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Chapter 5. Tour of the Xfce desktop

5.1. The Xfce 4 desktop
5.1.1. The Xfce 4 menu panel
5.1.2. The Xfce 4 desktop area
This chapter introduces the Xfce 4 desktop in Fedora. It is easier to explain how to use the desktop after explaining some of the common terminology used with the Xfce 4 desktop.

5.1. The Xfce 4 desktop

One common reason for using the Xfce 4 desktop is to provide a feature-rich desktop environment for a desktop computer or a laptop with limited memory.
The Xfce desktop
The Xfce desktop
Figure 5.1. The Xfce desktop

The Xfce 4 desktop has two distinct areas. From top to bottom, the areas are:
  • the desktop area.
  • the menu panel.
The layout and location of these items can be customized, but the term used for each of them remains the same.
The desktop area occupies most of the screen. The Filesystem, Home Directory, and Trash icons are located in the top left corner of this area.
The menu panel is located at the bottom of the screen. On the left part of the panel it contains a number of default icons that start software applications. On the right of the panel, from left to right, there is a Notification Area, a Trash button, a Workspace Switcher, a Show Desktop button, a Clock, and Switch User and Action buttons. In between the two sets of icons there is a Task List.
The following sections discuss the Xfce 4 menu panel and desktop area in further detail.

5.1.1. The Xfce 4 menu panel

This panel contains a number of launchers for common software. To customize the appearance of a launcher, right-click on it and select Properties.
  • Applications contains all the programs.
  • Command Prompt opens the console.
  • Editor opens Mousepad, a generic text editor.
  • File Manager opens Thunar, a file manager program.
  • Web Browser opens Firefox, a popular web browser.
  • Notification Area displays notices and applets from various applications, for example the network and power managers.
  • Trash gives access to the Trash directory.
  • Workspace Switcher allows you to switch to other workspaces. Four workspaces are provided by default.
  • Show Desktop minimizes all open windows to show a clear work area.
  • Clock is a generic clock that can be modified by right clicking on it.
  • Switch User/Action are the buttons on which you click to swich to a different user, log out, restart, and shutdown Xfce.
The Applications button consists of several components:
  • Run Program...
  • Terminal
  • File Manager
  • Web Browser
  • Preferences
  • Administration
  • Accessories
  • Development
  • Games
  • Graphics
  • Multimedia
  • Network
  • Office
  • Other
  • System
  • Help, About, and Quit buttons.
Open applications appear as button icons in the middle part of the menu panel, known as the Task List.
The application window that has focus appears as a depressed button. Usually, this is the application whose window is on top of all others currently on the screen. To switch from one running application to another, click on the desired application's button in the task list.

Use the key combination Alt+Tab to switch between open windows

Holding down the Alt key while you tap the Tab key allows you to cycle through all open applications.
Customize the clock by right-clicking the clock on the right hand side of the panel and choose Properties. Properties allows you to:
  • change to or from a digital clock style.
  • change the clock's display to and from a 12 and 24 hour format.
  • change the date format.
Change the appearance of the panel by right-clicking on it and selecting Customize Panel.... To add new items, right-click on the area where the new item should appear and select Add New Items....

5.1.2. The Xfce 4 desktop area

Before any additional icons are added to the desktop, the desktop area contains three icons by default:
  • Filesystem – this contains all mounted volumes (or disks) on the computer; all of these are also available by clicking on the Applications menu and selecting Filesystem.
  • Home – this is where all files - such as music, movies and documents - belonging to the logged-in user are stored by default. There is a different home directory for each user and users cannot by default access each others' home directories.
  • Trash – deleted files are moved here. Empty the Trash folder by right-clicking the Trash icon and clicking Empty Trash.

    Permanently deleting files

    To permanently delete a file, and bypass the file's move to Trash, hold down the Shift key when deleting the file.
Right-clicking on the desktop presents a menu of actions related to the desktop area. For example, clicking on Desktop Settings... lets you choose a different image or photograph to display on the desktop.