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Xfce logo.svg
Screenshot of Xfce 4.12 with panel.
Developer(s) Multiple[1]
Initial release 1996; 19 years ago (1996)
Stable release 4.12[2] / 28 February 2015 (2015-02-28)
Development status Active
Written in C (GTK+ 2)
Platform Unix-like
Type Desktop environment
License GNU General Public License, GNU Lesser General Public License and BSD License
Website www.xfce.org

Xfce (pronounced as four individual letters)[3] is a free software desktop environment for Unix and Unix-like platforms, such as Linux, Solaris, and BSD. It aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and easy to use. It consists of separately packaged parts that together provide the full functionality of the desktop environment, but can be selected in subsets to suit user needs and preference.


Like GNOME 2, Xfce is based on the GTK+ 2 toolkit. It uses the Xfwm window manager, described below. Its configuration is entirely mouse-driven, with the configuration files hidden from the casual user.[4] Xfce does not feature any desktop animations, but Xfwm supports compositing.


Olivier Fourdan started the project in 1996.[5] The name "Xfce" originally stood for "XForms Common Environment", but since that time Xfce has been rewritten twice and no longer uses the XForms toolkit. The name survived, but it is no longer capitalized as "XFCE", but rather as "Xfce". The developers' current stance is that the initialism no longer stands for anything specific. It has been nicknamed "Cholesterol Free Desktop Environment",[6][7] even in some of its man pages.[8]

Early versions[edit]

An Xfce 3 Desktop

Xfce began as a simple project created with XForms, meant to be a free Linux clone of CDE. Fourdan released the program, a simple panel, to SunSITE.[9]

Fourdan continued developing the project, and in 1998, Xfce 2 was released with the first version of Xfce's window manager, Xfwm. He requested to have the project included in Red Hat Linux, but was refused because the project was based on XForms. Red Hat only accepted software that was open source and released under either a GPL compatible or BSD compatible license, but, at the time, XForms was closed source and free only for personal use.[9] For the same reason, Xfce was not in Debian before version 3. Xfce 2 was only distributed in Debian's contrib component.[10]

In March 1999 Fourdan began a complete rewrite of the project based on GTK+, a non-proprietary toolkit whose popularity was increasing. The result was Xfce 3.0, which was licensed under the GNU GPL. Along with being based completely on free software, the project gained GTK+'s drag-and-drop support, native language support, and improved configurability. Xfce was uploaded to SourceForge.net in February 2001, starting with version 3.8.1.[11]

Modern Xfce[edit]

A typical Xfce 4.4 desktop. Various Xfwm effects are visible (drop shadows behind windows, alpha-blended windows and panel).

In version 4.0.0, released 25 September 2003, Xfce was upgraded to use the GTK+ 2 libraries.[12] Changes in 4.2.0 included a compositing manager for Xfwm which added built-in support for transparency and drop shadows, as well as a new default SVG icon set.[13] In January 2007, Xfce 4.4.0 was released. This included the Thunar file manager, a replacement for Xffm. Support for desktop icons was added. Also, various improvements were made to the panel to prevent buggy plugins from crashing the whole panel.[14] In February 2009 Xfce 4.6.0 was released. This version had a new configuration backend, a new settings manager and a new sound mixer, as well as several significant improvements to the session manager and the rest of Xfce's core components.[15]

In January 2011, Xfce 4.8.0 was released. This version included changes such as the replacement of ThunarVFS and HAL with GIO, udev, ConsoleKit and PolicyKit, and new utilities for browsing remote network shares using several protocols including SFTP, SMB, and FTP. Window clutter was reduced by merging all file progress dialog boxes into a single dialog. The panel application was also rewritten for better positioning, transparency, item and launcher management. 4.8 also introduced a new menu plugin to view directories. The 4.8 plugin framework remains compatible with 4.6 plugins. The display configuration dialog in 4.8 supports RandR 1.2, detecting screens automatically and allowing users to pick their preferred display resolution, refresh rate and display rotation. Screens can be configured to either work in clone mode or being placed next to each other. Keyboard selection has become easier and more user-friendly. Also, the manual settings editor has been updated to be more functional.[16]

The 4.8 development cycle was the first to use the new release strategy formed after the "Xfce Release and Development Model" developed at the Ubuntu Desktop Summit in May 2009. A new web application was employed to make release management easier, and a dedicated Transifex server was set up for Xfce translators.[17] The project's server and mirroring infrastructure was also upgraded, partly to cope with anticipated demand following the release announcement for 4.8.

Xfce 4.10, released 28 April 2012, introduced a vertical display mode for the panel and moved much of the documentation to an online wiki. The main focus of this release was on improving the user experience.[18] This was followed by Xfce 4.12 on February 28, 2015, two years and ten months later, which mostly contained incremental changes.[19]

Software components[edit]

Xfce has forked only a couple of the GNOME Core Applications and written most from scratch. Applications developed by the Xfce team are based on GTK+ and Clutter and self developed Xfce libraries.

Xfce provides a development framework which contains the following components:

  • exo, an application library for the Xfce desktop environment
  • garcon, a Freedesktop.org compliant menu library
  • libxfce4ui, a widgets library for the Xfce desktop environment
  • libxfce4util, an extension library for Xfce

Other than Xfce itself, there are third-party programs which use the Xfce libraries, such as the Xfce Terminal (xfce4-terminal, former Terminal). One of the services provided to applications by the framework is a red banner across the top of the window when the application is running with root privileges warning the user that they could damage system files.


Starting with version 4.2, Xfwm integrates its own compositing manager.[20]


Main article: Thunar

Thunar is the default file manager for Xfce, replacing Xffm. It resembles GNOME's Nautilus and is designed for speed and a low memory footprint[21] as well as being highly customizable through plugins. Xfce also has a lightweight archive manager called Xarchiver, but this is not part of the core Xfce 4.4.0.[22] More recently, Squeeze has been started as an archive manager designed to integrate better into the Xfce desktop, though no releases have been made since 2008,[23] the git repository of squeeze has been active and is more feature rich than the last stable release.


Starting with version 4.4, Xfcalendar was renamed to Orage (French for "thunderstorm") and several features were added. Orage has alarms and uses the iCalendar format, making it compatible with many other calendar applications. It also includes a panel clock plugin and an international clock application capable of simultaneously showing clocks from several different time zones.


Screenshot of Leafpad

Leafpad is the default text editor for Xfce in many Linux distributions, including Xubuntu.[24] At one point Xubuntu and some other Xfce-based distributions switched to a fork of Leafpad called Mousepad, developed by Erik Harrison and Nick Schermer. Mousepad provided printing support and Xfce integration,[25] but Leafpad gained printing support in version 0.8.11.[26] Mousepad has not been updated since 2006 and is no longer part of Xfce. It has since been dropped from many repositories.[27][28]


Parole is a media player that is based on the GStreamer framework. It is developed by Ali Abdallah and is part of the Xfce Goodies.[29] It originally was only playlist based, but now includes an option to replace the entire playlist when opening a file for playing.[30]


A CD/DVD burning program. Starting with the 4.12 release of Xfce, Xfburn is also able to burn Blu-ray discs.

Products and distributions using Xfce[edit]

Xfce on the Pandora

Xfce is included as one of the graphical user interfaces on the Pandora handheld gaming system.

It is the default desktop in the following Linux distributions:

It is also included as a standard desktop option in many other distributions, including Arch Linux, Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Korora, Linux Mint and Mageia. That means a stable version of Xfce is kept in these distributions' repositories and user can easily install it from the package manager. Debian makes a separate netinstall CD available that installs Xfce as the default desktop environment. In 2013 Debian briefly made it the default environment, replacing GNOME.[31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Credits, Xfce, 2012-04-28, retrieved 2012-09-04 
  2. ^ http://www.xfce.org/about/news/?post=1425081600
  3. ^ Xfce FAQ, retrieved 2007-01-06 
  4. ^ Fosdick, Howard (2014-06-07), "Xfce 4.10: Simple, Fast, Reliable", OSNews, retrieved 2014-06-07 
  5. ^ Then, Ewdison (6 February 2009), Xfce creator talks Linux, Moblin, netbooks and open-source, SlashGear, retrieved 5 February 2011 
  6. ^ Xfce - openSUSE 
  7. ^ What is xfce 
  8. ^ man - xfce (1) - The Cholesterol Free Desktop Environment 
  9. ^ a b Jacobowitz, Norman (1999-07-01), Interview with Olivier Fourdan, Linux Gazette, retrieved 2007-01-31 
  10. ^ Debian xfce source package changelog
  11. ^ SourceForge.net Project Page, retrieved 2007-01-31 
  12. ^ http://unixresources.net/linux/clf/software/archive/00/00/44/51/445169.html
  13. ^ Xfce 4.2.0 Changelog, retrieved 2007-01-31 
  14. ^ Meurer, Benedikt (2007-01-21), A Visual Tour of Xfce 4.4.0, retrieved 2007-01-31 
  15. ^ Xfce Development Team, Xfce 4.6.0 Changelog, retrieved 2011-01-16 
  16. ^ Xfce Development Team, Xfce 4.6.0 Changelog, retrieved 2011-01-16 [dead link]
  17. ^ The little mouse told me…, Blog.xfce.org, retrieved 2012-09-04 
  18. ^ "Xfce 4.10 released". 
  19. ^ "Xfce 4.12 released". 
  20. ^ "Xfce window manager now includes its own compositing manager". Xfce Blog. Retrieved 20 December 2012. 
  21. ^ ThunarWiki: Thunar in comparison to Nautilus, ROX, Konqueror and Xffm, Thunar.xfce.org, retrieved 2012-09-04 
  22. ^ 4.4.0 release status so far 
  23. ^ Squeeze - news 
  24. ^ Xubuntu 11.10 Officially Released. News.softpedia.com (2011-10-13). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  25. ^ Xfce - Mousepad, Xfce Project, archived from the original on 2011-01-07, retrieved 2009-02-22 
  26. ^ leafpad/ChangeLog at master · oluc/leafpad · GitHub. Github.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  27. ^ "Has Mousepad been dropped/discontinued?". 
  28. ^ "[Solved] Xfce4 Mouspad and Squeeze packages?". 
  29. ^ Juste une parole (Xfce Goodies) 
  30. ^ parole - GStreamer based media player 
  31. ^ "Debian changes to xfce desktop". 
  32. ^ "How GNOME 3.14 is winning back disillusioned Linux users". 

External links[edit]