XFce 3.2

XFce version 3.2 (c) 1999 Olivier Fourdan (fourdan@xfce.org)


The XFce project was first started because I needed a simple, light and efficient environment for my Linux System.

There are now a lot of good environments and interfaces for Unix based systems, but most are too heavy, or too expensive, or even both !

I wanted something easy to use and configure, stable, fast, and, at last but not least, visually appealing...

I believe that the desktop environment should be made to increase user productivity. Therefore, the goal is keep most system resources for the applications, and not to consume all memory and CPU usage for what is used to display them.

From version to version, XFce became more and more user configurable. As XFce is made for the user, it has to be very simple to configure. That's why everything is driven by the mouse, using buttons, drag and drop, etc., and the configuration files are hidden from the user, although it is plain text.

Typical XFce desktop

User Guide

The main panel

The main functionalities of the main panel are :

The clock as no special function, except showing the date as a tooltip, while the icons are used to launch applications.  You can select the analog or digital clock by clicking with the left mouse button on the clock.

To modify an icon on the main panel, or associate a command to an icon, click on the corresponding icon with the right mouse button.

To change the label of a virtual screen button, click on the button using the right mouse button :

Note : The number of virtual desktops is user configurable, from 2 to 10 desktops. See the configuration section, later in this manual, for more details.

On top of each icon, there is a little tiny arrow. Each of these buttons opens a popup menu.

Note : Some text based applications, such as "vi" require a terminal (xterm) to be opened. You can use the keyword "term" to start a terminal before running the command


Command line : term vi

Popup menus

Popup menus are another way of launching applications from XFce panel.

Each entry is associated to an application that is launched when the menu entry is selected.

Drag and drop from various file managers (XFTree included, of course) is supported. For example, you can drag a C source file onto the X-Edit entry, and xedit will be started and open the file specified.

The item on the top of the menu, called "Add icon..." is used to add new entries to menu. Drag and drop is also supported, but it does not trigger the same action. In fact, when you drop a file (an executable, preferably) and entry is automatically added to the corresponding menu, with a default icon. Obviously, you can later change this icon by using the left mouse button.

The little tiny button on the top of the menu is only visible if the option "Use tear-off menu" is enabled. By clicking on this button, you can "detach" the menu. Once a menu is detached, you can move it around your screen and it stays opened even if an entry is selected, which is very convenient.

An existing entry can be modified by using the right mouse button :

Setup & parameters

As stated before, XFce is very intuitive. All customization can be performed through its graphical user interface.

For this purpose, XFce provides a setup dialog, with 4 tabfolders : "Palette", "XFce", "Windows" and "Startup".

Palette tabfolder

As XFce is based on the popular GTK+ toolkit, it uses the gtkrc (style configuration hidden file located in user's directory) to share with all GTK+ applications the same color scheme. But while gtkrc is usually copied from a theme or written by hand, XFce is able to automatically generate the gtkrc file from the color values and font selected by the user in the palette setup screen.

XFce is able to determine whether the gtkrc file is customized by the user or not. If one wants to build his own gtkrc style, or else if one uses a style from GNOME Control Center (gnomecc), XFce won't override it (as a result, if you curently have a .gtkrc file in your home directory and you want XFce to manage the style for you, you should remove or rename your current ~/.gtkrc file).

But if there is no .gtkrc file in user's home directory or if it is empty, XFce will generate a .gtkrc file so all GTK+ applications, including GNOME applications will share exactly the same look.

A palette, from XFce's point of view is made of 8 colors and a font name. Each colors is used to display specific items in XFce desktop, like the mouse pointer, the default window background, the text fields, etc.

The color you select for this palette are shared by all XFce aware applications (XFTree, XFClock, XFwm, etc.)

By clicking on one of the colors, you can change it using the color selector :

The palette can be saved to disk using the "Save..." button. You can retrieve it later using the "Load..." button.

You don't necessarily need to save your palette to disk unless you want to share it with other users. The current palette is automatically saved to a file in user's home directory so that XFce will have the same color scheme when you restart it.

The font used for displaying text in XFce is selected in the XFce tabfolder.

XFce tabfolder

This dialog gives access to all XFce options :

Notes :

1. The option "repaint root window" overrides any other application trying to use the root window. As a result, if you specify a backdrop in xfbd, XFce's backdrop manager, make sure you disable this option.

2. By changing the size of the icons, along with the number of popup menus available in XFce panel, you can adapt XFce to all types of screens, including small screens.

Windows tabfolder

This tabfolder is for managing XFwm, the window manager, options.

The behavior of the windows can be tuned by using the following options :

Startup tabfolder

Using the options from this screen, you can adjust which XFce core modules (daemons/services) you want to start when XFce starts.

For example, if you don't want the pager to be launched on startup, just unselect the option. Beware that if a module is not started, the corresponding feature won't be enabled : If you don't start xfsound, you won't get any sound in XFce.

The Window Manager

XFwm is the window manager that comes with XFce.

It is fully integrated to the environment, providing a homogeneous interface with all XFce applications.

Moreover, XFwm is able to handle the most common window hints shared by popular applications such as Motif Applications and SUN Openwindows applications, but also with KDE and GNOME applications.

Most user options are handled through XFce setup, and do not require any script customization (although you'll find a description of XFwm functions in the technical documentation of XFce)

Without any specific customization, XFwm provides a set of built-in menus and functions.

Main menu

The main menu can be obtained by clicking on the root window with the right mouse button, or by pressing [Alt+F2]

This menu provides an access to the most common operations.

Window Menu

The window menu can be obtained by clicking on the root window with the middle mouse button (or both left and right button, if you have only 2 mouse buttons) or by pressing [Alt+F1]

Keyboard shortcuts

Switch application (Next window)
Switch application (Previous window)
Shift+Alt+arrow keys
Move pointer (fast)
Shift+Ctrl+arrow keys
Move pointer (slow)
Open window menu
Open main menu
Lower window
Close window
Next window
Previous window
Move window
Resize window
Iconify window
Maximize window
Ctrl+F1 to F10
Switch to desktop 1 to 10

Mouse bindings

Mouse button
Right Single Button 1
Open window's operations menu
Right Double Button 1
Close window
Left single Button 1
Close Window
Right Single Button 3
Stick/unstick window
Right Single Title bar
Raise/move window
Right Double Title bar
Maximize window
Left Single Title bar
shade/unshade window
Right Single Button 4
iconify window
Left Single Button 4
iconify window
Right Single Button 2
Maximize/un-maximize window
Left Single Button 2
Maximize/un-maximize window
Right Single Root window
Open main menu
Middle Single Root window
Open window's operations menu
Left Single Root window
Display list of running applications
Middle Single Window border
Move window
Right Single+Shift key Window border
Move window
Right Single+Shift key Window border
Move window

The file Manager, XFTree

XFTree is a very simple file manager, which provides a graphical user interface to most common file operations.

XFTree supports drag and drop to itself, other GTK+ applications and, of course, the XFce panel.


Starting xftree will use the home directory as the default root if no directory is given as argument.

Drag and Drop: by default, drag and drop copy the items. If [SHIFT] is pressed during drag, items are moved instead of copied. Drag and drop of URL is allowed, e.g. from mozilla, as long as CURL is available. The corresponding file will be downloaded.

Keyboard shortcuts

select all items of the selected directory.
Unselect all.
open the 'about' dialog.
duplicate the marked file.
hide/show hidden files (dotfiles).
empty the trash directory.
find files in the current directory.
Go to selected directory or ask the user if no directory entries are selected.
go to home directory.
properties / information of selected items.
register an application for a file name suffix.
create a new file.
create a new directory.
quit the program.
rename selected file / directory.
open trash directory in a new window.
go one directory up.
close current window.
delete selected items.

Other XFce tools


XFMouse is the mouse configurator. Thanks to XFMouse, you can change the mouse button mapping and other parameters


XFSound is in charge of emitting a sound whenever a event occurs from the window manager. It is started automatically as a "module" at start-up.

When XFSound is started as a module (i.e. from XFce or XFwm using the keyword "Module"), it just enters a loop that keeps on listening to the events coming from the Window Manager (XFwm)

Whenever a event occurs, XFSound will execute the user specified command intended to play actually the sound with the sound file corresponding to the event itself.

The user can interact with XFSound using the graphical interface by starting XFSound as a regular X application (i.e. not as a module).


XFPager is a small tool that provides a miniature view of all XFwm desktops.

XFPager must be started as a module (i.e. from xfce panel or xfwm using the keyword "Module") to initiate the communication pipe with xfwm.

XFPager is able to receive and send events to windows running on each XFwm desktop. If you move a window on the screen, its image will be moved in XFPager, and if you move a window in the pager, the windows will be moved on the screen accordingly.

By default, XFPager will manage the default 10 screens of XFce, but it can also manage up to 32 screens !


XFbd is a backdrop manager that displays image files on the root window, as a wallpaper (if XFce has been linked against IMLIB at compilation time, xfbd is able to use almost any kind of existing image format, ie png, gif, jpeg, bmp,tiff, etc. and scale them to fit the screen)

Please note that the use of xfbd avoids the use of the option "Repaint root window of workspace" in XFce setup screen and vice versa (both use the same root window...).


xfgnome is a module used for GNOME compatibility. If started, xfwm acts like a "GNOME compliant Window manager" and allow the use of GNOME applets such as GNOME pager. xfgnome module appeared in XFce 3.2.0


xfterm is a small wrapper to be used as drag and drop action for the XFce/XFTree front panel.

The environment variableTERMCMD sets the 'terminal' command  to  be  used.  Usually'xterm'.  The  terminal  emulation should support the "-e" option for executing commands

For example, to use rxvt as default terminal, add the following line to your $HOME/.xinitrc file prior to starting xfwm :

export TERMCMD=rxvt

Technical Documentation


XFce 3.2 uses GNU autoconf and GNU automake to generate the makefiles.

As a result, configuration can be performed as simply as typing ./configuration in XFce source directory !

Among all configuration options, you might be concerned with the following ones :


Specify the base directory where files will be installed (except XFce data)


Specify the directory where the data will be installed. The default is /usr/local/share. The data will be installed in <datadir>/xfce/


enable/disable Native Language Support


enable/disable additional CDE configuration files. On systems using CDE, you can install additional configuration files that will provide an entry for XFce in dtlogin screen.

Once the configuration is over, run make and make install.

On Linux system, you might want to reduce the size of executables by doing a make install-strip.

This will discards all symbols from the program files (for example, xfce is 10 times smaller without the symbols)


XFce provides 2 convenient scripts for easy installation/configuration of XFce.

Run xfce_setup to set up replacement files in user's home directory. These files will fire up xfwm and xfce every time the user starts an X session (through startx or through xdm)

The previous configurations files are saved in a hidden directory .xfce_bckp/

Afterwards, one can use xfce_remove to restore the previous files.

The directory specified at configuration time for the data can be overridden afterwards by setting the environment variable XFCE_DATA to another directory.


bash : export XFCE_DATA=/usr/local/share

csh : setenv XFCE_DATA /usr/local/share

As XFce supports Native Language Supports (NLS), make sure the environment variable LANG is correctly set for your country.


bash : export LANG="fr"

csh : setenv LANG "fr"

XFwm commands

Function Description Example
ActiveColor <c1> <c2> (*) Define color for active windows ActiveColor #c0c0c0 #ffffff
AddToFunc <fn> Begins  or add to a function definition AddToFunc Move-or-Raise "I" Raise 
+ "M" Move 
+ "D" Lower
AddToMenu <mn> Begins  or  adds to a menu definition AddToMenu "Utilities" 
+ "Xterm"         Exec  xterm -e tcsh
AnimateWin Enable or disable window's animations AnimateWin On 
AnimateWin Off
ArrangeIcons [<desk1> <desk2>] (*) Arrange icons on current desk or on desk <desk1> to <desk2> ArrangeIcons 0 9
AutoRaise (*) Enable or disable autoraise of windows (when FocusMode is set to FollowMouse) AutoRaise On 
AutoRaise Off
Beep Make the computer beep Beep
ClickTime <ct> Specifies  the  maximum  delay  (in   milliseconds) between a button press and a button release ClickTime 150
Close Close the current window Close
ColormapFocus Colormap is assigned to the window that has the focus ColormapFocus
CursorColor <c1> <c2> (*) Define mouse cursor colors CursorColor red white
CursorMove <n1> <n2> Moves the cursor of n1% of screen vertically and n2% of screen horizontally CursorMove 10 10
Delete Sends a message to a window asking that  it remove itself Delete 
Desk <d1> [<d2>] (*) Change to another desk/workspace Desk <0
DesktopSize <Hor><Ver> Defines  the  virtual  desktop size in units of physical screen size. DesktopSize 4x1
Destroy Destroys  an  application  window Destroy
DestroyFunc <fn> Removes an unneeded function DestroyFunc "Move-or-Raise"
DestroyMenu <mn> Removes an unneeded menu DestroyMenu "Utilities"
Echo <s> Prints a string to stderr Echo "Done"
Exec <c> Executes a command exec xedit
ExecUseSHELL <c> Defines a shell as default for Exec ExecUseSHELL bash
FlipFocus Toggle focus between the last two focused windows  FlipFocus
Focus Gives focus to a window Focus
FocusMode (*) Defines focus mode FocusMode ClickToFocus

FocusMode FollowMouse

Function <fn> Binds a function to a mouse or a key Mouse 1 T A Function Move-or-Raise
GotoPage <x> <y> Moves viewport to page (x,y) GotoPage 3 2
IconFont <font> (*) Defines font used to display icons IconFont -*-helvetica-medium-r-*-*-12-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
Iconify Iconify/Deiconify  a window Iconify
Iconpos <pos> (*) Set the position of icons (pos can be "top", "left", bottom" or "right") Iconpos top
InactiveColor <c1> <c2> (*) Defines colors for inactive windows  InactiveColors grey77 black
Key <key> <context> <modif> <fn> Binds a keyboard key to a specified functions Key F11  A  SCM  WindowList
KillModule <m> Kills a module KillModule xfce
Lower Lowers a window Lower
Maximize Maximizes a window Maximize
Menu <m> <dbl-click-action> Displays menu <m or triggers action if user performed a double click Menu "Utilities" Close
MenuColor <c1> <c2> <c3> <c4> (*) Defines colors for menus MenuColor red blue yellow green
MenuFont <font> Defines menu font MenuFont 
Module <m> Executes a module Module xfce
ModulePath Set Module path ModulePath $PATH
Mouse <mouse> <context> <modif> <fn> Binds a mouse button to a specified function Mouse 1   R    A   Menu "Root" Nop
Move [<x> <y>] Moves a window Move
Nop Does nothing Nop
OpaqueMove (*) If set, XFwm displays the contents of window during move OpaqueMove On 
OpaqueMove Off
OpaqueResize (*) If set, XFwm displays the contents of window during resize OpaqueResize On 
OpaqueResize Off
PopUp Popup a menu or a submenu  Popup "Quit"
Quit Ends XFce Quit
Raise Raises a window Raise
RaiseLower Raises or lowers a window RaiseLower
Recapture Recapture all windows Recapture
Refresh Refreshes the screen Refresh
Resize [<x <y] Resizes a window Resize
Restart Restarts XFwm Restart
Shade Shade/unshade a window Shade
Snapsize <n> (*) Sets the size (in pixels) for windows snapping Snapsize 20
Stick Makes a window sticky Stick
Style <win> <s1> [,<s2> [,<s3> [<s4>]...]] Gives a style to one or several windows Style "XFce*" Sticky
TitleStyle <type> Gradient <c1> <c2> (*) 
TitleStyle <type> Solid <c> (*)
Defines title bar style  TitleStyle Active Gradient blue grey77 
TitleStyle Inactive Solid grey60
Wait <name> Waits until window <name> appears Wait xterm
WindowFont (*) Defines font for window titles WindowFont -*-helvetica-bold-r-*-*-12-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
WindowList Gives a list a all windows displayed on screen Windowlist
XORvalue <n> Changes the value with which bits are  XOR'ed  when doing  rubber-band window resizing XORvalue 65535

Note : (*) denotes parameters overridden by XFce at start-up.

Advanced configuration options for xfwm

Some options such as keyboard shortcuts or user defined menus can be tweaked using .xfwmrc configuration file.

Preparing the configuration file

The first step is to copy the sample configuration file to your home directory :

cp /usr/share/xfce/sample.xfwmrc $HOME/.xfwmrc

Adding new entries/submenus to the root menu

If you wish to add new entries to the existing root menu, add the following lines to tour $HOME/.xfwmrc file :

# Adding a user menu to the default root menu :
# (This is just a sample, modify it to fit your need)
# Uncomment the following lines to create a user menu
AddToMenu "user_menu"
+ "&Gnome Terminal" Exec gnome-terminal
+ "" Nop
+ "&The GIMP" Exec gimp
# Menu "__builtin_root_menu__" is the name of the default root menu
AddToMenu "__builtin_root_menu__"
+ "&User menu" popup "user_menu

Obviously, this is just an example, you can add more items to your menu.

Removing existing keyboard shortcuts

Some applications require specific keyboard shortcust, that can interfere with xfwm shortcuts.

To remove the default existing keyboard shortcuts defined in xfwm, add the following lines to your $HOME/.xfwmrc :

# Uncomment the following if you want tot remove default keyboard shortcuts
# (Some applications require this, as they use the same shortcuts)
Key Tab A M -
Key Escape A S -
Key Escape A C -
Key Left A SC -
Key Right A SC -
Key Up A SC -
Key Down A SC  -
Key Left A SM  -
Key Right A SM  -
Key Up A SM  -
Key Down A SM  -
Key F1 A M -
Key F2 A M -
Key F3 A M -
Key F4 A M -
Key F5 A M -
Key F6 A M -
Key F7 A M -
Key F8 A M -
Key F9 A M -
Key F10 A M -
Key F11 A M -
Key F1 A C -
Key F2 A C -
Key F3 A C -
Key F4 A C -
Key F5 A C -
Key F6 A C -
Key F7 A C -
Key F8 A C -
Key F9 A C -
Key F10 A  C -
Key L5 IW N -
Key L5 IW S -
Key L5 IW C -
Key L7 IW A -

L5 key is for SUN keyboards (don't care on Linux).

Recognized contexts :

Recognized modifiers :

for example, IW is for Icon and Window, N is for no modifier pressed during operation.


Copyright (C) 1999 Olivier Fourdan (fourdan@xfce.org)

- xfce, xfclock, xfbd, xfmouse & xfsound are written by :

Olivier Fourdan (fourdan@xfce.org)

- XFTree is based on xtree from :

Rasca Gmelch <thron@gmx.de>

- xfwm and xfpager are based on fvwm and fvwm2 from :

Robert Nation Charles Hines

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

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You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.


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7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

If any portion of this section is held invalid or unenforceable under any particular circumstance, the balance of the section is intended to apply and the section as a whole is intended to apply in other circumstances.

It is not the purpose of this section to induce you to infringe any patents or other property right claims or to contest validity of any such claims; this section has the sole purpose of protecting the integrity of the free software distribution system, which is implemented by public license practices. Many people have made generous contributions to the wide range of software distributed through that system in reliance on consistent application of that system; it is up to the author/donor to decide if he or she is willing to distribute software through any other system and a licensee cannot impose that choice.

This section is intended to make thoroughly clear what is believed to be a consequence of the rest of this License.

8. If the distribution and/or use of the Program is restricted in certain countries either by patents or by copyrighted interfaces, the original copyright holder who places the Program under this License may add an explicit geographical distribution limitation excluding those countries, so that distribution is permitted only in or among countries not thus excluded. In such case, this License incorporates the limitation as if written in the body of this License.

9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.

Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

10. If you wish to incorporate parts of the Program into other free programs whose distribution conditions are different, write to the author to ask for permission. For software which is copyrighted by the Free Software Foundation, write to the Free Software Foundation; we sometimes make exceptions for this. Our decision will be guided by the two goals of preserving the free status of all derivatives of our free software and of promoting the sharing and reuse of software generally.





How to Apply These Terms to Your New Programs

If you develop a new program, and you want it to be of the greatest possible use to the public, the best way to achieve this is to make it free software which everyone can redistribute and change under these terms.

To do so, attach the following notices to the program. It is safest to attach them to the start of each source file to most effectively convey the exclusion of warranty; and each file should have at least the "copyright" line and a pointer to where the full notice is found.

<one line to give the program's name and a brief idea of what it does.>

Copyright (C) <year> <name of author>

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307 USA

Also add information on how to contact you by electronic and paper mail.

If the program is interactive, make it output a short notice like this when it starts in an interactive mode:

Gnomovision version 69, Copyright (C) year name of author Gnomovision comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY; for details type `show w'. This is free software, and you are welcome to redistribute it under certain conditions; type `show c' for details.

The hypothetical commands `show w' and `show c' should show the appropriate parts of the General Public License. Of course, the commands you use may be called something other than `show w' and `show c'; they could even be mouse-clicks or menu items--whatever suits your program.

You should also get your employer (if you work as a programmer) or your school, if any, to sign a "copyright disclaimer" for the program, if necessary. Here is a sample; alter the names:

Yoyodyne, Inc., hereby disclaims all copyright interest in the program `Gnomovision' (which makes passes at compilers) written by James Hacker.

<signature of Ty Coon>, 1 April 1989 Ty Coon, President of Vice

This General Public License does not permit incorporating your program into proprietary programs. If your program is a subroutine library, you may consider it more useful to permit linking proprietary applications with the library. If this is what you want to do, use the GNU Library General Public License instead of this License.