Make Xfce look modern and beautiful

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Xfce desktop themes

You can make Xfce look modern and beautiful with these themes.

Unless you use a Linux distribution that comes with a modern desktop skin, the Xfce default theme and icons do not look modern and attractive. Maybe such a desktop looked nice a decade ago, but today in 2017, there is a need for a better-looking Xfce. You can make Xfce look modern if you install some extra desktop themes and icons packs.

Video Tutorial

Look what Xfce themes you have in repositories

Before going elsewhere, check out what you have in the repositories of your distribution. For example, in Debian and Debian-based distributions, you can find some appealing themes if you search for -theme in the synaptic package manager. If you use another package manager, search for themes there.

Xfce themes in the synaptic package manager

Xfce themes you can install from Debian repositories

Not all of the packages you find are nice-looking but many of them are worth considering. For example, these themes can make your Xfce look better already:

  • arc-theme
  • moka-icon-theme
  • numix-gtk-theme
  • numix-icon-theme

Search for them and install.

lightDM Arc Dark theme

LightDM with Arc Dark theme and Elegance Blue Debian wallpaper

I also usually install lightdm-gtk-greeter-settings to configure the theme of the login display. Most of the Linux distributions use lightDM as a display manager for the Xfce desktops. If you are unsure that your Linux distribution is using lightDM, you can check it with the following commands:

Debian/Ubuntu:
cat /etc/X11/default-display-manager

RedHat/Fedora
cat /etc/sysconfig/desktop

OpenSUSE:
cat /etc/sysconfig/displaymanager

Xfce themes and icons from Xfce-look.org

To make your Xfce look better indeed, you need to search for artwork at Xfce-look.org. There are many interesting solutions, but there is also as much of outdated junk. So, you will need to spend some time before you find something worthy.

I usually search the greatest and some trending themes by clicking on the Latest and Greatest tabs. Also, I suggest you scroll down and have a look at the top downloads during the last three months (3 Months Ranking widget on the right). Select whatever you like the most.

icons from xfce-look.org

Some icons from xfce-look.org

I find attractive the following themes:

Install Xfce themes and icons from archives.

Most of the theme and icons you download from Xfce-look.org are packaged in archives (file name ends with tar.gz, tgz, zip etc.). You can install these themes in two ways with the ocs-url program or manually.

For instructions on how to install themes with the ocs-url program, click on the question mark next to the Install button. This approach seems to be easier, but it does not work correctly all the time.

The question mark for instruction on how to install ocs-url.

I prefer installing themes and icons manually. Not only this approach makes my system less loaded with an unnecessary program (I mean ocs-url program here), but it also gives me more control over my system. I know where and what is installed. So, I can remove any theme and be sure that it will not leave any remnants on my system.

To install an Xfce theme or icon set manually, do the following:

  1. Download the archive.
  2. Extract it with the right click of your mouse.
  3. Create the .icons and .themes folders in your home directory. The fastest way to do that is by running in the terminal: mkdir ~/.icons ~/.themes.
  4. Move the extracted theme folders to the ~/.theme folder and the extracted icons to the ~/.icons folder. (~/ means your home directory /home/yourusername). You can make the .theme and .icons folders visible by pressing Ctrl+H or in the menu of your file manager View -> Show Hidden Files.

Install Xfce themes and icons deb packages.

The Paper Icons I mentioned above is little different from all the other themes. It comes in a deb package. To install it you need to use the dpkg program. Run in the terminal:

sudo dpkg -i paper-*.deb

It will install both the icon and desktop themes. If you want to install any other theme than the Paper themes, use the same command but replace paper-*.deb with the name of your downloaded deb file.

Configure the newly installed Xfce themes

To activate your newly installed theme you need to go to Menu -> Settings -> Appearance.

In the tab Style, you can select any of the desktop themes. For example, if you installed all the themes I listed above, you should see the themes: Arc, Arc-Dark, Arc-Darker, Numix, Paper.

In the Icon tab, you should see the icons: Moka, Numix, Numix Light,  Flat Remix, La Capitan, Paper, Paper-Mono-Dark.

Xfce Settings Manager

Xfce Settings Manager. Arrows show the settings to edit.

In addition, you need to navigate to a different place in the Settings to change the windows borders. Go to Settings -> Window Manager. In the tab Style, select a matching theme for your windows borders. You should see such themes as Arc, Arc-Dark, Arc-Darker, Numix, Pape and the Axiom theme.  The Axiom theme included only windows borders, so it does not show anywhere else except the windows borders settings.

The last step is to configure the login display theme. Go to Settings -> LightDM Settings and select a matching theme. You can also change a wallpaper and avatar icon for the login screen.

To make sure that all the themes and icons are properly loaded, logout from your system and login back. You can also reboot the system.

If some of the icon themes show this warning:

Xfce icons gtk-update-icon-cache warning

Xfce icon theme warning to update the cache.

Run the following command in the terminal:

gtk-update-icon-cache ~/.icons/yourIconsTheme

But of course change yourIconsTheme to your icons theme name. This should fix an issue and remove the warning.

My favorite combination of Xfce themes and Icons

  • Numix theme and icons.
  • Paper theme and icons.
  • Arc-light theme and La Capitane icons.
  • GreyBird theme, Moka icons and axiom windows decorations.
  • Arc-dark theme and Flat Remix icons.

Any theme will look even better with a matching wallpaper. Go to Settings -> Desktop -> Background and change your wallpaper.

Arc Dark theme, Flat Remix Icons, Albatross Wallpaper

Arc Dark theme, Flat Remix Icons, Albatross Wallpaper

Summary

Now you know that with some effort you can indeed make your Xfce look modern and beautiful. Moreover, with extra effort you can even make it look gorgeous.

In summary, you need to follow these steps:

  • Get themes from the repositories or from Xfce-look.org.
  • To install Xfce-look.org themes, extract icons to ~/.icon folder, and themes to ~/.themes;
  • Change themes in Appearance, Windows Manager, and LightDM Settings.

Remarks

I made this tutorial using Debian Xfce, and it comes with that default ancient-looking Xfce theme shown at the top of this article. But if you try some other Linux distributions, they may have some modern-looking Xfce themes.

I like the default look of Linux Mint, Xubuntu, MX Linux. But the leading Xfce distribution in terms of themes is Manjaro Xfce. I wish Xfce default look was something like Manjaro’s Xfce theme.

Manjaro Xfce desktop with the Manjarodefault theme

Manjaro Xfce default theme

What is your favorite Xfce theme and icons? Please, comment below.

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9 thoughts on “Make Xfce look modern and beautiful

  1. Eireannach

    Thank you for the text versions of your videos – I find your accent and speed of delivery a little difficult to follow the audio on your YouTube videos ( no offense intended). The content of your videos is great

    Reply
  2. Xarri Jorge

    Great article. Everything works as instructed. How did you get you menu to look like that? I’ve been fighting on editing the menu for a while now. Any helps?

    Reply
  3. ibkindness

    Thank you very much for everything you do. These articles and videos are very detailed and you really trying to cover everything. You can tell that you really care that people understand what you present to them.

    Reply

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