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Getting Started with Xfce


Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for unix-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and light on system resources, while still being visually appealing and easy to use.

Xfce embodies the traditional UNIX philosophy of modularity and re-usability. It consists of a number of components that provide the full functionality one can expect of a modern desktop environment. They are packaged separately and you can pick among the available packages to create the optimal personal working environment.

Another priority of Xfce is adhereance to standards, specifically those defined at freedesktop.org.

Using Xfce

Getting Started

Use startxfce4 to start an Xfce session or choose Xfce Session from the login manager, which includes the session manager, the panel, the window manager and the desktop manager.

By default the Xfce session manager manages the startup of applications. It allows you to save your session when you quit Xfce, so that the next time you log in, the same applications will be started for you automatically.

The Default Desktop

The Xfce Desktop Environment is not a single entity that provides all functionality, but rather it tries to adhere to the old UNIX tradition of small tools that do one job and do it well.

Default Xfce session, with desktop manager and panel.

When you start the Xfce session for the first time, several applications are started by the Xfce session manager:

In a default session there is a full width panel at the top of the screen and a smaller one at the bottom. The Panel application manages all panels on the screen.
The top panel shows a graphical pager with a miniature view of all workspaces, a task list showing all applications running on the current workspace and a system tray to show status icons that are used for example by some media players or instant messaging applications.
The bottom panel contains several application launchers and a clock. You can right-click on any panel item to get a menu that allows you to change its properties, add or remove new items or to change the properties of the panel itself.
Desktop Manager
The desktop manager provides the desktop background image and two menus when you click on the desktop background. Optionally, it can show icons on the desktop, either for minimized applications or for files in the ~/Desktop folder.
The right mouse button opens a menu that allows you to start applications. Look at the manual to find out how to change the menu contents.
The middle mouse button (or Shift + left click) opens a list of all applications that are currently running. You can activate an application by clicking on its menu entry.
Window Manager
The window manager is responsible for placing the windows on the screen and provides the window borders and decorations. It allows you to move windows around by draggin the titlebar and provides title bar buttons, for example to close, minimize or maximize a window. Look at the manual for a full explanation of the window manager settings.
Settings Manager
The settings manager runs in the background and makes sure that all Xfce applications update their settings when the user changes something in the settings manager dialog (see following section) and it takes care of reading the configuration from disk at startup. Have a look at the Settings Manager for a full explanation of the settings manager.