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Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for Unix-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly.xfce.org

Avoiding GNOME & other large, unnecessary deps

Avoiding optional GNOME support and packages will keep your system more lean and congruous.

Ensure you're using the basic desktop profile:

root #eselect profile list

You'll want the one that ends with …/desktop (not …/gnome or …/kde):

root #eselect profile set 3

app-text/poppler and dev-util/cmake have the qt4 USE flag:

root #echo 'app-text/poppler -qt4' >> /etc/portage/package.use
root #echo 'dev-util/cmake -qt4' >> /etc/portage/package.use

You may also simply want to disable the qt4 flag globally in make.conf.

gnome-base/gvfs has an http USE flag which draws in many GNOME deps you may find unnecessary:

root #echo 'gnome-base/gvfs -http' >> /etc/portage/package.use

Without explicitly including xfce-extra/xfce4-notifyd in your emerge command, virtual/notification-daemon will draw in GNOME's x11-misc/notification-daemon instead:

root #emerge --ask xfce4-meta xfce4-notifyd; emerge --deselect y xfce4-notifyd


In /etc/portage/make.conf, you can add/customize this line: XFCE_PLUGINS="brightness clock trash".

root #echo 'XFCE_PLUGINS="brightness clock trash"' >> /etc/portage/make.conf

The above options may change, the current list is available here.

Install the complete Xfce desktop:

root #emerge --ask xfce4-meta xfce4-notifyd; emerge --deselect y xfce4-notifyd

Or you can select only needed packages:

root #emerge --ask xfwm4 xfce4-panel

Terminal emulator

You may need a terminal emulator for Xfce:

root #emerge --ask x11-terms/xfce4-terminal



To start Xfce you can use a display manager, startx, or startxfce4.

Advanced Configuration

Volume keys


Install xfce-extra/xfce4-volumed:

root #emerge --ask xfce4-volumed

or if using pulse with xfce4

Install xfce-extra/xfce4-volumed-pulse:

root #emerge --ask xfce4-volumed-pulse

Keyboard shortcuts

Run xfce4-keyboard-settings to bind following keys:

  • volume up button: amixer set Master 5%+
  • volume down button: amixer set Master 5%-
  • mute button: amixer set Master toggle

Consistent GTK+ 3 theme

Native Xfce theme engine

Xfce's own theme engine, x11-themes/gtk-engines-xfce, was recently updated to version 3.0, which implements native support for GTK+ 3 with no further configuration.

Assuming that you have gtk3 in your USE flags, the GTK+ 3 version (-r300) should be pulled in by default if you have xfce-base/xfce4-meta or x11-themes/gtk-engines-xfce in your world set and you do a world upgrade with the --deep option. If it does not, simply do a:

root #emerge --ask gtk-engines-xfce

This should pull in a version of gtk-engines-xfce with the suffix -r300 in a new slot.

After emerging the GTK+ 3 version of gtk-engines-xfce, applications using GTK+ 3 should now blend nicely with applications using GTK+ 2 when you use one of the native Xfce themes.

Greybird theme

Another option is to use the Greybird theme, which has support for GTK+ 2, GTK+ 3, xfwm4, emerald, & metacity:

root #emerge --ask x11-themes/greybird

Go to Xfce menu -> Settings -> Appearance. Or run xfce4-appearance-settings. Select "Greybird" from the "Style" list.

Now GTK+ 2 and GTK+ 3 applications should have a consistent look.

Other themes

Other themes available in Portage that are compatible with XFCE can be emerged with the following list

root #emerge --ask x11-themes/clearlooks-phenix x11-themes/gnome-themes-standard x11-themes/gtk-engines-aurora x11-themes/light-themes x11-themes/murrine-themes x11-themes/nimbus x11-themes/oxygen-molecule x11-themes/redhat-artwork x11-themes/shiki-colors x11-themes/tactile3 x11-themes/zukini

Additional applications

More resources