Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Monday, March 11, 2019 at 20:11

Continuing KDE, GNOME, and MATE customization the series, it's XFCE's turn being customized with a global menu and Capitaine theme pack. We will use an XFCE theme, a GTK3 theme, an icon theme, tweak the top panel a little, and then install Plank as the dock, and finish them up with some more tweaking. I practiced this on Xubuntu 18.04 with XFCE version 4.12. I wish this helps everybody especially you who just started customizing XFCE desktop. Happy tweaking!

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On customization: KDE4 on KDE5 | KDE-MojaveCT | GNOME-McMojave | MATE-Yosemite | Pantheon-CapitaineX

Result talks first

The goal of this customization tutorial is to make XFCE 4.12 to look like this. It will have a global menu on a transparent top panel, translucent dock with macOS-like icon theme, an El Capitane wallpaper, and of course the exterior (XFWM) and interior (GTK3) themes which resemble macOS.

(Top: transparent panel with global menu; middle: icons on desktop area; bottom: dock with La Capitaine icon theme; background: El Capitane wallpaper)


I use this composition on XFCE 4.12 on Xubuntu 18.04 LTS:

What we will do

We will build this composition:
  • set the exterior theme into McOS-XFCE-Edition-II
  • set the interior theme into macOS-4.0
  • set the icon theme into La Capitaine
  • install xfce4-appmenu-plugin by APT command

(Left: window decoration, middle: GTK3 interiors, right: icons)

Install Global Menu Package

It is not included on Xubuntu 18.04 but it is available in the repo. Just install it:
$ sudo apt-get install xfce4-appmenu-plugin

Step 1: set wallpaper

Just like previous tutorials, you can download macOS wallpapers from sites like 512 pixels. For this time I use El Capitan wallpaper.

Step 2: set window decoration

The theme is McOS-XFCE-Edition-II XFWM Theme. Download it from Extract it into ~/.themes and enable it from start menu > Window Manager > Style > McOS-XFCE-Edition-II. Then shift the control buttons to the left by dragging the buttons arrangement under the Button layout: Active section on the right.

(Choose the GTK3 theme and don't forget to switch the control buttons position)

Step 3: set interior theme

The theme is macOS Mojave GTK3 Theme. Download it from Extract it into ~/.themes and enable it from start menu > Appearances > Style > macOS-4.0 > close.

Step 4: set icon theme

The theme is La Capitaine. Download it from Extract it and copy the folder into ~/.icons. Enable the icon from the start menu > Appearances > Icons > La Capitaine > close.

Step 5: set dock theme

The theme is Mac Theme Round 3.1. Download it from Extract it and copy the folder into ~/.local/share/plank/themes. Enable it by right-clicking the dock > Preferences > Appearance > Theme: Deafult-MAC THEME(ROUND) [sic] > close.

Step 6: set top panel

  • Add global menu
  • Set transparency
  • Remove 'taskbar applet'
  • Remove 'Whisker menu'
  • Or instead, you can omit the XFCE logo with a black apple logo if you wish

(Panel setup: Style=Solid color, alpha=80%, and color=white)

(Final panel, still with start menu on the left)

Step 7: make dock a startup

Up to this point you need to call Plank every time you started your system. That's ineffective. So you should make Plank to start automatically by right-click on desktop > Applications > Settings > Session and Startup > Application Autostart > click Add button > type the command: plank > give it a name and description as you wish > OK > close.

Step 8: icons on desktop

Just like KDE and MATE, XFCE allows icons on desktop. The easiest way to put one is by opening the start menu and drag one icon into the desktop. If you have deleted start menu, press Alt+F2, click the downward arrow, and drag any icon you wish from it to the desktop.

(Example in making desktop shortcuts on XFCE)

Finalize everything

Up to this point, you should have at least 4 different theme folders as shown in picture below. Please check the folder paths as pointed by transparent red boxes.

(In clockwise order: GTK3, XFWM, Plank, and icon themes)

And you may notice that there is a disturbing horizontal drop shadow slightly on top of your dock. You can disable that, but, unfortunately, if you did it you will also disable the top panel's shadow. That's the biggest limitation of this tutorial. You find the configuration from start menu > Window Manager Tweaks > Compositor > uncheck the option Show shadows under dock windows > close. I wish I could find a way to keep the top's shadow while disabling the bottom's shadow.

(Disabling drop shadow for dock)

Final result

Here's the final result if you followed all instructions. This one is Inkscape Vector Editor program running un-maximized with global menu from the top panel.

Here's how Terminal, Parole Media Player, Thunar, and GNOME Software look like using this theme pack. Pay attention also to the active global menu.

Here's how Thunar File Manager looks like. Actually it's not too satisfying, the GNOME's Nautilus few days ago was better than this.

And here's the default text editor:

Closing words

This customization feels quicker and easier compared to MATE Desktop one. It's nice and fun to do, especially while we really can implement global menu on XFCE right now, and we can easily tweak the size and the transparency of top panel. There's not so much difference on the Plank dock side, but it's nice to see how far it can blend to the whole desktop. I admit there are things that are not too nice like there is no drop shadow under top panel and dock, no "finder" button, and the GTK3 theme I used above actually cannot blend perfectly to the system tray color (did you notice it?) and the file manager. Anyway, I hope you are satisfied with this tutorial and you can go further if you wish as I let some space for you to tweak yourself. Happy customizing, enjoy, and share it with your friend!

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.