Xfce is a lightweight and modular desktop environment currently based on GTK 3. To provide a complete user experience, it includes a window manager, a file manager, desktop and panel.


Install the xfce4 group. You may also wish to install the xfce4-goodies group which includes extra plugins and a number of useful utilities such as the mousepad editor. Xfce uses the Xfwm window manager by default.


Choose Xfce Session from the menu in a display manager of choice, or add to Xinitrc.


Xfce stores configuration options in Xfconf. There are several ways to modify these options:

  • In the main menu, select Settings and the category you want to customize. Categories are programs usually located in and .
  • xfce4-settings-editor can see and modify all settings. Options modified here will take effect immediately. Use xfconf-query to change settings from the commandline; see the documentation for details.
  • Settings are stored in XML files in which can be edited by hand. However, changes made here will not take effect immediately.

See Xdg-menu for more info on using the Free Desktop menu system.

Whisker menu

(also part of xfce4-goodies) is an alternative application launcher. It shows a list of favorites, browses through all installed applications through category buttons, and supports fuzzy searching. After package being installed, it can replace Applications Menu as first item in Panel 1 (in Settings > Panel > Items add Whisker Menu).
Set keyboard shortcut to launch whisker menu

To set a keyboard shortcut to launch the whisker menu, go to Settings > Keyboard and then the Applications shortcut tab. Click on the Add button, set the command to and assign the desired keyboard shortcut.

Edit entries

A number of graphical tools are available for this task:

  • .

Alternatively, create the file manually. See the example configuration below:

<!DOCTYPE Menu PUBLIC "-//freedesktop//DTD Menu 1.0//EN"

    <MergeFile type="parent">/etc/xdg/menus/xfce-applications.menu</MergeFile>


        <Merge type="all"/>

The tag includes the default Xfce menu.

The tag excludes applications which we do not want to appear in the menu. Here we excluded some Xfce default shortcuts, but you can exclude firefox.desktop or any other application.

The tag defines the layout of the menu. The applications can be organized in folders or however we wish. For more details see the Xfce wiki.

You can also make changes to the Xfce menu by editing the files themselves. To hide entries, see Desktop entries#Hide desktop entries. You can edit the application's category by modifying the line of the desktop entry, see Desktop entries#File example.

Set preferred applications

To change the default applications used for opening certain resources, use exo-preferred-applications. This will change the behavior of , which is invoked by resource openers such as xdg-open.

Transparent background for icon titles

To change the default white background of desktop icon titles to something more suitable, create or edit ~/.gtkrc-2.0:

Remove desktop icons

Issue the following command:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-desktop -v --create -p /desktop-icons/style -t int -s 0

To reinstate icons on the desktop, issue the same command with a value of 2.

One wallpaper across multihead

Open xfce4-settings-editor and create a new property with the following settings:

Property: /backdrop/screen0/xinerama-stretch
Type: Boolean
Value: TRUE|1|Enabled

Kill window shortcut

Xfce does not have a shortcut to kill a window, for example when a program freezes.

With , use to interactively kill a window. For the currently active window, use :

$ xdotool getwindowfocus windowkill


$ sh -c "xkill -id $(xprop -root -notype | sed -n '/^_NET_ACTIVE_WINDOW/ s/^.*# *\|\,.*$//g p')"

To add the shortcut, use Settings > Keyboard or an application like .


To launch custom applications when Xfce starts up, click the Applications Menu > Settings > Settings Manager and then choose the Session and Startup option and click the tab Application Autostart. You will see a list of programs that get launched on startup. To add an entry, click the Add button and fill out the form, specifying the path to an executable you want to run.

Autostart application location paths are described in the the XDG Autostart specification.

Alternatively, add the commands you wish to run (including setting environment variables) to xinitrc (or xprofile when a display manager is being used).

Tip: Sometimes it might be useful to delay the startup of an application. Note that specifying under Application > Autostart a command such as sleep 3 && command does not work; a workaround is to use the syntax sh -c "sleep 3 && command"

Lock the screen

xflock4 is the reference Bash script which is used to lock an Xfce session.

It tries to lock the screen with either (also part of xfce4-goodies), , , or . It consecutively looks for the corresponding binary or exits with return code 1 if it fails to find any of these.

The List of applications/Security#Screen lockers contains a short description of these screen lockers together with other popular applications. There is in this list an alternative locker, , which integrates particularly well with xfce4-power-manager. Once it is installed, Xfce Power Manager's setting gains an additional Security tab to configure light-locker and the existing Lock screen when system is going for sleep setting is relocated under this tab. In this new GUI, it is possible to set whether the session should be locked upon screensaver activity or whenever the system goes to sleep.

To have xflock4 run light-locker or any custom session locker, not among the five cited above, one must set in the session's xfconf channel to the command line to be used (the command inside the quotes in the following example can be adapted accordingly for other screen lockers):

The panel lock button in the Action Buttons panel simply executes . It should work as expected as long as xflock4 is functioning i.e. one of the native lockers is installed or a custom locker is configured to integrate with it as proposed above.


Whenever asked to suspend, Xfce executes the xfce4-session-logout(1) command with the option:

$ xfce4-session-logout --suspend

Whether or not the session is systematically locked on suspend can be configured through the xfconf properties or from the GUI.

To control this state using the CLI: there are two settings that are used, and , in respectively the session and the power manager xfconf channels. To prevent locking on suspend, turn them to :

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /shutdown/LockScreen -s false
$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-power-manager -p /xfce4-power-manager/lock-screen-suspend-hibernate -s false

Similarly, turn them to to lock the session on suspend.

The setting can also be controlled from the GUI: open the Session and Startup application and turn the flag Advanced > Lock screen before sleep on or off.

Whenever the suspend keyboard button is pressed, it can be handled by either Xfce's power manager or by systemd-logind. To give precedence to logind, the following xfconf setting must be set to :

$ xfconf-query --create -c xfce4-power-manager -p /xfce4-power-manager/logind-handle-suspend-key -t bool -s true

Disable saved sessions

Per user, saved sessions can be disabled by executing the following:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /general/SaveOnExit -s false

Then navigate to Applications > Settings > Session and Startup > Sessions and press the Clear saved sessions button to remove all previously saved sessions.

Tip: If the command above does not change the setting persistently, use the following command instead: xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /general/SaveOnExit -n -t bool -s false

Alternatively, Xfce kiosk mode can be used to disable the saving of sessions systemwide. To disable sessions, create or edit the file and add the following:


If kiosk mode is not working, the user can set read only permissions for the sessions directory:

$ rm ~/.cache/sessions/* && chmod 500 ~/.cache/sessions

This will prevent Xfce from saving any sessions despite any configuration that specifies otherwise.

Use a different window manager

The files specifying the default window manager are found in the following locations:

  • ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/xfce4-session.xml - per user
  • - systemwide

The default window manager for the user can be set easily using xfconf-query:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /sessions/Failsafe/Client0_Command -t string -sa xfsettingsd
$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /sessions/Failsafe/Client1_Command -t string -sa wm_name

If you want to start the window manager with command line options, see the commands below:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /sessions/Failsafe/Client0_Command -t string -sa xfsettingsd
$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /sessions/Failsafe/Client1_Command -t string -s wm_name -t string -s --wm-option

If you need more command line options, simply add more and arguments to the command.

If you want to change the default window manager systemwide, edit the file specified above manually, changing xfwm4 to the preferred window manager and adding more lines for extra command line options if needed.

You can also change the window manager by autostarting using the autostart facility or by running wm_name --replace & in a terminal and making sure the session is saved on logout. Be aware though that this method does not truly change the default manager, it merely replaces it at login. Note that if you are using the autostart facility, you should disable saved sessions as this could lead to the new window manager being started twice after the default window manager.


XFCE themes are available at xfce-look.org. Xfwm themes are stored in , and set in Settings > Window Manager. GTK themes are stored in and and are set in Settings > Appearance.

To achieve a uniform look for all applications, see Uniform look for Qt and GTK applications.

See also Cursor themes, Icons, and Font configuration.

Consistent Look Between SSD and CSD Windows

Xfce currently uses Server-Side Decorations (SSD) (see Window decoration) themed by Xfwm for most windows and Client-side decoration (CSD) themed by the respective programs for Xfce Settings, Print, Save, and other dialogs.

Xfwm SSD window styles can be themed to match the CSD windows by manually adjusting or creating themes in or by using a tool such as the Xfwm4 Theme Generator which "Creates xfwm4 themes from client side decorations."

Reverting Client-Side Decorations

To remove most CSD from Xfce, install libxfce4ui-nocsdAUR and set

$ xfconf-query -c xsettings -p /Gtk/DialogsUseHeader -s false 

This will move the Save button to the bottom of the window in Save dialogs and do the same for Print dialogs. Xfce Settings dialogs will be reverted to SSD. Programs such as Catfish will still have CSD.

To force SSD on all windows, try . Be sure to read all the instructions on the project page.

Sound themes

XFCE4 supports freedesktop system sounds, but it is not configured out of the box.

To enable a sound theme:

  1. Install for PulseAudio support;
  2. "canberra-gtk-module" should be in the GTK_MODULES environment variable (re-login may be required);
  3. Check "Enable event sounds" in Settings Manager > Appearance > Settings tab;
  4. In the Settings Editor set "xsettings/Net/SoundThemeName" to a sound theme located in ;
  5. Turn on "System Sounds" in audio mixer (e.g. pavucontrol).
provides a compatible sound theme, but it lacks many required events. A better choice is  (SoundThemeName should be "Smooth").

Keyboard volume buttons

xfce4-pulseaudio-plugin provides a panel applet which has support for keyboard volume control and volume notifications. As an alternative, you can install , which also provides keybinding and notification control, but without an icon sitting in the panel. This is handy, for example, when using at the same time for a finer control.

Alternatively, also provides a panel applet and keyboard shortcuts which supports Alsa as well. Note however, that it is based on a feature of GStreamer 0.10 which has been abandoned in 1.0.

After installing the panels, you have to add it to the taskbar or the keyboard shortcuts will not work.

For non desktop environment specific alternatives, see List of applications/Multimedia#Volume control.


If you are not using an applet or daemon that controls the volume keys, you can map volume control commands to your volume keys manually using Xfce's keyboard settings. For the sound system you are using, see the sections linked to below for the appropriate commands.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are defined in two places: Settings > Window Manager > Keyboard, and Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts.

Polkit Authentication Agent

The agent will be installed along with xfce4-session and autostarted automatically; no user intervention is required. For more information, see Polkit#Authentication agents.

A third party polkit authentication agent for Xfce is also available, see or .

Display blanking

Some programs that are commonly used with Xfce will control monitor blanking and DPMS (monitor powersaving) settings. They are discussed below.

Xfce Power Manager

Xfce Power Manager controls blanking and DPMS settings. These settings can be configured in the Power Manager GUI within the Display tab.

Note that when Display power management is turned off, DPMS is fully disabled, it does not mean that Power Manager will simply stop controlling DPMS. It does not disable screen blanking either. To disable both blanking and DPMS, right click on the power manager system tray icon or left click on the panel applet and make sure that the option labelled Presentation mode is ticked.


If is installed and runs alongside Xfce Power Manager, it may not be clear which application is in control of blanking and DPMS as both are competing for control of the same settings. Therefore, in a situation where it is important that the monitor not be blanked (when watching a video for instance), it is advisable to disable blanking and DPMS through both applications. To know more about XScreenSaver options, see XScreenSaver#DPMS and blanking settings.


If neither of the above applications are running, then blanking and DPMS settings can be controlled using the xset command, see DPMS#Modify DPMS and screensaver settings with a command.

Tips and tricks

Mounting support for Thunar and xfdesktop

If plugged external drives does not appear and installation partitions are shown as mounted devices, on the desktop and in Thunar, install . See Udisks#Hide selected partitions and Thunar#Automounting of large external drives for more advanced configuration options.


Xfce has its own screenshot tool, . It is part of the xfce4-goodies group.

Go to Applications > Settings > Keyboard, Application Shortcuts. Add the (or for the active window) command to use the key in order to take fullscreen screenshots. See for other optional arguments.

Alternatively, an independent screenshot program like scrot can be used.

Disable Terminal F1 and F11 shortcuts

The xfce terminal binds F1 and F11 to help and fullscreen, respectively, which can make using programs like htop difficult. To disable those shortcuts, create or edit its configuration file, then log out and log back in. F10 can disabled in the Preferences menu.

Terminal color themes or palettes

Terminal color themes or palettes can be changed in the GUI, under the Appearance tab in Preferences. These are the colors that are available to most console applications like Emacs, Vi and so on. The settings are stored individually for each user in their file. There are many other themes to choose from. Check forum thread Terminal Colour Scheme Screenshots for hundreds of available choices and themes.

Changing default color theme

Xfce's extra/terminal package comes with a darker colour palette. To change this, append the following in your terminalrc file for a lighter color theme, that is always visible in darker Terminal backgrounds.

Terminal tango color theme

To switch to the tango color theme, open with your favorite editor


And add (replace) these lines:


Open URLs by middle mouse in terminal

On update to version 0.8 open URL with middle mouse turned off by default and just paste clip to cursor. To enable old behavior fix next option in ( by default)


env-modules autocompletion in Terminal

The and packages provide shell autocompletion for login shells. However, by default, sessions in are not considered as login. To enable autocompletion for Environment Modules, tick the corresponding checkbox in Preferences or just change to in .

Colour management

Xfce has no native support for colour management. See ICC profiles for alternatives.

Multiple monitors

Xfce has support for multiple monitors, which can be configured in the Applications > Settings > Display dialog. In the Advanced tab, one can save profiles for different monitors and have them applied automatically as soon as the connected monitors change. For more information, see the display article from the Xfce documentation.

Alternatively, one can use arandr to manage display configurations in the form of xrandr commands which can be assigned to Xfce keyboard shortcuts.

SSH agents

By default, Xfce 4.10 will try to load gpg-agent or ssh-agent, in that order, during session initialization. To disable this, create an xfconf key using the following command:

xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /startup/ssh-agent/enabled -n -t bool -s false

To force using ssh-agent even if gpg-agent is installed, run the following instead:

xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /startup/ssh-agent/type -n -t string -s ssh-agent

To use GNOME Keyring, simply tick the checkbox Launch GNOME services on startup in the Advanced tab of Session and Startup in Xfce's settings. This will also disable gpg-agent and ssh-agent.

Source: https://docs.xfce.org/xfce/xfce4-session/advanced

Scroll a background window without shifting focus on it

Go to Main Menu > Settings > Window Manager Tweaks > Accessibility tab. Uncheck Raise windows when any mouse button is pressed.

Mouse button modifier

By default, the mouse button modifier in Xfce is set to . This can be changed with xfconf-query. For instance, the following command will set the key as the mouse button modifier:

$ xfconf-query -c xfwm4 -p /general/easy_click -n -t string -s "Super"

Strictly speaking, using multiple modifiers is not supported. However, as a workaround, multiple modifiers can be specified if the key names are separated with . For instance, to set as the mouse button modifier, you can use the following command:

$ xfconf-query -c xfwm4 -p /general/easy_click -n -t string -s "Ctrl><Alt"

Set the two fingers click to middle click for a touchpad

If you want the 2 finger click on the touchpad to do a middle click, create or edit the following file:

<channel name="pointers" version="1.0">
  <property name="SynPS2_Synaptics_TouchPad" type="empty">
    <property name="Properties" type="empty">
      <property name="Synaptics_Tap_Action" type="array">
        <value type="int" value="0"/>
        <value type="int" value="0"/>
        <value type="int" value="0"/>
        <value type="int" value="0"/>
        <value type="int" value="1"/>
        <value type="int" value="2"/>
        <value type="int" value="3"/>

The 2 in the array is the middle click.

Limit the minimum brightness of the brightness-slider

Limiting the minimum brightness can be useful for displays which turn off backlight on a brightness level of 0. In a new hidden option had been introduced to set a minimum brightness value with a xfconf4-property. Add as an int property in xfconf4. Adjust the int value to get a suitable minimum brightness level.

Adding profile pictures

To add profile pictures for each user to be displayed in the whisker-menu, simply place a 96x96 PNG file in the respective user's home directory with the name . For example the PNG file for user bob.

Image editing programs like GIMP can be used to convert and scale your favourite images down to 96x96.

Power manager plugin label

The xfconf option of type controls the label of the power manager, it can be configured for different label formats: it can be set to 0 (no label), 1 (percentage), 2 (remaining time) or 3 (both).

It is also accessible through the power manager plugin GUI in Properties > Show label

Using the Windows (Super) key for shortcuts

The Super key is treated as a modifier key, like Ctrl and Alt, instead of producing a keypress. Assigning an action to it will keep you from using it for other shortcuts, because it will trigger that action in addition to whatever else you assign to it.

To get around this, and make it more useful for shortcuts, install the application xcape. This lets you configure modifier keys to act as other keys when pressed and released on their own.

Next, go to and assign an unused key combination, say Alt-F1, to the Application menu (or whatever action you want when you press the Super key by itself). Test that it works. Next, use xcape to assign Alt-F1 to the Super key:

$ xcape -e 'Super_L=Alt_L|F1'

Check that the Super key now performs the action you assigned to Alt-F1.

If all is well, make this an autostart action ; go to , press the Add button and enter the command there to make it run every time you start Xfce (if xcape was already installed, also check that there is not already a similar entry registered).

Now, you can freely use the Super key in shortcuts. For example: In Window Manager > Keyboard, you can use Super and the up and down arrow keys for Raise window and Lower window.


Desktop icons rearrange themselves

At certain events (such as opening the panel settings dialog) icons on the desktop rearrange themselves. This is because icon positions are determined by files in the directory. Each time a change is made to the desktop (icons are added or removed or change position) a new file is generated in this directory and these files can conflict.

To solve the problem, navigate to the directory and delete all the files other than the one which correctly defines the icon positions. You can determine which file defines the correct icon positions by opening it and examining the locations of the icons. The topmost row is defined as and the leftmost column is defined by . Therefore an entry of:


means that the Firefox icon will be located on the 4th row of the leftmost column.

GTK themes not working with multiple monitors

Some configuration tools may corrupt displays.xml, which results in GTK themes under Applications Menu > Settings > Appearance ceasing to work. To fix the issue, delete and reconfigure your screens.

Icons do not appear in right-click menus

Users may find that icons do not appear when right-clicking options within some applications, including those made with Qt. This problem only appears to happen within Xfce. Run these two commands:

$ gconftool-2 --type boolean --set /desktop/gnome/interface/buttons_have_icons true
$ gconftool-2 --type boolean --set /desktop/gnome/interface/menus_have_icons true

Modifying setting does not take effect

If you are running a separate Xsettings daemon, it may make some configuration not taking effect. Disable it by removing or commenting the corresponding line and restart Xorg.

NVIDIA and xfce4-sensors-plugin

To detect and use the sensors of an NVIDIA GPU, install libxnvctrl and then rebuild with ABS. Another option is which replaces .

Black screens at boot with NVIDIA and multiple monitors

Using NVIDIA, multiple monitors and NVIDIA/Troubleshooting#Avoid screen tearing may result as a black screen when booting Xfce. The screens' position conflict into the files and . Deleting the displays.xml file fixes the behavior.

$ rm ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/displays.xml

Panel applets keep being aligned on the left

Add a separator someplace before the right end and set its "expand" property.

Preferred Applications preferences have no effect

Most applications rely on xdg-open for opening a preferred application for a given file or URL.

In order for xdg-open and xdg-settings to detect and integrate with the Xfce desktop environment correctly, you need to install the package.

If you do not do that, your preferred applications preferences (set by exo-preferred-applications) will not be obeyed. Installing the package and allowing xdg-open to detect that you are running Xfce makes it forward all calls to exo-open instead, which correctly uses all your preferred applications preferences.

To make sure xdg-open integration is working correctly, ask xdg-settings for the default web browser and see what the result is:

# xdg-settings get default-web-browser

If it replies with:

xdg-settings: unknown desktop environment

it means that it has failed to detect Xfce as your desktop environment, which is likely due to a missing package.

Restore default settings

If for any reason you need to revert back: to the default settings, rename and

$ mv ~/.config/xfce4-session/ ~/.config/xfce4-session-bak
$ mv ~/.config/xfce4/ ~/.config/xfce4-bak

Relogin for changes to take effect. If you get upon login, see the #Session failure section.

Session failure

Symptoms include:

  • The mouse is an X and/or does not appear at all;
  • Window decorations have disappeared and windows cannot be closed;
  • (xfwm4-settings) will not start, reporting ;
  • Errors reported by a display manager such as .
  • Unable to load a failsafe session:
Unable to load a failsafe session.
Unable to determine failsafe session name.  Possible causes: xfconfd is not running (D-Bus setup problem); environment variable $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS is set incorrectly (must include "/etc"), or xfce4-session is installed incorrectly. 

Restarting Xfce or rebooting your system may solve the problem, but a corrupt session could also be the cause. Delete the session folder:

$ rm -r ~/.cache/sessions/

Also make sure that the relevant folders in are owned by the user starting . See Chown.

Fonts in window title crashing xfce4-title

Install ttf-droid and . See also .

Laptop lid settings ignored

You may find that the lid close settings in Xfce4 Power Manager are ignored, meaning that the laptop will always suspend on lid close, no matter what settings are chosen in the power manager. This is because the power manager is not set to handle lid close events by default. Instead, systemd-logind handles the lid close event. To change this behavior so that the power manager handles lid close events, execute the following command:

$ xfconf-query -c xfce4-power-manager -p /xfce4-power-manager/logind-handle-lid-switch -s false

User switching action button is greyed out

The Switch User action button assumes that the gdmflexiserver executable (provided by GDM) exists. Thus, if GDM is not being used, the button will be greyed out. See the upstream bug report.

A possible workaround is to create an executable script called gdmflexiserver in or which calls the greeter switch command provided by the display manager which is being used.

Macros in .Xresources not working

Xfce loads $HOME/.Xresources file using , but with option to skip preprocessing. For macros to work properly, copy to directory and remove option to from the resulting file. See the related forum topic.

Cursor theme does not change on login

Ensure the systemwide XDG cursor is set to your desired cursor theme—see Cursor themes#XDG specification.

Mousepad editor menu bar is not visible

Run the following to make it visible:

$ gsettings set org.xfce.mousepad.preferences.window menubar-visible true

Trash icon not visible and trash applet does not work

Trash requires the optional dependency gvfs to work. Install and reboot the system.

Desktop turns grey and all desktop icons disappear

Delete by running:

$ rm -rf ~/.cache/sessions

Restart Xfce afterwards.

Weather plugin forgets labels

This is a known bug. The workaround is to make a backup of config files and recover them when the problem occurs. You can use scripts from this bug report.

See also

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