Tweaking Xfce

Xfce is, of this writing, my favorite desktop environment in Linux. There are so many configuration options that I find it helpful to write down here my preferred settings.

Some distributions come with Xfce preinstalled, and many others carry it in their repositories. Frequently there are task or meta packages to simplify the installation; for example Mageia has task-xfce, and openSUSE has patterns-openSUSE-xfce.

One of Xfce’s strengths is the large collection of plugins available. I like xfce4-cpugraph-plugin, xfce4-datetime-plugin, xfce4-mailwatch-plugin, xfce4-messenger-plugin, xfce4-netload-plugin, xfce4-nofifyd, xfce4-sensor-plugin, xfce4-systemload-plugin, xfce4-taskmanager, xfce4-timer-plugin, xfce4-weather-plugin. Again, some distributions have a task or meta package for common plugins.

Xfce’s basic settings are found on the menu at Settings – Settings Manager, where you will find a number of modules to configure. Once you become familiar with the Settings Manager, you can use the menu to go directly to the settings manager module you want. Non-default settings that work well for me and my hardware include:


  • Style: As desired.
  • Icons: Gnome
  • Fonts – Default Font: Sans 9
  • Fonts – Rendering – Enable anti-aliasing: Yes
  • Fonts – Rendering – Hinting: None

Out of the box only a few styles and icons will be available, but most distributions’ repositories will have enough to keep you amused and unproductive for hours. Mageia users can search for package names containing “gtk2” that mention “theme” in the description.

TODO: Try gtk-chtheme, an alternative utility to preview and change GTK themes, and gtk2-xfce-engine.

Using rendering increases latency. For best performance, use a default font that doesn’t need rendering to look good.


  • Background – Images: Choose from the list as desired, or press the “Add an image to the list” button and select a local file
  • Icons – Default Icons: Home, Trash, Removable Devices

File Manager

  • Advanced – Volume Management – Enable: Yes

Preferred Applications

  • Set all options as desired

Removable Drives and Media

  • Storage – Removable Storage – Mount removable drives when hot-plugged: Enable
  • Storage – Removable Storage – Mount removable media when inserted: Enable
  • Storage – Removable Storage – Browse removable media when inserted: Enable
  • Storage – Blank CDs and DVDs – Burn a CD or DVD when a blank disc is inserted: Enable
  • Storage – Blank CDs and DVDs – Command for Data and Audio CDs: /usr/bin/xfburn (after installing it)
  • Multimedia – Video CDs/DVDs – Play video CDs and DVDs when inserted: Enable
  • Multimedia – Video CDs/DVDs – Command: /usr/bin/smplayer (after installing it)


  • Display Modes – Mode and Screensaver: As desired
  • Display Modes – Blank After: 5 minutes
  • Display Modes – Cycle After: 31 minutes (one minute more than the power management standby setting)
  • Advanced – Image Manipulation: Choose random image from ~/Pictures/Shared/
  • Advanced – Text Manipulation – Program: fortune bofh-excuses (after installing fortune-bofh)
  • Advanced – Power Management: Enabled, all options set to 30 minutes
  • Advanced – Fading and Colormaps – Fade to black when blanking; duration 3 seconds

Session and Startup

  • General – Logout Settings – Automatically save session on logout: Disabled
  • General – Logout Settings – Prompt on logout: Disabled
  • Splash: None
  • Application Autostart: As desired. See the Xfce section of the autostart notes for further information.

Window Manager

  • Style – Daloa
  • Style – Button Layout – Shade: Hide
  • Focus – Focus Model – Focus follows mouse
  • Focus – Raise on Focus – Automatically raise: Yes
  • Focus – Raise on Focus – Delay: Approximately 25%

Window Manager Tweaks

  • Accessibility – Notify of urgency by making window’s decoration blink: Enable
  • Compositor – Enable display compositing: Yes
  • Compositor – Show shadows under regular and popup windows: Enable
  • Compositor – Opacity of inactive windows: 100%. Partial transparency of inactive windows looks cool, but makes certain activities in The Gimp nearly impossible.
  • Compositor – Opacity of inactive windows, windows during move, and windows during resize: Approximately 80%

Composting increases latency on some systems; enable it with caution. Eye candy devotees will prefer Compiz to Xfce’s native composting. TODO: Document Compiz on Xfce.

If you prefer to edit configuration files directly, the relevant files for the above are found in ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/.

Xfce’s files are found at:

  • ~/.config/xfce4/: User preferences. You’ll want to add this directory to your backup set. TODO: Confirm this. With Xfce 4.8 but when running another DE, I renamed this directory to xfce4-old/. Upon reentering Xfce, my user preferences remained the same and were not reset to default.
  • ~/.config/autostart/: Applications and scripts automatically started on login.
  • ~/.config/xfce4-dict/: TODO: What is this?
  • ~/.config/xfce4-session/: TODO: What is this?

Xfce is one of the few desktop environments that strives to comply with’s XDG Basedir Specification
HOWTO Customize Xfce


About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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2 Responses to Tweaking Xfce

  1. Pingback: Mageia 2 installation notes | A maze of twisty little passages

  2. Pingback: Software I commonly install and remove | A maze of twisty little passages

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