Note: this is part 4 of a series.  You can find the rest of the entres here.

We’re now going to spend some time in the Xfce Settings Manager.  This will let us further customize things to our liking.  To get there, go to your menu then to Settings then to Settings Manager.  This brings up a window with several options.  I’m going to detail how I have mine set up but, as always, feel free to make it look and work the way you like it.

First the Desktop options.  On the Appearance tab click on Show Image and this will replace the solid blue background with a wallpaper image.  We’ll select a different one so next to the area that says File click on the button that looks like a folder and you can select a new wallpaper.  I chose xfce-in-the-moon.png which looks nice.  Now click on the Behavior tab and down at the bottom it’ll give you options to show icons on the desktop for various objects.  I only like icons for home and trash so I unchecked the others.

Most of the other options I left alone.  The Panel option brings up the Panel Settings that we worked with last time.  Under Sessions and Startup I unchecked Show hibernate button and show suspend button as my computer doesn’t handle either of those.  On Splash Screen I chose Xubuntu.  This will give you a nice little animation when your computer is starting up.  You can check it out with the Test button.

Under User Interface we’re going to change the theme.  The default Xfce theme is very bland so I chose Xfce-cadmium which looks alot nicer.  Under Window Manager I left it on the default option but you can have fun with all the different window looks.  Under Window Manager Tweaks I didn’t change anything but if your computer has the horsepower you can go to the Compositor tab and choose enable display compositing.  This will give you some nice transparency effects but it can slow your computer down.

Last, under Workspaces and Margins you’ll find Xubuntu starts you out with four workspaces.  I didn’t want multiple workspaces on my computer so I changed this to 1.  Multiple workspaces are nice but for a computer that my kids will be using a lot I don’t want to have to deal with “where did everything go?”  If you do plan to use multiple workspaces you’ll want to make a tweak to your top panel.  Leave the Settings Manager and right-click on the top panel, Add New Item and chose Pager.  This will give you an easy way to move between your different workspaces.

One last thing I like to change has to do with the way files are displayed.  On your desktop, open your Home folder.  On the menu at the top go to View -> Location Selector -> and I like Toolbar Style instead of Pathbar Style.

Now we’re going to install some more things from Synaptic.  Look for and install the following:

  1. conky (a cool system monitor we’ll configure later)
  2. flashplugin-nonfree (enables Adobe’s Flash in Firefox – now YouTube will work)
  3. gdebi (lets you install deb packages for software that is not in the repository)
  4. xfce4-appfinder (a great program we’ll later use to customize our launcher)
  5. xfce4-goodies (a bunch of helpful add-ons – read more about it here)
  6. xfce4-mcs-plugins-extra (lets you set up autostarted applications)
  7. xfce4-taskmanager (lets you see what programs are running on your system)
  8. xubuntu-artwork-upsplash (gives you a graphical startup screen instead of all that text flying by when your computer is loading Ubuntu)

These will give us some extra functionality including the ability to drag icons around the desktop as well as more objects to add to the panels.  I personally like the Weather Update plugin that tells you the temperature and gives you a forecast when you click on it.

One last tweak I like is to change the theme of the login window.  By default, GDM uses the awful Ubuntu brown theme.  I like to get rid of that as soon as possible so go to Menu -> Settings -> Login Window.  Under the Local tab you can select a theme for your login window.  I like Circles so I selected that.  You can also bypass the login screen completely by going to the Security tab, selecting Enable Automatic Login and then selecting your username.  When you start or restart your computer it will not ask for your password and will automatically log you in.  I use this on my computer as it’s just me and my children so security isn’t an issue.  In general, it’s not recommended for security reasons but if you know it won’t be a concern for you then the option is there.

That’s it for now.  Next time we’ll work on multimedia so you can play music and watch movies.