Copyright (C) 2012 by
Steve Litt. All rights
Materials from guest authors copyrighted by them and licensed for
use to Linux Productivity Magazine. All rights reserved to the
holder, except for items specifically marked otherwise (certain free
source code, GNU/GPL, etc.). All material herein provided "As-Is". User
all risk and responsibility for any outcome.
| Back Issues |Troubleshooting
graphical environment is of zero use if the mouse is too slow. -- Steve Litt.
By Steve Litt
I've been installing Ubuntu 11.10 on laptop after
laptop, over and over again, and using the LXDE desktop environment
because it's clean, fast, light weight, has everything you need, and it
isn't Unity. So when I upgraded my daily driver desktop from Ubuntu
11.04 to 11.10 in mid-May, 2012, I wasn't a bit surprised to see
classic Gnome go away and Unity take its place. I installed LXDE and
got to work.
The mouse was incredibly slow in LXDE. You'd actually need to lift the
mouse, lower it, and put it down again to get enough mousepad room to
move the mouse pointer from top to bottom of the screen. I was able to
jack up the acceleration enough to compensate, but then you needed a
drive, a green shot and a putt to click on a window's menu item. Even
if I cranked the sensitivity setting to 100% in LXDE's lxinput
program, the mouse was slower than in other desktop environments. A few
minutes of web research showed I wasn't the only one having this
problem, and the prognosis is bleak. There were a few threads with
suggestions for a fix, but invariably the suggestion failed the reader,
or else it failed on my machine.
I hadn't had this problem on the laptops I'd installed Ubuntu 11.10 on,
so I'm guessing the problem stems from the fact that my daily driver
desktop uses a PS2 mouse
through a KVM switch. And that's something I'm not going to change in a
hurry -- I want to access three computers with my keyboard, mouse and
monitor, so KVM is necessary, and this KVM is PS/2, not USB or
Ethernet. It was clear I'd need something other than LXDE. Unity's not
bad on a machine with 4GB of RAM, but I don't want to depend on Unity.
Gnome 3 is unfathomable, and KDE stands for Krash, Delay, Expand. A
month ago I purged my computer of every KDE app and library; I'm sure
not going to put them back. So what could I do?
For most of this century, people I respected have sung the praises of
Xfce. I've tried Xfce many times, and it disappointed me every time.
I didn't like its layout. Then, a few months ago while using the latest version of System Rescue
CD, I noticed its clean and useful user interface. Further research
revealed that System Rescue CD was using Xfce, so maybe it could be
configured to have a start button and a taskbar. I installed Xfce4, and
got down to work. Within four hours I had a very nice, very useable,
and fairly lightweight desktop environment.
This document is written with a Ubuntu slant. Ubuntu is what I have.
Also, Ubuntu is the distro that moved to Unity -- the desktop most
folks want to get away from.
If you're looking for an excellent Linux desktop environment, kick back
and enjoy this issue
Getting Started with Xfce
By Steve Litt
From a tty terminal (Ctrl+Alt+F2 or similar), do this:
sudo apt-get install xfce4
Next, reboot your computer (sometimes this is necessary), and after
putting your login name in, but before entering your password, click on
the little gear to the upper left of the password field and choose
"Xfce session". Input your password and you'll be brought to the Xfce
desktop. Before doing anything else, look around your screen.
At the lower center you have a short bar with several icons. None of
them is a start menu. Now look at the top. There's a bar stretching all
the way across the screen. At that bar's left is a start button. Click
it and start a terminal. You'll now see a button come up on the bar,
representing the terminal you just opened. Open another app and another
button will appear on the upper bar. In other words, as installed by
Ubuntu's package manager, Xfce has the entire taskbar on top, and a bar
with a few handy icons on the bottom. If you want, you can operate the
machine like this. But every taskbar based window manager I've ever
seen had the buttons representing the running programs on the bottom.
So the remainder of this document will go over how to customize your
One more thing. Xfce's default keystrokes for maneuvering between
workspaces are Ctrl+Alt+Right and Ctrl+Alt+Left. Use them, and for the
time being don't
worry about key combos to get to specific workspaces.
By Steve LittLook once more at the taskbar on the top and the
bar with tools on the bottom. They're different lengths, they appear to
perform different functions, but they're in fact the same thing: Xfce
panels. You can easily configure either to look like the other.
Here are some ways you can configure a panel:
You can also add more panels (one on the side, for instance) or you can
delete one or more panel.
- Make it moveable or immoveable with the "Lock" property.
- If it's moveable, you can move it. Then you can lock it so it
- Set its length.
- Make it stretchable, in which case if more icons are added to it it will
- Set its width. Go wider for better visibility and icon
recognition, narrower to conserve screen real estate.
- Add various launchers, taskbar apps, notification areas, and the
- Reorder these panel items on the panel, or move them to
Instructions for doing all these activities will be given later in this
By Steve Litt
Xfce is insanely configurable, but you can use
the Settings Manager to do most of the basics. You get to the Settings
Manager as follows:
The Settings Manager looks like this:
Take a good long look at the Settings Manager window pictured above.
You can see that most configuration can be done right from there. If
other configuration is needed, that's available elsewhere on the
Start->Settings submenu, but let's not worry about that now.
When you click on a Settings Manager icon, you'll be brought to the
settings window for that element. Some of these windows are separate
windows, so you manipulate them and close them. Others of these windows
simply write over the existing Settings Manager window, so you
manipulate them and then, when you're done, press the Overview button
at the lower left to tell the Settings Manager to put itself back on
The first thing you're going to want to customize is the mouse.
Fast, slow, accellerated, steady, everyone has a different preference. Click the mouse icon and you'll
Here's where you can set your acceleration and threshold. By setting my
threshold extremely low and the acceleration fairly high, I made my
mouse fast all the time, just like on a Windows 98 machine. You might
want to set yours very differently. Also note that on this screen you
can make your mouse right or left handed.
The Behavior and Theme tabs contain less-needed configurations, but
feel free to explore them, always remembering how they were to start so
you can put them back if desired. When you're done configuring your
mouse, click the Overview button and you'll return to the Settings
Preferred Applications Settings
Next you'll probably want to look at the Preferred Applications
settings. A screenshot isn't necessary because it's self-explanatory --
this is where you set your preferred web browser, mail reader, file
manager and terminal emulator. This can be pretty important. Unless you
have a bigger tolerance for slow and bloat than I do, you're going to
want to make sure your file manager isn't Nautilus. Many other file
managers have inadequate feature sets, others have tiny unreadable
fonts, and still others crash frequently. It's actually hard to find a
good file manager. For use on Xfce I'd recommend Xfce's own file
manager, Thunar. My experience is that on other desktop environments
Thunar crashes frequently, but on Xfce it's solid and has all the right
You'll want to set your preferred browser to whatever you like. I
wouldn't even begin to make a recommendation there. Same with email,
except I'd personally recommend against Kmail.
This is where you set your number of workspaces if you're like me and
want a lot of them. You can also set workspace margins here if you have
a reason to.
Do NOT use the Keyboard Settings available
from the Settings manager. For reasons known only to the Xfce
developers, this particular Keyboard Settings screen has no Add button
on the hotkey list, so you can't add new hotkeys if you need to -- you can only
change existing ones. If you need to work with hotkeys, use
Start->Settings->Keyboard, whose Applications Shortcuts tab
contains Add and Remove buttons for full functionality.
Why oh why oh why do software developers give the user parallel and
incompatible ways to do something? Isn't the user confused enough
without this? I'm not singling out Xfce here -- many, many programs
needlessly have parallel ways of doing something, and often they commit
the nasty sin of having those parallel ways be different, for no
apparent reason at all.
Session and Startup Settings
Here's another one you need to stay away from because of its lack of an
add button. Same rant applies. If you need to deal with which programs
start up, or other session type activities, from the menu do
Here's where you do some basic look and feel of the desktop -- the
stuff that's not related to windows and widgets. Specifically, you
can select the background image or lack thereof, and if you don't use a
background image, the color of the desktop. You can also choose whether
or not to show the contents of $HOME/Desktop as icons on the desktop.
My personal belief is to avoid utter ugliness, if you use icons don't
use an image, but your mileage may vary.
The Desktop settings window also enables you to fine-tune the look of
the menu system. Personally, until you have a very strong opinion, I'd
leave well enough alone and accept the defaults for the menu look and
Removable Drives and Media Settings
I think this window has great defaults and would personally leave them
as-is in the beginning, but this is such a complex and ultimately
important configuration that it deserves a few words.
|Here's the storage tab for
removeable drives and media settings. The defaults, shown to the left
(at least for Ubuntu 11.10), are what I'd consider smart defaults.
Basically, when you plug in a drive or media, it is mounted and
|To the left is the Multimedia
tab, enabling your computer to automatically play/display the
multimedia when it's first inserted/connected. This can be convenient
if you do it often.
That being said, when it comes to listening to music on CDs, I'm not a
fan. Over time, the constant fingerprints and scratches take their
toll, eventually making the CD skip and do other stupid stuff. Just
like vinyl before it.
a big fan of ripping, then treating the CD as an archival copy
while using the .ogg files every day. Ripping scans bad areas of the CD
again and again until the digital signal is deduced. So it does its
skipping on ripping, not on listening. With an old, beat up CD, your
listening experience on the resulting .ogg files is often as if the CD
were brand new.
I'm not a lawyer, but from what I read ripping is of questionable legality, with people smarter than me
arguing both sides of the issue. Be careful.
|On the Removeable drives and
Media page, you can set programs to run whenever a keyboard, mouse or
tablet is connected. One very handy thing would be to disable the
mousepad whenever a USB mouse is plugged in, and restore the mousepad
when the USB mouse is disconnected. But there's no corresponding
program to run when it's disconnected, so my view is you're better off
using software specifically made to handle mice, such as touchpad-indicator.
Window Manager Settings and Appearance Settings
The Window Manager Settings window has many important functions.
Hotkeys are probably the most important, but we'll save those for
another article. This article discusses only the themes and other style
elements of windows. Also discussed in this article are the Appearance
settings, style tab, which primarily govern colors and therefore
influence Window Manager settings. The look and legibility of your
computer depends on the combination of the Appearance Settings style
and Window Manager style. This is important, because the windows in a
heck of a lot of Xfce themes lack discernable borders, and if you're
the kind of person who gets disoriented when two windows blend into
each other, or if you just have bad vision, you're better off to have
discernable borders. If you look at the screenshots in this document,
you'll see they have thick green borders. I have bad vision, and need
all the help I can get. A combination of the Defcon-IV Window Manager
style and the Xfce-saltlake Appearance style made that happen. You
might opt for something less gaudy.
|To the left is the style tab
Window Manager settings window. First and foremost, you set a theme
that, combined with a theme for the Apperance settings window, gives
you the borders (or lack thereof), legibility and aesthetics you want.
One fascinating change you can make is the "Enable Editable
Accelerators" checkbox on the Settings tab of the Appearance Settings
window. If checked, it enables you to mouse-hover a
menu item, and press a key combination to add/change a hotkey for that
menu item. This is very handy if you remember what you've done and use
it with respect, very bad otherwise. I doubt you'd ever check this if
you're rolling out Ubuntu setups to several people and you need to
maintain the systems.
The few things discussed in this article take you a long way to having
a functional machine you can enjoy. Stay tuned for the rest of the
By Steve Litt
The most productive among us use the keyboard as much
as possible. In the time it takes a mouse afficianado to reach for a
mouse, navigate to a link, click it, and put his hands back on the
keyboard, the keyboard ninja can have done five additional things. In
any software, hotkeys greatly enhance the value of being a touch-typist.
In a desktop environment like Xfce, LXDE, IceWM, Unity, Gnome and KDE,
there are two distinct kinds of hotkeys, which may or may not be
Xfce treats these two hotkey types differently, with the window manager
hotkeys being adjusted in the Keyboard tab of the Window Manager
Settings window, and hotkeys to run programs being set in the
Application Shortcuts tab of the Keyboard Settings window.
- Hotkeys for window manager operations (close window, change
- Hotkeys to run programs (like UMENU or Gnumeric)
There are two Keyboard Settings windows, or possibly two different ways
to get to the same window. Either way, if you get to this window from
the Settings Manager window, the add and remove buttons don't appear,
so it would be useless except to change existing hotkeys. The way YOU
need to get to the Keyboard Settings window is through this menu
This is one of the few places where I see a serious goof on the part of
the Xfce developers. For the most part Xfce is mature, well thought
out, and an outstanding desktop environment.
Pay close attention to the following description of the Application
Shortcuts tab of the Keyboard settings window,
because this screen can be a little tricky. For one thing, even though
it looks like a display of several rows that you would doubleclick and
then set both the command and the key combo, that's not how it works.
|If you doubleclick under the
Command column heading, you can change the
command but not the key combo. On the other hand, if you doubleclick
under the Shortcut column heading, you can set the key combo but not
the command. Changing the command is intuitive.
The hotkey, not so much...
To change a hotkey, doubleclick in the the shortcut column and you
get a dialog box like this:
Be VERY careful with the hotkey setting procedure associated with the
preceding dialog box. The idea, not at all intuitive, is to press the
desired keystroke combo while the preceding dialog box has focus, and
your keystroke will become associated with the command. Sounds simple
once explained, but with Control Key combos, there's a gotcha.
If you're using a Control Key combo, press the
other key very soon after the Control key. If too much time elapses
with you pressing just the Control key, the dialog box records a Ctrl+L
and terminates. Who knew? Also, I had one case where something I did
with this dialog box erased the hotkey. The whole hotkey thing isn't
one of Xfce's
Now let's discuss setting window manager hotkeys...
|To the left is the Keyboard
tab of the Window Manager Settings window. This is how you configure
invoking window manager operations such as cycling windows, changing
workspaces, and the like. You use the same methods discussed with the
application shortcuts discussed previously, with all the same gotchas.
Everyone needs their hotkeys optimized for their work methods. This is
vitally important. Xfce's method for associating keystroke combos with
actions is a little strange, but once forewarned, you'll appreciate the
complete configurability of Xfce hotkeys.
Setting Up Your Panels
By Steve Litt
It's arguable, but my opinion is that a window
manager's method of starting apps and choosing/switching windows is the
top productivity priority. Unity's "guess and a prayer" method of
finding seldom used programs, plus its ability to store only about12
buttons for running apps, make it an unlikely daily driver for me.
Don't EVEN get me started on Gnome 3 (how could they butcher Gnome 2 so
badly?), or Windows 7 (same question relative to Win95), or, to a
lesser extent, the Linux Mint interface. Me, I like a hierarchical menu,
and plenty of space to show buttons for running apps. I believe the one thing Bill Gates did
right was Win95's user interface.
Your opinion may differ. I like my running program buttons on the
bottom. You might like them on the side. I like a Start button, you may
prefer a more Unity/Win7/Gnome3/Mint warm and fuzzy, like the Xfce
Application Finder yields. You're going to have to set up your user
interface the way you like it, and in Xfce, that means deploying and
populating panels. Different Xfce setups can look and act like totally
different window managers, thanks to differences in in the way panels
are deployed and populated. It wouldn't even be that hard to mimic
Unity with a single left-side panel whose top slot has the Xfce
Application Finder, perhaps dressed up with one of those radioactive
looking icons and "Dash home" for the hover text. This article explains
how to customize your panels.
Before setting up your panels, make sure you've installed the
xfce4-goodies package. That's what gives you the essential CPU graph on
and also gives you a lot of other stuff you might like, including a
battery monitor so important if you're using a laptop.
Step 1 is Start->Settings->Panel (or pick Panel from the Settings
Manager), which brings up the Panel Settings window, with the Display
|At the left is the display
tab of the Panel Settings window. At the top of the window is a
choose which panel you're editing. To the dropdown's right is a plus
sign to add another panel, and a minus sign to remove the one currently chosen in
the dropdown. These three items appear on every tab of the Panel
Settings window. Below those three comes the tabbed area. In the
Display tab is a dropdown to select horizontal or vertical (vertical
would be used to make something like Unity's bar along the left hand
side). The Lock Panel prevents dragging the panel. In practice you'd
have that off while you place the panel where you want it, and then
check it. Note that the Lock Panel checkbox DOES NOT prevent moving
items within the panel, it only prevents moving the panel itself.
The "Automatically show and hide the panel" is if you want
the panel to remain hidden until you mouse to the edge where it sits.
Initially that sounds like a bad idea, especially if the panel contains
a workspace switcher, clock or CPU graph at which you regularly want to
glance. But popup panels can be a wonderful source of extra clickable
icons at no expense to your screen real estate. You could have one or
two panels stay visible at all time, and another one or two that pop up
when you mouse to their screen edge. Makes perfect sense.
Still referring to the display tab of the Panel Settings window
last but not least are the measurements. Size is a tradeoff between
icon legibility and screen real estate -- adjust accordingly. As far as
length, you should have at least one always-visible panel that doesn't
cover the whole screen edge so there's always a piece of desktop to
right or center click. Be very careful of "Automatically
increase the length", as it can cause part of a panel to walk off the
screen. In my opinion, the best time to check this is when you're
working on a panel's design, and you don't want to have to keep
changing the length. Then, when you're done, you can lengthen the panel
by 20% or so and uncheck "Automatically
increase the length".
Now let's discuss the Appearance Panel.
|The appearance panel probably
isn't a priority, but if you want to make your panel have a fixed
background color, regardless of other window manager and appearance
settings, or if you want your panel to have an image for a background
(what could possibly go wrong), this is where you'd do that. Me, I'm
leaving mine at "None", thereby letting my Appearance and Window
Manager settings control the background of the panel.
the left is the Items tab of the Panel Settings window. Here's where
the rubber meets
the road. This is one way to populate a panel, and one way to
rearrange one. At the top, as explained before, the dropdown chooses
which panel to work on, the plus sign button (at the top) adds a new
panel, and the minus sign (at the top) deletes the currently chosen
panel in the dropdown.
Now let's discuss the items list. The up arrow button moves the
highlighted item up one
position if the panel is vertical, or to the left one position if it's
horizontal. Similarly, the down arrow button moves one place down or to
Still referring to the Items tab of the Panel Settings window, the plus
button adds another item. The minus button deletes the currently
highlighted item. The wrench button edits the properties of the
currently selected item. This is how you do things like widening the
CPU graph on the panel. The star button supposedly gives info on the
currently chosen item, but it's usually grayed out, and when not, it
often gives nothing more than the "Help->about" for the item.
The plus sign on the items list is the most consistently available way
to populate a panel, but there are other ways. You can rightclick a
panel or an item on that panel and choose panel->Add_new_items. You
can rightclick a panel or an item on that panel and choose panel->Panel_preferences to bring up the Items tab of the Panel
You can also move items from one panel to another. On the source panel,
rightclick the item, click "Move", move the mouse to the point on the
destination panel where you want to put the item, and leftclick.
An easy way to add an item to a panel is to right click an item on the
panel, and choose panel->Add_new_items. This brings up a handy list
from which you can repeatedly add panel items, including separators.
Once you've added the desired items, you can move them around the
panel, as described later.
One of the easiest ways to add an item to a panel is from the menu.
Click start, navigate to the menu item you want to place on the panel,
then click and drag horizontally.
That horizontal drag is important -- if you fail to drag it will just
open the menu item, and my experimentation tells me that dragging
horizontally is more likely to succeed than vertically. Also, when
placing the icon on its panel, make sure the icon, not necessarily the
drag cursor, is centered vertically (on a horizontal panel), or the
icon will just fly away back to the destination. Such drag placement is
very twitchy, before releasing the left mouse button make sure you see
a little destination square on the destination panel. In my opinion you
should first place it anywhere convenient on the panel, and then use
the move facility to move it exactly where you want it on the panel.
Rearranging a panel consists of deleting items and/or moving them. As
described earlier, you can do that with the Items tab of the Panel
Settings window, but it's often easier and more intuitive to move them
visually right on the bar. To delete an item, right-click the item,
choose Remove, and click the Remove button on the "Are You Sure" dialog.
To move an item, right click the item, choose Move, and move the mouse
pointer along the panel to the place you want it to be, then
left-click. However, be sure you don't left-click unless you see a
raised destination box on the panel. Otherwise, it will just go back to
its initial position. As discussed earlier, you can also navigate the
mouse pointer to another panel, click the other panel, which moves the
item from one panel to another.
This article has scratched the surface of panel creation and
maintenance, but I think it gives you enough to set up your Xfce box
exactly how you like it.
By Steve Litt
You won't notice it at first. It will take a while before you realize
what a pain in the afterpart minimizing is in Xfce. First of all, in
your series of window buttons, the icons of minimized windows are
grayed so you have a hard time discerning them on a thin panel. And
they don't show up in the workspace switcher, giving the erroneous impression there's nothing in the workspace.
The behavior of the Show Desktop icon ()
is, in my opinion, abyssmal. First of all, it minimizes every window on
every workspace. Hey, to me a workspace is encapsulated from everything
else -- I don't want my actions here affecting there. And here's the
real problem: On a workspace with ten windows, click the Show Desktop
icon to minimize all ten windows. Click it again and they all come
back. So far, so good. But now, after clicking the Show Desktop icon,
restore one window. Now you have one open window and nine closed
windows, and you can't easily open the other nine. What started out as
a quick way to see the desktop, or maybe show one window alone, now
results in your having to manually restore nine windows.
Nothing you do with the Show Desktop icon will restore the other nine.
There's no way to configure the Show Desktop button to do anything
different from what it does. There's no "Unminimize All" applet you can
add to a panel, or a menu. My experimentation with the wmctrl program tells me there's no wmctrl script that can do it. I was at my wits end, til I discovered The Kludge...
Kludges are embarrassing. But sometimes a kludge is just so good that
your feeling of joyful sneakiness overcomes your embarrassment.
As far as I know, Xfce has no "Restore All" or "Unminimize All"
function, applet, program, script, or hotkey. But necessity is the
mother of invention, so I just moused to the buttons representing the
windows (the Window Buttons panel item in Xfce speak), clicked the
leftmost window button, and quickly twirled the mouse wheel toward me.
Every single window on the desktop was restored. Elapsed time: Less
than two seconds.
We'll now take a few seconds for laughter.
So it turns out the big bad minimization problem wasn't a problem at all. :-)
Xfce Tips and Landmines
By Steve Litt
Besides what you've already read in this month's Linux Productivity
Magazine, here are a few things I learned along the way:
- Never let a panel go beyond 100%
- Don't let panels cover each other
- Don't put a disappearing panel on the right
- The art of putting a Linux command on a panel
- How to right justify items on a panel
- How to full-screen any window
- How to work around the "Can't move panel items" bug
Never let a panel go beyond 100%
Use the panel settings Automatically increase the length
checkbox sparingly if at all. Here's why. With that checkbox checked,
new panel buttons such as notifications or additional buttons in a
Window Buttons item (the item that shows all running processes on that
workspace) lengthen the panel. If the panel lengthens beyond the
visible screen, you simply have buttons falling off the left or right.
Especially important with a Windows Button item, if Automatically increase the length
is checked, every new button is full sized, whereas if it's not
checked, all buttons are shrunk to fit as new ones are added. You
always want to see all buttons, so it's best to uncheck Automatically increase the length.
The one instance I see where Automatically increase the length
should be checked is when you're modifying a panel and want to see its
natural length as you add and subtract icons. But once you're done, I
suggest you set the panel "too long", and then uncheck Automatically increase the length. If your window buttons seem to cruise right off the end, suspect a checked Automatically increase the length checkbox.
Don't let panels cover each other
If all your panels are horizontal, or all your panels are vertical,
it's impossible for them to cover each other. But sometimes you might
want to have some horizontal and some vertical. This is especially
handy if the vertical ones are set to appear only when you mouse to the
edge. But if a vertical panel covers the left or right corner of a
horizontal panel, thats a very bad thing. Keep in mind also that a
horizontal panel should be kept short enough and positioned so that not
only doesn't it cover other panels, but it doesn't cover the close
button on the title bar of a maximized window.
Don't put a disappearing panel on the right
If you put a disappearing panel on the right side of your screen, and
your windows have their scrollbars on the right, you won't be able to
scroll a maximized screen, because the panel will quickly come out to
cover the scrollbar. If you want a vertical disappearing scrollbar, put
it on the left side of the screen, so it won't conflict with right-side
The art of putting a Linux command on a panel
This isn't rocket science, but it evaded me for awhile. Here's the
procedure to start a terminal emulator running top:
- Right click a panel item and choose panel->Add_new_items.
- On the Add New Items window, highlight "Launcher" and click the
Add button at the bottom.
- Notice that a new panel item has been created, with the generic
launcher icon like this:
- Right click the new icon and choose Properties to bring up the
Launcher config screen.
- Click the "Add new empty item" icon on the right side of the
Launcher config screen. It's the one that looks like a blank piece of
paper. It is NOT the plus sign. The Create Launcher window will appear.
- Insert the following data on the Create Launcher window:
- Name = Topper
- Leave the comment blank
- Command is xterm -fn
10x20 -e "top"
- Leave working directory blank
- Leave the options at their default state.
- Click the Icon button and choose gnome-monitor, which looks like this:
- Click the Create button
- The computer will think for a second, and then the Topper item
will appear on the Launcher config screen's item list.
the Launcher config screen's close button.
- Click the new icon and xterm appears with top running in it.
How to right justify items on a panelWhere you want to divide
between left and right justified items on a panel, put a separator.
Then, right-click the separator, choose Properties, and on the
Properties dialog box, click the Expand checkbox. That separator now
expands to take up as much space as possible, thereby left justifying
everything before it and right justifying everything after it.
If you want three groups, one left justified, one right justified, and
one approximately in the center, you use two expanding separators.
How to full-screen any window
Most applications have their own way to make themselves full-screen and
then come back again. That's nice. But have you ever used an app's full
screen keystroke to full-screen it and then forgotten that keystroke?
Time to fire up a terminal and use the kill
command. Plus the fact that different apps define full-screen
differently, usually sans-menu. There are times you want that, but
usually only in special cases like presentations.
Xfce comes with its own fullscreen hotkey: Alt+F11. This hotkey gets
rid of the window's titlebar, then expands the rest to cover all
panels. It's usually just what you need. Press Alt+F11 again, and it
reverts to a normal window. Try it, you'll like it.
Among Xfce's few deficiencies is the fact that Xfce panels have no
"roll up" widget on their ends to temporarily get the panel out of the
way. But with easy and consistent full-screen capabilities for all
windows, panel roll up is unnecessary.
How to work around the "Can't move panel items" bug
Xfce, or at least certain versions of Xfce, have a known bug where you
can't move panel items by right-clicking and choosing "Move". Oh, it
will look like you're moving them, but when you click to drop them
down, they fly right back to their original location. Normally, this
isn't so bad, because you can just as easily move items on the items
tab of the Panel Settings window. But what if you want to move an item
from one panel to another? Can't do that on the Panel Settings window.
From what I read online, this is actually a bug in Gtk's code, not
Xfce's. Of course, as a user, that doesn't make me feel any better.
My limited time with this bug taught me the following:
And, last but not least, the workaround I found. You can probably
guess. You quit all your apps, log out, log back in again, and wow,
look at that, all your panels work again. Or at least that's how it was
- The bug is intermittent with respect to time. It doesn't always happen.
- The bug is intermittent with respect to panel. At a given time, some panels may allow moving while others don't.
- When moving items between tables, you can move from the broken
panel to the good panel, but not the other way around. The bug requires
that the destination panel
exhibits the bug. I can be wrong about this, I haven't had enough time
with the bug, which, since it's intermittent, is hard to reproduce.
- The quick way to deduce what's going on is to try moves on each
panel, and see whether the raised square marking the destination
appears and moves. If not, the panel's incapable of being moved to.
I'm not saying it's fun to close everything, log out and log back in.
But you don't move panel items from panel to panel very often, so you
won't have to do this very often, and it's a whole lot better than
manually adding items to the destination and deleting them from the
By Steve LittCongratulations. You now know how to install and
operate Xfce. You can make it look like IceWM, Unity, or Fluxbox.
Probably even WindowMaker. You know how to do everything, and you know
the little tips to use, the landmines to avoid, and the workarounds
when they can't be avoided. You have a productive, high performance
desktop environment that blows the doors off most others. Xfce is a
mature technology with very active development and
user mailing lists, so Xfce is here to stay.
By Steve Litt
As I said in the Editor's Desk article, I was perfectly satisfied with
LXDE and used Xfce only because of the mouse speed issue. You also know
a big part of the reason I use LXDE is its light weight, enabling it to
perform well on underpowered machines. Would Xfce perform as well?
I put Xfce on my wife's ancient laptop, the one discussed in last month's
Linux Productivity Magazine, to see if that underpowered box would
perform as well as with LXDE. Subjectively, I'd say that Xfce performed
even better than LXDE. Now
understand, under both desktop environments this notebook did well, and
the performance of the two was close enough to be arguable. But
subjectively, I think Xfce was faster on the underpowered laptop, and
was more graceful when way too many programs (like ten) were loaded.
By Steve Litt
I've spent about four days messing with Xfce and writing this issue of
Linux Productivity Magazine, and the more I mess with it, the more I
like it. First of all, Xfce is about the most configurable (and easily
configurable) desktop environment I've ever seen. The settings are
logically layed out, and except for setting hotkeys, everything's
Xfce is so configurable that different Xfce installations look like
they're not even the same desktop environment. You can have no panels,
you can have four. They can be thick or thin. They can leave part of
the desktop exposed so you can right or center click it to get the main
menu or a list of workspaces and windows, respectively. The panels can
be auto-hide or not. My desktop Xfce looks entirely different from the Xfce I configured on my wife's computer.
I'm a big fan of having mouse ballistics optimized for the way I work,
and I've never seen a desktop environment that could more finely tune
the mouse ballistics than Xfce.
only used it for four days, but so far Xfce seems very stable.
I've had very few apps go wierd on me. Thunar, which constantly
malfunctioned on Ubuntu 11.04 and Gnome 2, works flawlessly on Xfce.
All the browsers seem to work better than they did on Ubuntu 11.04 with
You know, it's funny. All those years when I thought Xfce was
based the opinion on specific Xfce configurations, usually
configurations that were all desktop except for a little narrow and
short panel, without
a start button, on the bottom middle of the screen. It never occurred
to me that was just the default, and very easy to completely change
around. The very thing I like about it, its configurability, was what
kept me from using it for the last decade -- I just didn't agree with
somebody else's Xfce configuration, which I assumed to be the
cast-in-stone user interface of Xfce.
It didn't come this way out of the box, but within less than an hour I had
configured Xfce's user interface to my ideal -- start button, taskbar
with a CPU graph, and a workspace switcher, a notification area, and
bunch of small shortcut buttons on the top panel.
source and free software
By Steve Litt
Linux is a kernel. The operating system often described as "Linux" is
kernel combined with software from many different sources. One of the
prominent, and oldest of those sources, is the GNU project.
"GNU/Linux" is probably the most accurate moniker one can
give to this
operating system. Please be aware that in all of
when I say "Linux" I really mean "GNU/Linux". I completely believe that
the GNU project, without the GNU Manifesto and the GNU/GPL license it
the operating system the press calls "Linux" never would have happened.
I'm part of the press and there are times when it's easier to
than explain to certain audiences that "GNU/Linux" is the same as what
press calls "Linux". So I abbreviate. Additionally, I abbreviate in the
way one might abbreviate the name of a multi-partner law firm. But make
mistake about it. In any article in Troubleshooting Professional
in the whole of Troubleshooters.Com, and even in the technical books I
when I say "Linux", I mean "GNU/Linux".
There are those who think FSF is making too big a deal of this. Nothing
could be farther from the truth. The GNU General Public License,
with Richard Stallman's GNU Manifesto and the resulting GNU-GPL
are the only reason we can enjoy this wonderful alternative to
operating systems, and the only reason proprietary operating systems
even more flaky than they are now.
For practical purposes, the license requirements of "free software" and
source" are almost identical. Generally speaking, a license that
with one complies with the other. The difference between these two is a
in philosophy. The "free software" crowd believes the most important
is freedom. The "open source" crowd believes the most important aspect
the practical marketplace advantage that freedom produces.
I think they're both right. I wouldn't use the software without the
guaranteeing me the right to improve the software, and the guarantee
my improvements will not later be withheld from me. Freedom is
And so are the practical benefits. Because tens of thousands of
feel the way I do, huge amounts of free software/open source is
and its quality exceeds that of most proprietary software.
In summary, I use the terms "Linux" and "GNU/Linux" interchangably,
the former being an abbreviation for the latter. I usually use the
software" and "open source" interchangably, as from a licensing
they're very similar. Occasionally I'll prefer one or the other
if I'm writing about freedom, or business advantage.
Steve Litt has used GNU/Linux since 1998, and written about
it since 1999. Steve can be reached at his email address.
to the Editor
All letters become the property of the publisher (Steve
be edited for clarity or brevity. We especially welcome
corrections or flames from vendors whose products have been reviewed in
magazine. We reserve the right to not publish letters we
taste (bad language, obscenity, hate, lewd, violence, etc.).
Submit letters to the editor to Steve Litt's email address,
the subject reads "Letter to the Editor". We regret that we cannot
your letter, so please make a copy of it for future reference.
Submit an Article
We anticipate two to five articles per issue.
We look for articles that pertain to the GNU/Linux or open source. This
be done as an essay, with humor, with a case study, or some other
device. A Troubleshooting poem would be nice. Submissions may mention a
product, but must be useful without the purchase of that product.
must greatly overpower advertising. Submissions should be between 250
2000 words long.
Any article submitted to Linux Productivity Magazine must be
with the Open Publication License, which you can view at
At your option you may elect the option to prohibit substantive
However, in order to publish your article in Linux Productivity
you must decline the option to prohibit commercial use, because Linux
Magazine is a commercial publication.
Obviously, you must be the copyright holder and must be
so license the article. We do not currently pay for articles.
Troubleshooters.Com reserves the right to edit any submission
or brevity, within the scope of the Open Publication License. If you
to prohibit substantive modifications, we may elect to place editors
outside of your material, or reject the submission, or send it back for
Any published article will include a two sentence description of the
a hypertext link to his or her email, and a phone number if desired.
request, we will include a hypertext link, at the end of the magazine
to the author's website, providing that website meets the
criteria for links
and that the
website first links to Troubleshooters.Com. Authors: please understand
can't place hyperlinks inside articles. If we did, only the first
would be read, and we can't place every article first.
Submissions should be emailed to Steve Litt's email address,
line Article Submission. The first paragraph of your message should
as follows (unless other arrangements are previously made in writing):
Copyright (c) 2003 by
<your name>. This
may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth
the Open Publication License, version Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999
at http://www.troubleshooters.com/openpub04.txt/ (wordwrapped for
at http://www.troubleshooters.com/openpub04_wrapped.txt). The latest
is presently available at
Open Publication License
Option A [ is | is not]
so this document [may | may not] be modified. Option B is not elected,
this material may be published for commercial purposes.
After that paragraph, write the title, text of the article,
sentence description of the author.
Why not Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999 OR LATER
The Open Publication License recommends using the word "or later" to
the version of the license. That is unacceptable for Troubleshooting
Magazine because we do not know the provisions of that newer version,
it makes no sense to commit to it. We all hope later versions will be
but there's always a chance that leadership will change. We cannot take
chance that the disclaimer of warranty will be dropped in a later
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
is a registered trademark of Steve Litt.
Mentioned in this Issue