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The Xfce menu

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The Xfce desktop installs a menu file to store content of menu, which are: root entries (Run program etc) and sub-menus.  This file looks for 1. .directory files, to get the right icon for each sub-menu, 2. .desktop files so as to populate the sub-menus with programs, sorting them using the categories set in the .desktop files.  To edit the menu root entries, to add or remove sub-menus, and to change the categories assigned to sub-menus, the menu file needs to be copied from /usr... to /home... 
(so it can be edited without root privileges).  Xfce will look in /home first before referring to the files in /usr.  To put items under the right menus the .desktop file for each item needs to be copied over to /home as well.

Official guide is at the xfce wiki

Basically, copy the menu file "" from /etc/xdg/menus/ to ~/.config/menus
navigate to /user/share/applications and copy the whole lot over to ~/.local/share/applications
  • remove root entries from the menu like web browser, about xfce, help -find their .desktop file and remove the line X-Xfce-Toplevel
  • refine categories for sub-menus: in the copied menu file edit the submenu entries
  • add sub-menus: straight forward business of copying a sub-menu entry, from <Menu> ... </Menu>, and changing its name and category
    then you must add a .directory file for the new sub-menu in ~/.local/share/desktop-directories with the content:
[Desktop Entry]
Comment=GPS apps
    (my example) the name must be the same as for the sub-menu and the sub-menu entry must point to the .directory file name to locate it.
get the icon name from launcher properties "select an icon". 
  • put programs in the right sub-menu: easiest way is to look through the Xfce menus for programs in the wrong places, then find the .desktop file and alter the category (don't forget to look in the kde folder too).
  • idea! to de-clutter the Settings menu, take off everything that's available in settings manager: add the line "NoDisplay=true" to the .desktop file.
Handy tip: to omit a program from the menu entirely (such as things that get installed as dependencies, like nepomuk backup, nepomukcontroller, akonaditray, dngconverter, expoblending etc) open the .desktop file for each one and add the line NoDisplay=true and save it -it will not show any more.

The LXDE menu editor can be used* as well, to change the category of a program in the menu, by simply going to an entry and editing it's category.  install lxmenueditor from sourceforge.  Alacarte does not affect Xfce menu.

*It has its glitches though. I've had much better success with this by altering the .desktop files with the first method.



firstly, I've gone transparent, 0% alpha
then I've removed window buttons (=icon box?) from the top panel (this made the notification icons join up with launchers on the left, so just added a separator and made it transparent in its properties).
then i made another panel to the right, horizontal (so it won't obstruct the scroll bar too much), quite long, and added window buttons to it (checked show flat buttons in properties), 0% alpha, auto show/hide and locked.
on the top panel i disabled tooltips for launchers (set one by one). It's a bit crazy.
window button panel: make size 49 to have large icons, length 1 to keep icons to the edge. 

Or as shown below, move the new window button panel to the desktop bottom and increase the length so that it's easy to find with the mouse at bottom edge (this works much better!).

note: if opcacity of inactive windows is set to low, you need to make a quick mouse move from the window button to the window or else the innactive window underneath will appear as the mouse moves over it (with "focus follows mouse") - covering the active one (only from view not ontop of it).

Tip: mouse scroll button on the window buttons panel cycles -from one end to the other- through the open app's.
It seems to be buggy for me -sometimes no windows restore when clicking on a button, but the one clicked on starts flashing when mouse is off it, or it remains highlighted.  Mouse scroll does nothing too.  Alt-Tab works normally to cycle windows.
Have not had this happen since building 4.10

my panels
I have three panels at the left, fixed positions at top/bottom/middle, auto-hide, size 27, 
  • the top one I filled with launchers for main programmes 
  • the bottom panel with launchers for tools 
  • a panel in the space between top n bottom panels for backup programs 
  • then a lower left panel for my less frequently used edit programmes 
  • at top left on top panel I've got the essential app's 
  • plus another three-row panel at side with all the xfce settings (er my settings manager is empty of items somehow!)
  • and of course, the large panel bottom center for "Window buttons"
(I changed some of the icons at the top for 'symbolic' ones which are grey).

note: the top launcher on the top left side panel can't cover the xfce menu button or the top button might disappearso need to move the panel down and lock its position.
if you want to fill the panels with plenty of launchers you can add lines or rows of icons in panel pref's (xfce 4.10) or with a 'separator' (or more than one) which is set to 'new-line' (4.8).
  • also a panel down at bottom for my work files, for quick access!

my panels (normally set to auto-hide)

add launchers for documents: 
1. add new launcher to a panel for xfwrite or LibreOffice 3.5 Writer, 2. follow the command with the file location 
e.g. xfwrite ./Documents/subdir/doc.txt 
or xfwrite ./Documents/subdir/new\ doc.txt 
libreoffice3.5 --writer %U ./Documents/doc.odt (need to reset launcher icon after)

resize the notification icons in Panel properties > Items tab > edit Notification area
adjust the alpha of panels to give translucence, set to 0 to make panels invisible with bright icons (see below) -but 1st check "enable display compositing" in Windows Tweaks, Settings manager.

remove tooltips for launchers in panel peoperties >items
panels on left need 40% opacity at least so that the icons are visible when xfe is open

change desktop colours

xfce themes wiki

guide to editing xfce themes -change the panel color (actually after dist upgrade to wheezy the panel settings are more like Xfce's in xubuntu, so just set each panel background color)
got annoyed yet with the lovely square blue button showing on your panels when you hover on launchers? (depends on the theme you have)
you can change that and lots more, using gnome color chooser
-buttons tab >hover -set background, >pressed -set color
-specific tab >tooltips -set bkg (scroll bar/progress bar colors can be set here)
-engines tab >buttons -set the style of hover (progress bar style also, but start menu and tooltips have no effect)
Places and Mount drives applets didn't change hover color however, until I removed them and added them again to the panel.

also on the specific tab Window decoration >Compiz -sets window bar color (including Chromium) and the top window buttons.
>Global colors tab >Normal >normal bkg and >hover bkg will hit the xfce menu.  hits other window material too including the system load monitor/network monitor applets!  
>Global tab >Normal >disabled hits the inactive window bar, plus much more like inactive fields.
>Global tab >Entry fields >normal/selected/active -set colors -this colours a lot of app windows (makes kdenlive nice).


!if ever the windows manager goes hay-wire -like windows loose decoration and stick in the top left corner covering each-other, close programs with the menu quit, then open Run Program with ALT-F2 type xfwm4 --replace and hit enter

set inactive windows to 15% opacity in Compositor (Windows Tweaks) -moving the mouse off a window immediately brings others to life (with Windows Manager > Focus tab >Focus follows mouse -checked) but you must click in the window underneath the active one to bring it up and not have the active one reshowing.  But if there's a typing field in a window underneath you can type there by focusing with mouse.
but if it drive you mad, especially with Gimp and pop-up confirmation boxes, set the opacity to 80%.

With "automatically raise window when window receives focus" checked there's no need to click to bring window to active.  But if the window underneath is a maximised one there'll be no switching back to the previous window with the mouse focus, only Alt-Tab, Shift-Alt-Pgdn or panel.  I prefer it unchecked.

In Settings Mgr >Notifications -set opacity, -default is quite xfce, smoke is gnome

there are some things that are only changed by the theme, such as the window title bar style and font colour
Settings Manager:
Window manager >style -change to Totem
Appearance >Style -change to Xfce-4.6  >icons tango  >fonts -bitstream charter 10 
Notifications >decrease opacity

libreoffice writer >Options >appearance -doc bkg to violet, application bkg to grey 80

change the clock format and colour

clock applet
with digital display you can select Custom Format, then use codes, %c full time n date n time %R hour n minute %H hour %M minute %S seconds %x date %X local time 12hr, %s seconds of the day! %A wk day %d day of month %m month numeral %h month name %g year numeral  

with a span around it to change the colour/font e.g. <span color="#D5AE18" font="Webdings 10"> %R:%S %d.%h </span>

Orage clock
easy to set colour n font (foreground means the clock digits), 

keyboard shortcuts (key-bindings)

This one baffled me for a long time!  I thought that keyboard shortcuts were disabled on my box.  Until finally I looked at the Xfce docs page! here
also some help here

It's really simple to set a keyboard shortcut for any app.  For example Super-F1 for Thunar, Super-F2 for Chromium, Super-F3 for Xfwrite, Super-F4 for Xfce4-terminal etc.
  1. go to Keyboard in settings
  2. click on the Add button
  3. enter the command that launches the app (find it from a launcher on a panel)
  4. in the next dialogue, press your shortcut key combination
  5. it will be applied immediately
  6. edit any shortcuts by double clicking them
Use the command xfdesktop -menu to pop up the Xfce menu at the mouse location.
Use the command xfce4-popup-applicationsmenu to pop up the menu on the panel (Ctrl-Escape for me).

tiling windows

  1. sudo apt-get install x-tile
  2. add to start up apps with "x-tile" command
  3. start and in Preferences check "Only current workspace" and "Start minimised.."
  4. if you have two panels at the top, left and right, you can switch workspaces with the mouse scroll button in the space between them 
  5. move to a clean workspace and open two thunar windows with your short-cut key, e.g. Super-1, then right click on x-tile in system tray and select how you'd like to tile them.
I found that I didn't really need this app, although it is fast if you have to tile app windows often.
With Thunar I open two on their own workspace and arrange them to split the screen horizontally, top and bottom.  Then I switch workspaces to get to other apps using Ctrl-Alt-left/right or the scroll button with the mouse pointer on the space between my two top panels (i.e. on the desktop) or on the workspace switcher buttons.  A very helpful thing to have is the workspaces plugin on the panel, and I like it with "show miniature" unchecked (you need to make names for workspaces in Settings manager >Workspaces >click on the name twice or Enter).
Save session on logging out will have them open on their workspace the next time X is booted -or you can go to Sessions and save the session once its how you'd like it to be on start-up.

So here, below, are my Xfce4-Terminal with no window deco, and two thunar windows with the lower one shrunk down, on two of my workspaces.


david quinton,
May 17, 2012, 10:34 AM