Monday, October 15, 2012

Icons On Your Linux Desktop

Furthering my quest to get a more Mac-like interface on my desktop while still remaining (fairly) lightweight, I'm now going to tackle icons on the desktop. There are several ways to get this on an Openbox desktop. There's using Nautilus to draw the desktop, but Nautilus is slower than my preferred file manager, Thunar. There's also PCManFM for desktop icons, but PCManFM can crash occasionally and when it does it takes your entire desktop with it. So I poked around to see if there was a Thunar/XFCE way of doing it, and yes there is.

Full details are on this Crunchbang wiki, but the gist of it is to install xfdesktop4, though you launch it as xfdesktop without the 4. Then check your ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs file and make sure it points the desktop directory to your ~/Desktop folder like this:


Then after you launch, you get this. What do you think?

desktop icons on openbox

A few notes. First, the new desktop will take over the right and middle-click menus in Openbox, but xfdesktop's right-click menu includes an applications menu, and middle-click brings down a similar workspace menu. You can still access both Openbox menus by clicking on tint2 if you have that installed (check the above link for the configuration). Also, xfdesktop will display your wallpaper, so using Nitrogen or feh for that is redundant. To set the wallpaper, right click on the desktop, go to "Desktop Settings..." and click the "+" button to add your own wallpaper. And don't forget to comment out any wallpaper entries when adding xfdesktop & to your autostart file.

I don't know if this is a bug or a feature, but dragging a file from Thunar to the actual desktop will copy it, not move it. You have to drag it to the Desktop folder shortcut on the side pane to simply move it.

One last thing. Future versions of XFCE will supposedly have all this set up from within Thunar, so installing xfdesktop won't be necessary. Either way, I've found XFCE's desktop icons to be snappy and sleek. Now if I can only get a global menubar.


  1. There are a few ways you could get a global menubar, although it has been a while since I've played around with that sort of stuff. The easiest way would be to use the unity-2d panel (you can use it outside of unity). If you want to stick with xfce stuff then there used to be plugin although it hasn't been updated for some time by the looks of it. There is also a plugin that lets you use gnome2 panel applets in a xfce panel. That is a really useful plugin (although probably not in the latest repo) and would allow you to use the gnome2 global menu applet.

  2. I never put icons on the desktop of any OS but those sure are pretty. :)