Really? You’re writing this again??
Previously, I wrote an article about installing xfdesktop (XFCE desktop) without regard to Thunar. I feel now I have enough information about Thunar for the average user to enable it as a full replacement for Caja (or Nemo, if you’re into that) so users can install it and enjoy a different desktop.
That, and Google by now must have scraped my older thread so I am hoping this ends up above my old article. This will also have nothing to do with Nemo, so consider this the version of my previous article for a bone-stock installation.
Before this gets to the desktop, I should address resolving some of Thunar’s deficiencies since that is what XFCE (and by extension the desktop) uses as its file manager.
Enabling split view
Some users want this functionality. To make things easier, and to prevent any unnecessary steps just to enable this, the webupd8 experiments PPA should be installed… but it only goes up to 15.10. Bummer. Since there is no software for Xenial, and to minimize events necessary for adding the experiments repository it is better to add these addresses by hand.
To do that, open a text editor. Using pluma as an example;
gksu pluma /etc/apt/sources.list.d/webupd8team-ubuntu-experiments-wily.list
The .list file can be named anything, but this is what it would had been called.
Then add the lines below;
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/webupd8team/experiments/ubuntu wily main deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/webupd8team/experiments/ubuntu wily main
Save, close, keep reading.
Alternatively, one can do
gksu software-properties-gtkand add the above lines in method 1 individually.
Either way, when those two lines are added, do
sudo apt update in a terminal (in
gtk-software-properties the repo DB can be updated there instead) and carry on with this guide.
Preserving icon positions
xfdesktop doesn’t care to remember how the desktop was configured, it needs to be forced to respect persons who are more spatially-bound than others. To do this, a new script needs to be placed into
/etc/rc6.d (Runlevel 6 scripting); Call it whatever you want (begin with
K99), but make it memorable. What I used;
gksu pluma /etc/rc6.d/K99xficonsave
Therein, put this into that script;
mkdir -p ~/.config/xfce4/desktop.bak xfdesktop --reload; sleep .5; cp -f ~/.config/xfce4/desktop/* ~/.config/xfce4/desktop.bak/
Then make it executable with
chmod. For the example I presented above;
sudo chmod +x /etc/rc6.d/K99xficonsave
The rest will be provided in Post-install configuration…
To install only the XFCE desktop, simply do the following in a terminal, or install the listed package names with
gksu synaptic if that is installed:
sudo apt install xfdesktop4 thunar-*
The glob for thunar will also install the following extra packages:
thunar-media-tags-plugin thunar-archive-program thunar-dropbox-plugin thunar-vcs-plugin
xfce4-goodies would install, but without the XFCE stuff.
The installation of xfdesktop4 will also add
exo-utils to the system. As with anything not necessarily made for MATE, some work needs to be done to make everything run smoothly so do the following to make that happen;
Making it work
- In terminal;
- Make directory for xdg-mime to use:
exo-openuses (just like Xubuntu);
xdg-mime default exo-file-manager.desktop inode/directory application/x-mate-saved-search application/x-gnome-saved-search
- Modify dconf entry for MATE to reload xfdesktop upon crash;
gsettings set org.mate.session.required-components filemanager xfdesktop
Make a script for loading the XFCE desktop. This seems weird, but if using the above advice in Installation / Creature comforts / Preserving icon positions then this script is necessary for loading the previous position of desktop icons;
cp -f ~/.config/xfce4/desktop.bak/* ~/.config/xfce4/desktop/ sleep .5 xfdesktop
Save it as something memorable. For the below step, I’ll assume the script is called
Assuming the information above, this should load the script made prior;
sh -c "sh ~/xficonload.sh"
- Under the Internet tab, set the browser to Mozilla Firefox (default is “Debian Sensible Browser”, whatever that is…)
- Under the Utilities tab, if not already specified, set the file manager to “Thunar”
In the Menus tab, choose to disable Include applications menu on right click because that includes some things exclusive to XFCE and Xubuntu.
Thunar by default is a touch restrictive on what the user can do, so in
thunar go into Edit > Preferences and adjust the following;
Enable the following:
- Mount removbale drives when hot-plugged
- Mount removable media when inserted
- Browse removable media when inserted
Set this up to open whatever media player is preferred. Unlike Caja, Thunar will not pick up on MATE’s defaults so additional configuration to whatever file is required. Most people will have all three options enabled, and in the case for Ubuntu MATE users, specify the command to all three be
/usr/bin/rhythmbox; Specify whatever is desired.
- All the rest
Whatever is desired, though the PDAs tab is strangely unusable. Probably due to missing libraries Thunar relies on for that functionality.
Fixing the desktop background
Expand either of the selections below to learn an option;
Make the GNOME / MATE and XFCE backgrounds matchMake a symbolic link to whatever image is preferred, then select the symbolic link in the _Background_ tab. After that, go into `xfdesktop-settings` and do the same thing.
Confused about the whole symbolic linking thing? In a terminal, you can use ln for this. Do
man ln to learn more about it, but an example that will work is provided below;
ln -s /usr/share/backgrounds/ubuntu-mate-common/Ubuntu-Mate-Cold-no-logo.jpg ~/Pictures/desktopbg
Use XFCE's image cyclingOpen `mate-appearance-properties` and specify a solid colour for best results. After, open `xfdesktop-settings` and set up the images to be used as the desktop. Unlike in MATE, XFCE allows for multiple images ala WIndows (Vista and up), so users can enjoy that.
The XFCE desktop and Thunar together is a lightweight solution that will enable some of the things that are missing in MATE’s Caja at the moment, and while Thunar is lean in features compared to Caja, it does everything one would want and then some with the addition of custom actions, as well, provide an easier-to-use desktop experience compared to MATE / Caja. While not the easiest to set up. and not without its own pops and hisses that make it more burdensome to set up, it may provide a better desktop experience for some, especially for those coming from XFCE.
#Undoing the above
Simple instructions are provided via this guide. Please use the contents above to remove and undo any additional files as necessary.
How to make shutdown and startup scripts
XFCE forum: Desktop icons rearrange on reboot, post #8