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This technote covers setting up the Xfce desktop environment and session manager on a Raspberry Pi.  Folks who use a Linux distribution that make use of Xfce will find the Raspbian Xfce quite familiar.  I find that the look and feel of the desktop and the application menu organization is almost identical to that of Xubuntu which I use at home on Mini-ITX builds.


The latest Raspbian image (2015-02-16) from http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ includes Openbox and LXDE as desktop environment options on top of LightDM.  Xfce also uses LightDM so I was not surprised that Xfce installed so easily and was immediately available for use without any “tweaks”.

Note that one can also install the MATE desktop session manager that Linux Mint users are quite familiar with.  Maybe other desktop session managers too although the gating factor would be that they should interoperate with LightDM in order to avoid a lot of re-tooling.

Start with the following and go have a snack or walk the dog while its running:

sudo apt-get -y install Xfce4 Xfce4-screenshooter

This installs the desktop environment and session manager, the related applications, and a screen-shot application that is the best that I have ever used [(-:].

To try out Xfce once,

    • Logout.
    • At the login prompt, select “Xfce Session” in place of “Default Xsession”.
    • Login.

Note that the next time that you reboot/logout and come back, you will be back to whatever desktop session manager that you were using before.  To make use of Xfce from now on as the default, execute the following:

sudo update-alternatives --config x-session-manager

This will bring up a menu that should look like the following (or similar, depending on what you have been tinkering with):

   Selection    Path                      Priority   Status
------------------------------------------------------------
  0            /usr/bin/startlxde-pi      90        auto mode
  1            /usr/bin/lxsession         49        manual mode
  2            /usr/bin/openbox-session   40        manual mode
  3            /usr/bin/startlxde         50        manual mode
  4            /usr/bin/startlxde-pi      90        manual mode
  5            /usr/bin/startXfce4        50        manual mode
  6            /usr/bin/Xfce4-session     40        manual mode

Assuming your #6 looks like the above, select 6 to make Xfce the default session from now on.

Reboot.  That's it!  Feel free to comment or mail me if you have issues with installing or using Xfce.