terms/terminal</i>
108 </pre>
110 </body>
111 </section>
112 </chapter>
114 <chapter>
115 <title>Configuring Xfce</title>
116 <section>
117 <title>Starting Xfce</title>
118 <body>
120 <p>
121 Now that Xfce is now installed, we'll configure it to be the default desktop
122 environment when we issue the <c>startx</c> command. Exit your root shell and
123 log on as a regular user.
124 </p>
126 <pre caption="Setting Xfce as the default desktop environment">
127 $ <i>echo "exec startxfce4" > ~/.xinitrc</i>
128 </pre>
130 <note>
131 If you have ConsoleKit installed, your <path>~/.xinitrc</path> should instead
132 contain <c>exec ck-launch-session startxfce4</c>. Otherwise, some of your
133 applications may stop working. You'll also need to add consolekit to the
134 default runlevel by running the following command as root: <c>rc-update add
135 consolekit default</c>.
136 </note>
138 <p>
139 Now start your graphical environment by typing <c>startx</c>:
140 </p>
142 <pre caption="Starting Xfce">
143 $ <i>startx</i>
144 </pre>
146 <p>
147 Congratulations, and welcome to your new Xfce desktop environment. Go ahead,
148 explore it a bit. Then continue reading to learn how you can configure Xfce to
149 suit your needs.
150 </p>
152 </body>
153 </section>
154 <section>
155 <title>Program access</title>
156 <body>
158 <p>
159 You might notice right-clicking on the desktop shows you the menu of all your
160 applications. It's useful, but your desktop can easily be completely obscured by
161 open windows, making it hard to to launch a new program. So, one of the first
162 things you may wish to do is give yourself a handy application menu on your
163 panel. Right click on this panel, and choose "Add New Item". Scroll through the
164 list of choices and select "Xfce Menu". You can choose where you want it to be
165 displayed on your panel. When clicked, it displays the application/preferences
166 menu, providing a nicely categorized list of your installed programs.
167 </p>
169 </body>
170 </section>
171 <section>
172 <title>Sessions &amp; startup</title>
173 <body>
175 <p>
176 If you've installed (or plan to install) popular Gnome or KDE applications such
177 as <c>k3b</c>, <c>nautilus</c>, <c>kmail</c>, <c>evolution</c>, etc. then you
178 should make sure that Xfce launches the appropriate services for these at
179 startup. Navigate to Menu --> Settings --> Sessions &amp; Startup. On the
180 "Advanced" tab, select the appropriate checkbox. This might slightly increase
181 Xfce startup times, but it decreases load times for KDE and Gnome applications.
182 </p>
184 <p>
185 Xfce has the ability to save your session settings and running programs from the
186 "General" tab in the Sessions &amp; Startup menu. They can be automatically
187 saved when you logout, or Xfce can ask you each time. This feature is
188 particularly useful for undoing configuration mistakes. Accidentally killed a
189 panel? Just select "No" when prompted to save your current session, and the next
190 time you start Xfce, your old desktop is restored. Want to automatically launch
191 your open webbrowser, terminal, and email client the next time you login? Just
192 save your session before logging out.
193 </p>
195 <p>
196 You've now got a basic working environment installed and configured. But if
197 you're interested in doing more, then continue reading!
198 </p>
200 </body>
201 </section>
202 </chapter>
204 <chapter>
205 <title>Additional Applications</title>
206 <section>
207 <title>Panel plugins</title>
208 <body>
210 <p>
211 In this chapter, we'll discuss some useful plugins and applications for everyday
212 use within Xfce.
213 </p>
215 <p>
216 There are many plugins for the panel available in Portage; see for yourself with
217 <c>emerge --search xfce</c>. Though for the most part their names are
218 self-explanatory, a few deserve extra attention, as they are quite helpful. To
219 use them, simply <c>emerge</c> them. They'll be added to the list of available
220 items in the "Add New Items" menu shown when you right-click on the panel.
221 </p>
223 <ul>
224 <li>
225 <c>xfce4-battery-plugin</c> is perfect for laptop users. It displays battery
226 percentage, time remaining, power source (AC or battery), fan status,
227 warnings, and can even be configured to execute commands at certain power
228 levels. This feature can be used to put the laptop into hibernate mode when
229 the battery is almost exhausted.
230 </li>
231 <li>
232 <c>xfce4-verve-plugin</c> is a small command line embedded into the panel.
233 It's quicker than opening up another terminal when you want to run a
234 command.
235 </li>
236 <li>
237 <c>xfce4-mount-plugin</c> gives you a handy method of mounting devices
238 listed in <path>/etc/fstab</path> just by clicking your mouse
239 </li>
240 <li>
241 <c>xfce4-sensors-plugin</c> lets you monitor your hardware sensors, such as
242 CPU temperature, fan RPM, hard drive temp, motherboard voltage, and more
243 </li>
244 </ul>
246 <p>
247 If you can't find what you're looking for in the plugins specifically made for
248 Xfce, try searching through the list of Gnome panel applets! That's right, by
249 first emerging <c>xfce4-xfapplet-plugin</c>, you can install and run any applet
250 made for Gnome.
251 </p>
253 </body>
254 </section>
255 <section>
256 <title>Useful programs</title>
257 <body>
259 <p>
260 We should now <c>emerge</c> some useful applications and utilities:
261 <c>xfce4-mixer</c>, <c>xfce4-taskmanager</c>, <c>xfwm4-themes</c>, <c>orage</c>,
262 <c>leafpad</c>, <c>xfce4-power-manager</c>, <c>x11-terms/terminal</c>, and
263 <c>thunar</c>.
264 </p>
266 <p>
267 <c>xfce4-mixer</c> is a volume control for your sound card. It can also be run
268 as a panel applet, giving you fast access to playback volume.
269 <c>xfce4-taskmanager</c> displays a list of all running programs, and the CPU
270 and memory consumption each one takes up. By right-clicking an item, you can
271 kill a misbehaving application, pause and restart it, or even alter its runtime
272 priority, which lets you fine-tune how much of a demand it puts on your system's
273 resources.
274 </p>
276 <p>
277 <c>xfwm4-themes</c> adds several window manager themes. You may want to add a
278 more full-coverage icon theme such as <c>tango-icon-theme</c> just to round out
279 your desktop.
280 </p>
282 <p>
283 <c>orage</c> is a simple, handy calendar. <c>leafpad</c> is a barebones text
284 editor that starts up extremely quickly.
285 </p>
287 <p>
288 <c>xfce4-power-manager</c> is an application to monitor and manage power usage.
289 This is especially important for laptops! The power manager allows you to adjust
290 screen brightness, choose maximum performance or battery-saving modes, and setup
291 hibernate, suspend, and shutdown actions when the lid is shut or buttons are
292 pressed. You can set <uri
293 link="http://goodies.xfce.org/projects/applications/xfce4-power-manager">xfce4-power-manager</uri>
294 to warn you when your battery reaches certain levels, or even turn off your
295 machine. The application comes with a couple of helpful panel plugins to display
296 battery/charging status, and a brightness control.
297 </p>
299 <p>
300 <c>x11-terms/terminal</c> is an X11 terminal emulator, far more configurable and
301 useful than the barebones <c>xterm</c>. <c>terminal</c> supports Unicode text,
302 color schemes, pseudo-transparency and hardware-accelerated transparency via
303 Xfce's built-in compositor, all out-of-the-box. Just make sure that the default
304 action on the terminal launcher of your panel runs
305 <path>/usr/bin/Terminal</path> instead of <path>xterm</path>. Right-click the
306 launcher and choose "Properties" to change the command.
307 </p>
309 <p>
310 <c>thunar</c> is Xfce's default graphical file manager. It's fast yet quite
311 powerful, can support several plugins for even more functionality; just install
312 them with <c>emerge</c>. Let's take a look:
313 </p>
315 <ul>
316 <li>
317 <c>thunar-archive-plugin</c> lets you create and extract archive files using
318 the right-click menu. It provides a handy <uri
319 link="http://www.foo-projects.org/~benny/projects/thunar-archive-plugin">front-end</uri>
320 for graphical archiving applications such as <c>xarchiver</c>,
321 <c>squeeze</c>, and <c>file-roller</c>.
322 </li>
323 <li>
324 <c>tumbler</c> lets you preview certain types of files from within Thunar,
325 such as images and fonts.
326 </li>
327 <li>
328 <c>thunar-volman</c> automatically <uri
329 link="http://foo-projects.org/~benny/projects/thunar-volman/">manages</uri>
330 removable media and drives.
331 </li>
332 </ul>
334 <p>
335 Next, let's see about adding some useful but lightweight desktop applications,
336 in keeping with Xfce's philosophy.
337 </p>
339 <p>
340 Though <c>leafpad</c> is nice enough as a basic text editor, if you need a
341 full-featured word processor but don't want the bloat of OpenOffice, try
342 emerging <c>abiword</c>. <uri link="http://www.abisource.com">AbiWord</uri> is
343 lighter, faster, and is completely interoperable with industry-standard document
344 types. It can also be further extended with <c>abiword-plugins</c>.
345 </p>
347 <p>
348 Need a nice email client/newsreader that isn't as demanding as
349 <c>thunderbird</c> or <c>evolution</c>? Try emerging <c>claws-mail</c>.
350 </p>
352 <p>
353 For your internet chat needs, <c>irssi</c> is an excellent, tiny, incredibly
354 configurable IRC client that runs in your terminal. If you prefer a compact
355 all-in-one client that handles nearly all chat protocols, you may want to
356 <c>emerge pidgin</c>.
357 </p>
359 <p>
360 If you need movie and music players, look no further than <c>mplayer</c> and
361 <uri link="/proj/en/desktop/sound/decibel.xml">decibel-audio-player</uri>. They
362 can play most every media format available quite nicely.
363 </p>
365 <p>
366 Finally, you'll need a webbrowser. Nearly all graphical webbrowsers require more
367 resources than most of your other desktop applications. Still, <c>firefox</c>
368 and <c>midori</c> are always good choices. Alternatively, you may find
369 <c>opera</c> to be quite fast. However, <c>opera</c> is not available on as many
370 processor architectures as <c>firefox</c>, and it has more dependencies unless
371 you override them with a few USE flags.
372 </p>
374 <pre caption="Adding a webbrowser">
375 <comment>(Installing Mozilla Firefox)</comment>
376 # <i>emerge firefox</i>
377 <comment>(Installing Midori)</comment>
378 # <i>emerge midori</i>
379 <comment>(Installing Opera)</comment>
380 # <i>echo "www-client/opera gtk -kde" >> /etc/portage/package.use</i>
381 # <i>emerge opera</i>
382 </pre>
384 <p>
385 Now that we've explored some good suggestions for rounding out your desktop
386 applications, let's see what else we can do to enhance your Xfce experience.
387 </p>
389 </body>
390 </section>
391 <section>
392 <title>Graphical login</title>
393 <body>
395 <p>
396 Remember when we added <c>startxfce4</c> to our <path>~/.xinitrc</path>? All you
397 have to do to get into your desktop is type <c>startx</c> after logging in. This
398 is fine if you prefer a completely text-based boot and login, but let's use a
399 display manager that will automatically start Xfce after booting (so that you
400 can login graphically).
401 </p>
403 <p>
404 First, let's make sure Xfce loads at boot:
405 </p>
407 <pre caption="Adding xdm to the default runlevel">
408 # <i>rc-update add xdm default</i>
409 </pre>
411 <p>
412 We aren't quite finished yet. We have to pick a display manager and set the
413 appropriate variable. Though there are a few choices available in Portage, for
414 this guide, we'll stick with <uri link="http://slim.berlios.de">SLiM</uri>, the
415 Simple Login Manager.
416 </p>
418 <p>
419 <c>slim</c> is speedy and lightweight, with minimal dependencies. Perfect for
420 Xfce!
421 </p>
423 <pre caption="Installing SLiM">
424 # <i>emerge -avt slim</i>
425 </pre>
427 <note>
428 The <c>branding</c> USE flag will pull in the <c>slim-themes</c> package, which
429 will give you an assortment of login themes, including a Gentoo Linux theme.
430 </note>
432 <p>
433 Then edit the DISPLAYMANAGER variable in <path>/etc/conf.d/xdm</path>:
434 </p>
436 <pre caption="Editing /etc/conf.d/xdm">
438 </pre>
440 <p>
441 SLiM can automatically start your Xfce session if you add
442 <c>XSESSION="Xfce4"</c> to <path>/etc/env.d/90xsession</path>:
443 </p>
445 <pre caption="Setting XSESSION">
446 # <i>echo XSESSION=\"Xfce4\" > /etc/env.d/90xsession</i>
447 # <i>env-update &amp;&amp; source /etc/profile</i>
448 </pre>
450 </body>
451 </section>
452 <section>
453 <title>Beautifying your desktop</title>
454 <body>
456 <p>
457 A little customization of your desktop's appearance can go a long way. Xfce has
458 all the options you'd expect from a modern desktop environment, font
459 antialiasing settings, color schemes, dozens of window decorations, themes, and
460 more. If these aren't enough, it's easy to install third-party themes, icon
461 sets, mouse cursor themes, and wallpapers.
462 </p>
464 <p>
465 A selection of nice Gentoo wallpapers in a variety of resolutions are hosted on
466 the <uri link="/main/en/graphics.xml">Gentoo website</uri>. If you're looking
467 for icon sets and complete Xfce themes, <uri
468 link="http://www.xfce-look.org/">Xfce-Look</uri> has a huge collection. The
469 important thing to remember about any third-party eyecandy you download is that
470 it will usually first need to be unpacked and then installed to the proper
471 directory. Icon sets go in <path>/usr/share/icons/</path>, and themes go to
472 <path>/usr/share/themes/</path>; use these directories when you want all users
473 to be able to access themes and icon sets. Individual users can install themes
474 and icon sets to <path>~/.themes/</path> and <path>~/.icons/</path>.
475 </p>
477 <p>
478 If you installed SLiM as your display manager, there are lots of themes in the
479 <c>slim-themes</c> package available in Portage. Also, be sure to check the SLiM
480 <uri link="http://slim.berlios.de/themes01.php">themes page</uri> for more
481 themes. Creating your own SLiM theme is fairly easy; just read the <uri
482 link="http://slim.berlios.de/themes_howto.php">Themes HowTo</uri>. Gentoo also
483 ships a <c>slim-themes</c> package that you can <c>emerge</c>.
484 </p>
486 <p>
487 Finally, Xfce has its own built-in compositor to manage window transparency.
488 This option can be found in Menu --> Settings --> Window Manager. For best
489 performance, you will need to be running a graphics card with drivers that
490 support hardware-accelerated rendering. Make sure you emerged <c>xfwm4</c> with
491 the <c>xcomposite</c> USE flag. Next, you will need to enable compositing in
492 <path>/etc/X11/xorg.conf</path> by adding the following section:
493 </p>
495 <pre caption="Enabling composite in xorg.conf">
496 Section "Extensions"
497 Option "Composite" "Enable"
498 EndSection
499 </pre>
501 <p>
502 This is the bare minimum configuration required for Xfce and Xorg-X11. However,
503 setting up hardware-accelerated rendering depends on your individual graphics
504 card, and is beyond the scope of this guide. Please see the other guides in the
505 <uri link="/doc/en/index.xml?catid=desktop">Desktop Documentation
506 Resources</uri> list to learn about configuring hardware-accelerated rendering
507 for your graphics card.
508 </p>
510 <p>
511 Once you've finished setting up a beautiful Xfce desktop, the next thing to do
512 is take a picture of it to share with other folks! Just install
513 <c>xfce4-screenshooter</c> and post your pictures somewhere for all to admire.
514 </p>
516 </body>
517 </section>
518 </chapter>
520 <chapter>
521 <title>Summary</title>
522 <section>
523 <body>
525 <p>
526 Congratulations on making it this far! You've installed and configured a speedy
527 desktop environment with a solid suite of applications for your computing
528 needs.
529 </p>
531 </body>
532 </section>
533 <section>
534 <title>Resources</title>
535 <body>
537 <p>
538 Need additional help on configuring and using Xfce? Need more lightweight
539 application suggestions? Try checking out:
540 </p>
542 <ul>
543 <li><uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org">The Gentoo forums</uri></li>
544 <li>#xfce on irc.freenode.net</li>
545 <li>
546 The installed help files and other documentation provided by Xfce:
547 <path>/usr/share/xfce4/doc/C/index.html</path>. Just point your browser at
548 it and start reading. There are even a lot of "hidden" configuration options
549 detailed in the help files.
550 </li>
551 <li><uri link="http://www.xfce.org">Xfce's home page</uri></li>
552 </ul>
554 </body>
555 </section>
556 </chapter>
557 </guide>

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