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Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment that aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly.


XFCE Applications

The first time you start XFCE4, you will see the message shown in Figure 6.5a:

Figure 6.5a: Panel Welcome Message


In XFCE, a panel is a bar which can hold many items such as application launchers, windows lists, clock, notification area, and applications menus. Your initial panel setup options are:

  • Migrate old config: select this option if you wish to have a single panel with an application launcher and other icons as shown in Figure 6.5b. The application launcher menu may be reached from the upper left, or by a right-click on the desktop.
  • Use default config: this option will install a large panel across the top and a small minimal panel centered on the bottom. The application launcher menu may be accessed by the fireball icon in the lower left, or by a right-click on the desktop.
  • One empty panel: this option will install a panel with no icons. The application menu is available by right-clicking the desktop as shown in Figures 6.5b and 6.5c.

Figure 6.5b shows a screenshot of XFCE4 running on a PC-BSD 9.1 with the application menu open:

Figure 6.5b: XFCE with Complete Panel Migrated From Old Config


Figure 6.5c: XFCE with Minimal Panel Using Default Config


In order to restore the prior configuration choice, reset the panel within the settings editor as shown in Figure 6.5d, and then exit to the login prompt without saving session info. The next login to XFCE will present the panel configuration choice again.

Figure 6.5d: Settings Editor to reset xfce-panel. SettingsEd.png

In addition to PC-BSD's utilities, XFCE provides the following utilities:

  • Ristretto: fast and light-weight picture viewer found in Graphics ➜ Ristretto Photo Viewer.
  • Midori: light-weight graphical browser found in Internet ➜ Midori.
  • Xfburn: CD/DVD burning tool found in Multimedia ➜ Xfburn.
  • Orage: calendar and reminder daemon found in Office ➜ Orage Calendar.
  • Xfesktop: desktop manager found in Settings ➜ Destkop. Sets the background image, provides a right-click menu to launch applications, and can show files (including application launchers) or iconified windows.
  • Xfwm4: window manager found in Settings ➜ Window Manager. It provides window decorations, virtual desktops, multiscreen mode, transparency and a keyboard shorcuts editor.
  • Thunar: file manager found in System ➜ Thunar File Manager.

A list of recommended applications for XFCE can be found on the XFCE Wiki.

Editing the Menu

XFCE no longer includes a graphical menu editor. The XFCE team recommends using alacarte which is included with PC-BSD's version of XFCE4 and which can be started by typing alacarte within an xterm.

Figure 6.5e shows a screenshot of alacarte running on PC-BSD.

Figure 6.5e: Using alacarte to Customize Applications Menu


Any entry with a checkbox will appear in your menu. To remove an item from the menu, simply uncheck its box. To create a new menu category, either highlight a top-level menu (e.g. KDE Menu or System) or an existing category and click the New Menu button. To add a new entry, highlight the category where you wish the entry to appear and click the New Item button. Input a name for the entry, browse to the path of the application and press OK.

Mounting Devices

In 2011, XFCE announced that it would no longer support the hald device notifier (used by most open source operating systems, including PC-BSD) in favour of udev which is only supported on Linux. This meant that device notification and auto mounting within XFCE would no longer work on BSD systems.

PC-BSD uses an amount script and daemon to monitor devd for insert and removal notifications and to notify the running desktop. This means that if you insert a device while running XFCE, it will be automatically mounted. Since the script and daemon are part of the operating system, it will not matter which window manager you are running, automounting should "just work”.

XFCE Plugins

XFCE supports many plugins which provide additional applications that are separate from the official XFCE distribution. You can browse for plugins and read descriptions for each at the XFCE goodies website If you find a plugin that is not available within AppCafe®, this README explains how to determine if a FreeBSD port is available, how to request a PBI if a port is available, and how to request a port if one does not already exist.

After installing a plugin, go to Settings ➜ Panel ➜ Items and click the + button to see the Add New Items screen shown in Figure 6.5.f.

Figure 6.5.f: Adding a Plugin to the Panel


Simply select your new plugin from the list, and click the +Add button. It will immediately be added as an icon in the panel.

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