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Frequently Asked Questions

Please see https://docs.xfce.org/faq for an up to date documentation!

Getting started

About Xfce

What is "Xfce" and why should I use it?

Xfce is a desktop environment for Unix and other Unix-like platforms (such as Linux, Solaris or BSD). Xfce is “designed for productivity. It loads and executes applications fast, while conserving system resources.” (Olivier Fourdan, creator of Xfce). This philosophy should appeal to anyone looking for a fast, modern, and efficient working environment for a *NIX box.

How do you pronounce Xfce and what does it mean?

Xfce is pronounced “ecks-eff-see-ee”. The name Xfce originally stood for “XForms Common Environment”, but since then Xfce has been rewritten twice and doesn't use the XForms toolkit anymore. The name survived, but it is no longer capitalized as “XFCE” and is no longer an abbreviation for anything (although suggestions have been made, such as “X Freakin' Cool Environment”).

What does the logo mean?

A mouse, obviously, for all kinds of reasons like world domination and monsters and such.

On which platforms does Xfce currently run?

Xfce is developed to be versatile. It is currently supported on Linux, Solaris and BSD, but has been known to run in some shape or form on IRIX, Mac OS X, and Windows.

Under which license is Xfce distributed?

Xfce 4 components are licensed under free or open source licenses: GPL or BSDL for applications and LGPL or BSDL for libraries. Read the documentation, the source code, or refer to the Xfce homepage for more information.

How long a wait is it between each official release?

There is no set schedule, a new version will be released when it is ready. Xfce's development is split up into key phases, each of which can take months or even years to complete. More information on the release model can be found here. Currently the wait for Xfce 4.14 has been over 4 years, here is it's current status. Although this may seem like a long time - remember, Xfce is developed by a small group of hard-working volunteers!

Installation

Xfce can be installed either from the package manager of your distro or from the source code. Installing via a package manager is preferred as it allows you to easily go back if the Xfce environment is not for you. Building from the source code allows you to try out the latest features that may be unstable for daily use.

Starting Xfce

Is it possible to start Xfce when I login on the console?

Yes, there are three different ways to do this:

  • You can just login with the command startxfce4
  • You can add exec startxfce4 to your .xinitrc in your home directory and simply use startx.
  • You can put the following in your .bash_profile/.bashrc if you want Xfce to start automatically when you login on tty1:
if [ "$(tty)" = "/dev/tty1" -o "$(tty)" = "/dev/vc/1" ] ; then
  startxfce4
fi

Is it possible to use Xfce with DMs?

Yes. It's probably the default behavior of most distributions.

Setting up LXDM

LXDM is the display manager of LXDE, but it is universal. It has no GNOME or KDE dependencies, a nice interface and is very complete. Most distributions have a package available that you can install. Regarding the configuration, check the presence of a file (or add) /usr/share/xsessions/06xfce4.desktop (the location may differ depending on the distributions), such as:

[Desktop Entry]
Encoding=UTF-8
Name=Xfce4
Comment=Use this session to run Xfce4 as your desktop environment
TryExec=/usr/bin/startxfce4
Exec=/usr/bin/startxfce4
Icon=/usr/local/share/pixmaps/xfce4_xicon1.png
Type=Application

Lines TryExec and Exec may also differ between distributions.

Setting up SLiM

If you want to avoid GNOME or KDE dependencies and have a more attractive interface than XDM, you can give SLiM a try. See the SLiM manual for more information.

Setting up GDM

If you installed Xfce system-wide and you want to use the GNOME Display Manager (gdm) to start your Xfce session, you will have to create a .desktop file to teach gdm how to start the Xfce session. This is a sample desktop file, Xfce.desktop:

  [Desktop Entry]
  Encoding=UTF-8
  Name=Xfce4
  Comment=Use this session to run Xfce 4.4 as your desktop environment
  Exec=/usr/local/bin/startxfce4
  Icon=/usr/local/share/pixmaps/xfce4_xicon1.png
  Type=Application

It is usually enough to simply copy the example file to the session directory used by gdm; this directory is usually located in /etc/dm/Sessions, /etc/X11/gdm/Sessions, /usr/share/xsessions, /usr/X11/share/gnome/xsessions or some other location. Refer to the documentation of your system for details. You need to restart gdm after you created the file.

Setting up KDM

If you installed Xfce system-wide and you want to use the KDE Display Manager (kdm) to start your Xfce session, you will have to create a .desktop file to teach kdm how to start the Xfce session.

First you need to find where kdm searches for its .desktop files:

  locate kde.desktop

Common locations are /usr/share/apps/kdm/sessions or /usr/local/share/kdm/sessions. Once you found the kdm session directory, you need to create a new file named Xfce.desktop with the following:

  [Desktop Entry]
  Encoding=UTF-8
  Type=XSession
  Exec=/usr/local/bin/startxfce4
  TryExec=/usr/local/bin/startxfce4
  Name=Xfce4
  Comment=The Xfce4 Desktop Environment

Login problems

When I start Xfce a dialog pops up saying "Could not look up internet address for..."

Xfce simply wants your hostname to be in /etc/hosts. Example input: 127.0.0.1 localhost

Logout problems

When I try to log out by pressing the logout button in the panel, I get a dialog asking me whether I want to quit the panel and/or xfce4-session-logout reports that no session manager is running, but it is!

For some reason, your X applications cannot connect to the session manager. Possible causes for this are: your hostname cannot be resolved (see Login problems section), your home partition or partition containing /tmp is filled up, your hostname contains non-ascii characters (no umlauts allowed, in particular) or either ~/.ICEauthority or /tmp/.ICE-unix have wrong permissions. Check .xsession-errors for clues.

Usage

Keyboard

Is there some way to call the menu with the keyboard in the Xfce?

Assign a key via Settings Manager → Keyboard → Application Shortcuts to the command xfdesktop -menu. (This does not work reliably since the Linux kernel is tickless, so xfdesktop -menu needs a fix) The menu will popup where your mouse is located. You can also use xfce4-popup-applicationsmenu to popup the panel menu.

Is it possible to focus the Verve plugin with a key?

Assign a key to the command verve-focus.

How do I get numlock to start on login?

There are two ways to achieve this. You can use a display manager that turns the numlock on automatically (e.g. gdm) or use a little program called numlockx, and add numlockx to your .xinitrc.

Is it possible to use media keys in Application Shortcuts?

Use xmodmap to assign keycodes to your media keys to make them available for the Xfce shortcut editor:

To determine keycodes of the multimedia keys use the program xev. Create a .Xmodmap file in your $HOME directory containing those keycodes and assign keysyms to them. Here is an example:

 keycode 162 = XF86AudioPlay
 keycode 164 = XF86AudioStop
 keycode 160 = XF86AudioMute
 keycode 144 = XF86AudioPrev
 keycode 153 = XF86AudioNext
 keycode 176 = XF86AudioRaiseVolume
 keycode 174 = XF86AudioLowerVolume
 keycode 237 = XF86AudioMedia
 keycode 230 = XF86Favorites
 keycode 236 = XF86Mail
 keycode 178 = XF86WWW

All possible keysyms can be found in /usr/lib/X11/XKeysymDB or /usr/share/X11/XKeysymDB. To ensure that the .Xmodmap file is loaded when you start Xfce, add /usr/bin/xmodmap $HOME/.Xmodmap to your .xinitrc or .xprofile file. When you start the shortcut editor the assigned keysyms should show up when you press one of the multimedia keys. Now it is possible to assign a command to them. Note: Several problems with auto-loading of .Xmodmap files at xfce startup have been reported (also when issued as autostart command). Search the Xfce Bugzilla site for current problems. As a workaround, run xmodmap ~/.Xmodmap manually every time, or try editing the somewhat less straightforward xkb configuration files.

How to determine keycodes with xev

As all keyboards are different, keycodes can differ. You can acquire keycodes from your keyboard with xev by entering the following in a terminal:

  xev | grep -A2 --line-buffered '^KeyRelease' | sed -n '/keycode /s/^.*keycode \([0-9]*\).* (.*, \(.*\)).*$/\1 \2/p'

- then press the key of which you want the keycode.

How can I change the keyboard layout?

There are several options. One is to use the xfce4-xkb-plugin. You can also use the setxkbmap command with the two letter keyboard code as an argument, oryou can edit your X server configuration file to choose a different keyboard layout (change the value after Option “XkbLayout”, e.g.: Option “XkbLayout” “dvorak”).

How can I change the default shortcut keys?

Keyboard shortcuts are defined in two locations: The shortcuts to handle the Window Manager are defined in Settings Manager → Window Manager → Keyboard, and more global keyboard shortcuts such as volume adjustments, can be found in Settings Manager → Keyboard > Application Shortcuts.

How can I see a list of all the shortcut keys?

Use the following command, which will produce a nicely formatted text list to standard output:

xfconf-query -c xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts -l -v | cut -d'/' -f4 | awk '{printf "%30s", $2; print "\t" $1}' | sort | uniq

If you want to put this list into a file, add > filename at the end of command.

Can I make a shortcut that doesn't steal focus?

Unfortunately, Xfce doesn't have this ability yet.

How do I enable editable menu accelerators?

Menu accelerators let you set a keyboard shortcut to a menu item or entry. To enable editable menu accelerators, go to Settings Manager → Appearance → Settings tab, and select the 'Enable editable accelerators' option.

Editable menu accelerators were removed in GTK 3, so won't work in applications made in GTK 3 and above

Kiosk

I want to use Xfce in a corporate environment, how can I stop users from modifying parts of the system?

The left-click to get the menu on the title bar menu button seems a little slow. How do I change that?

The left-button single-click menu button display speed is linked to the double click speed. To make the menu appear quicker, just change the double click speed in Settings Manager → Mouse and Touchpad → Behaviour. Or, right-click on the title bar to display the menu instantly without adjusting the double-click speed. The menu will display both ways.

How do I display a list of all windows?

There are two possibilities. The first is by middle clicking on the desktop (if you have xfdesktop running), or you can add the window list plugin to the panel (which is provided with a xfce4-popup-windowlist command).

How to edit the auto generated menu with the menu editor?

cp ~/.cache/xfce4/desktop/menu-cache-name-of-the-generated-file.xml ~/.config/xfce4/desktop/menu2.xml
cd ~/.config/xfce4/desktop/
cat menu.xml > menu3.xml
cat menu2.xml >> menu3.xml
mv menu.xml menu.orig.xml
mv menu3.xml menu.xml

Now, you already have a menu with all the categories in the main tree with some duplicates, but you must first edit menu.xml with your favorite editor and remove the 4 following lines in the middle of the file, otherwise the menu editor will complain about a wrong format:

</xfdesktop-menu>
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE xfdesktop-menu>

<xfdesktop-menu>

That's all. Now you can run the menu editor, remove the few duplicates and edit freely.

Settings → Desktop → Menu → Menu Editor

Notes: by removing the “system” line, you will remove all the duplicate menu entries from the auto generated file. So, if it is changed in this auto generated file, they don't appear any more, but you will get rid of most of the duplicates.

To restore the original menu, run the following in in a terminal:

mv menu.xml menu3.xml; mv menu.orig.xml menu.xml

What are the exact commands used when launching the 'Settings' applications?

Please see this Wiki entry.

File Manager

You can find more information about Xfce's default file manager, Thunar, in the docs section.

Can I disable the trash?

Unfortunately, Xfce doesn't have this capability. However, you can:

  1. Use 'SHIFT + del' to bypass the trash bin and permanently delete something.
  2. Use cron to empty the trash on a regular basis.
  3. Enable Thunar's option to permanently delete a file via the context menu by opening Thunar and going to Edit → Preferences… → Behaviour and selecting “Show action to permanently delete files and folders”

How can I assign a keyboard shortcut in Thunar to an action in one of it's menus?

To activate the editable menu accelerators, go to Settings Manager → Appearance → Settings and select the “Editable editable accelerators” option. Then you can hover over the chosen action in Thunar and press the key on your keyboard that you want to assign it to.

Unfortunately, this capability was removed in GTK 3. As a workaround, you can edit them manually in the file ~/.config/Thunar/accels.scm.

Where are the deleted files in the trash located?

You can find the contents of the trash in ~/.local/share/Trash/files.

How can I get Thunar to display video thumbnails?

You can install the package ffmpegthumbnailer.

Desktop Manager

How can I remove the Trash, Home and Filesystem icons on my desktop?

Go to Settings Manager → Desktop → Icons and uncheck the icons you want to remove under “Default Icons”

Why can't I add items to my desktop?

You have the option to display icons turned off. Go to Settings Manager → Desktop → Icons and select File/launcher icons under “Icon type”.

Window Manager

Why does Firefox jump between workspaces?

When a new tab is opened from an external link in Firefox, it asks the Window Manager to display the window containing the new tab. If the window that has requested to be raised is not on the current workspace, the Xfce Window Manager will raise it in the current workspace by default.

To change this behavior, go to Settings Manager → Window Manager Tweaks → Focus, and select “Switch to window's workspace”.

Some of the windows are always centered, why?

The Xfce Window Manager has a feature called smart placement which automatically centers windows that are below a certain size. Windows above that size will be arranged automatically on the screen. You can adjust the minimum size that this happens under Settings Manager → Window Manager Tweaks → Placement.

Is it possible to have windows remember their position?

If the application supports it, it will appear at the location you last specified. If the application doesn't support it, you can use tools such as devilspie and wmctrl to control where a window is placed.

How can I programmatically switch workspaces, move windows, etc?

You can use a tool such as wmctrl to switch workspaces, move windows between workspaces, change window positions, maximize windows, and much more. libwnck is a library that also does similar things.

Why did my window suddenly become transparent?

If display compositing is enabled, the Xfce Window Manager allows you to adjust the opacity of a window by hovering your mouse over the title bar, holding down the Alt key, and using the scroll wheel. Hold Alt and scroll up to to restore opacity.

Why have my window borders suddenly disappeared?

If your window borders have disappeared and you can't move windows around, xfwm4 has probably quit. If this happens, you can restart xfwm4 by entering the following command in a terminal:

  xfwm4 --sm-client-id=${SESSION_MANAGER##*/} & disown

Session Manager

Why are some of my applications automatically started when I login?

This occurs when a previous session is restored or the application is set to auto start.

To prevent Xfce from restoring your last session, go to Settings Manager → Session and Startup and uncheck “Automatically save session on logout”.

To stop an application from automatically starting on login, go to Settings Manager → Session and Startup → Application Autostart and remove the application from the list. You can also manually delete it's .desktop file in ~/.config/autostart.

Why am I unable to shutdown or restart my computer?

In order to fix this, you can use sudo or hal and dbus.

Using sudo

You need to allow the user(s) to execute <prefix>/libexec/xfsm-shutdown-helper with sudo. <prefix>/libexec/ may be different depending on your distribution. Install sudo and run visudo as root and add the following line, replacing “<prefix> with the correct path:

 %users ALL = NOPASSWD:<prefix>/libexec/xfsm-shutdown-helper

Then add the user to the users and power group as root:

 gpasswd -a <username> users
 gpasswd -a <username> power

When you re-login, you should now be able to shutdown and restart the system.

Using hal and dbus

Make sure that the hal and dbus daemons are started on boot, and that you are running a recent version of dbus (at least 1.1). Refer to your distribution for exact steps.

In the steps below the groupname “power” is used. This can vary depending on your distribution.

Your /etc/dbus-1/system.d/hal.conf should contain a section similar to this:

<policy group="power">
  <allow send_interface="org.freedesktop.Hal.Device.SystemPowerManagement"/>
  ...
</policy>

Add the user to the power group as root:

 gpasswd -a <username> power

When you re-login, you should now be able to shutdown and restart the system.

Why can't I see the logout dialog box when I press the quit button?

You need to enable the “Prompt on logout” option in Settings Manager → Session and Startup → Logout Settings

Visual Appearance

Applications

Why have my panels/workspaces/window borders disappeared?

One of the processes responsible for it has quit. You can restart it by entering the following in a terminal, depending on what has disappeared:

Panel:

  xfce4-panel

Window Manager:

  xfwm4

Desktop / Workspace:

  xfdesktop

How can I take a screenshot in Xfce?

Install a screenshotting application such as xfce4-screenshooter, gnome-screenshot, or the command line only scrot.

Why is the file chooser so slow?

The icon theme you are using renders too many SVGs, making it resource intensive to scroll. To fix this, try switching to a different icon theme.

Why is my terminal application so slow?

For NVidia users, add this to your settings:

nvidia-settings -a InitialPixmapPlacement=0 -a GlyphCache=1

Otherwise, your driver may not support argb visuals very well. You can disable it for the terminal by exporting the environment variable XLIB_SKIP_ARGB_VISUALS=1. To disable it for only the terminal, create a file named “Terminal” in ~/bin, or /usr/local/bin, and enter the following in it:

#!/bin/sh
XLIB_SKIP_ARGB_VISUALS=1 /usr/bin/Terminal

Themes

How can I theme various parts of my Xfce desktop environment?

Please refer to the How to install new themes Wiki page.

Windows

How do I enable panel transparency and window shadows?

Enable the Composite extension in the X11 config file and make sure Xfwm4 is compiled with embedded compositor (xfwm4 -V).

 Section "Extensions"
   Option "Composite" "Enable"
 EndSection

Pay attention: recent versions of X.org turn composite on by default. If you experience speed problems or any other glitches you have to disable it explicitly:

 Section "Extensions"
   Option "Composite" "Disable"
 EndSection

If you have a reasonably new X.org (7.1, possibly 7.0) and your graphics card is listed as “supported” at X.org's EXA status page, you should also enable EXA by adding this line to the card's Device section in your xorg.conf:

   Option "AccelMethod" "exa"

Enabling EXA will normally provide a speed increase for compositing and font rendering, but may cause a small reduction in OpenGL rendering speed.

Once the Composite extension is activated, go to Settings Manager → Panel → Appearance and Settings Manager → Window Manager Tweaks → Compositor.

ATI users (X.org Radeon driver)

ATI R3xx/R4xx (9500 to X850, X1050) users may also need this in the device section for the card:

 Option "MigrationHeuristic" "greedy"
 Option "AccelDFS" "true"			# but see radeon(4)
 Option "EnablePageFlip" "true"
 Option "EnableDepthMoves" "true"
NVidia users

NVidia users may also need this in the device section for the card:

 Option "RenderAccel" "true"
 Option "AllowGLXWithComposite" "true"

Read /usr/share/doc/nvidia-glx/README.txt.gz (and search for “RenderAccel” and “AllowGLXWithComposite”) to see if they are recommended for your system. At least for recent NVidia GLX drivers, “AllowGLXWithComposite” “true” is only for X servers older than X11R6.9.0, and “RenderAccel” “true” is the default setting, and therefore not required. If you are running a recent NVidia driver and a recent xorg-server, you do not need these settings (and should not use the “AllowGLXWithComposite” “true” setting).

Panel

How can I change the icon used by an application?

For an application launcher, right-click on the launcher and select “Properties”, then under General select “Edit the currently selected item”. Click on the icon to select a new one.

To change the application icon used in the Window Buttons, Workspace Switcher or elsewhere, change the icon theme used by the system in Settings Manager → Appearance → Icons.

How do I change the panel layer in Xfce 4.2+?

In order to improve focus management, this option was removed.

Is there a world clock applet?

Orage Clock provides this functionality. Add it to the panel, then middle-click the clock to open the Global Time window, where you can add any number of clocks.

Development

How can I report bugs?

You can report bugs on the Xfce Bugzilla site, the Xfce-bugs mailing list, or you ask on our IRC channel #xfce on Freenode for help. Please do not use the forums to report bugs. Before submitting a bug, please try your best to check if it has already been reported. When writing your bug report, try to be as descriptive as possible, but avoid verbosity. Mozilla has a nice guide on how to write a bug report.

How often are new releases made?

See previous answer. Xfce's development is split up into key phases, each of which can take months or even years to complete. Although this may seem like a long time - remember, Xfce is developed by a small group of hard-working volunteers!

I have asked a question / reported a bug on the mailing list / Bugzilla, why isn't anyone answering?

  • Give it time. Maybe the responsible developer is on vacation, or hasn't checked the mailing list / Bugzilla yet. Keep in mind that the developers have their own lives outside of contributing to Xfce and may be quite busy.
  • Try giving more detailed information. Perhaps no one can figure out what it is you are trying to say, and they just don't want to take the time to contact you or reply to your post to find out. Usually the more information you provide, the better.
  • Consider if you've been been disrespectful when asking your question / reporting a bug. While you are allowed your own opinion on things, remember that the software you are talking about was made by volunteers and provided to you for free. You didn't pay for it, so you are asking for a favour. By asking your question in a polite, respectful way, you are increasing your chances that somebody will reply to you.
  • The developers / volunteers in question simply may not want to reply to you. Perhaps they are having a bad day, or they think your report doesn't necessarily warrant a reply. Don't take it personally if you don't get a response. Try asking again after a good amount of time, as your question / report may not have been seen, taking caution not to come across as nagging. Taking time out of your day to report a bug is always greatly appreciated, and it may have been seen by a developer, just not replied to.