Using xfwm4 (xfce's window manager) with Ubuntu-MATE

Since marco window manager doesn't support resizing after snapping windows to the sides and compiz always causes problems (at least to me) or is too heavy for old hardware, I believe that installing and using xfwm4 can be really useful. In addition, xfwm4 has really easily configurable settings for workspaces, snapping corners, and effects like transparency that never break your system (in comparison to broken compiz) from it's GUI applications. The following were tested on Ubuntu-MATE 16.04 and 16.10.


  1. First, install xfwm4 by running:

    sudo apt install xfwm4
  2. Edit with superuser rights (I do that with gksu pluma) the files:

    /usr/share/applications/xfce-wm-settings.desktop (Window Manager),
    /usr/share/applications/xfce-wmtweaks-settings.desktop (Window Manager Tweaks)
    /usr/share/applications/xfce-workspaces-settings.desktop (Workspaces)

    And add the word MATE; at the end of the line OnlyShowIn in all of them.

  3. Make sure that Marco (No compositor) is chosen from the MATE Tweak under Windows->Appearance. Open dconf editor and change the org-> mate-> desktop-> session-> required components-> windowmanager to empty (don't write empty, just leave it empty :stuck_out_tongue:).

  4. Open Startup Applications and add a startup entry with the name xfwm4 and command:


  1. After reboot (or logout and login again) open the Keyboard Shortcuts and add the shortcuts that are missing. Those I've noticed so far are:
  • Take screenshot: Print

  • Open terminal: ctrl + alt + t

  • Run application: alt + F2

     -Ubuntu 16.04):
     -Ubuntu 16.10:
       mate-panel --run-dialog


  1. The title bar of windows doesn't change with MATE's Appearance but with the Window Manager application. You can install the package xfwm4-themes in order to find some xfwm4 themes that are visually appealing and integrate nicely with the mate's themes.
  2. Window Manager Tweaks has some more configurations.
  3. Workspaces are configured with the Workspaces application (not the Workspace Switcher preferences).

Known Problems at Ubuntu MATE 16.04::

  1. When you run trigger-panel-run-dialog it doesn't autofocus so that you can write text immediately, but you need to click on it .

REMOVE xfwm4:
If you didn't like it and you want to remove xfwm4 then do these:

  1. Run:

     sudo apt autoremove --purge xfwm4
  2. Remove the startup entry xfwm4.

  3. Change window manager from the mate-tweak (or add manually the line you deleted at dconf editor)

  4. Finally logout and login again.
    PS: Help me improve this procedure. If you find any bugs, have any ideas or discover more keyboard shortcuts (or anything else) that is missing let me know


I believe you can fix it with xbindkeys and it's GUI configuration tool xbindkeys-config, and setting your key shortcuts there, even if they overlap with the ones used by MATE.

Both are available on Ubuntu-MATE repos.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work either. If I start the program with command xbindkeys it works fine. But if I put the command to Startup then it doesn’t work on login or boot (you can see xbindkeys running with system monitor but the keyboard shortcuts doesn’t work). I think I found the solution. I edited the topic.

1 Like

EDIT: I changed the procedure. When you run xfwm4 --replace over the existing window manager, then you need to do that before the mate-settings-daemon starts or else problems occur. So, instead of doing that, it’s a lot better to completely remove window manager from the dconf editor and then just start xfwm4 (without the --replace option).

You know, I wonder when it’s no longer sensible to continue using Ubuntu MATE and switch to Xubuntu instead, with all of the XFCE stuff people keep adding to supplement MATE.

I believe if you’re going to use XFWM entirely anyway, you may as well switch to Xubuntu proper so none of the issues with throwing non-native desktop components into your system occur. No hacks, no bullocks, just use Xubuntu after being on Ubuntu MATE as a learning experience.

1 Like

Yeah unfortunately, I will switch my old 32bit laptop to Xubuntu as I find xfce to be more powerful and more lightweight at the same time than MATE.

However, I hate that xfce is practically dead project, with no new features to wait for. So, I will keep using Ubuntu MATE on my main pc and I will definatly update it to Ubuntu MATE 16.10 (looking forward to gtk3 build :stuck_out_tongue:) . Also, caja-dropbox integration is just enough to sacrifice the nice things thunar gives.

I just believe that marco is very limited window manager (actually, I would prefer to use openbox as it may be limited but at least it’s very lightweight). And compiz is always broken at my systems. Plus, apart from kwin (which I haven’t used much), I believe that xfwm is the best window manager in the linux world at the moment!

P.S. MATE has a lot to learn from both xfce and cinnamon, but I hope it will keep getting better and better in the future

You know Thunar has optional Dropbox integration right? Part of xfce4-goodies, installable separately as thunar-dropbox-plugin (and strangely, dependent on nautilus-dropbox).

If I recall correctly, thunar-dropbox-plugin just gives you some options when you right click on an file/folder. It doesn’t give any icons that show you which file/folder has been synced and which is still pending (this is the feature I like about caja-dropbox, nautilus-dropbox and nemo-dropbox).