A modern and lightweight Arch-Linux (xfce) configuration

What a better way to get in touch than to talk about our everyday configuration ? I’m currently working on an Arch Linux distribution. What I love about it is the huge amount of Sys Admin stuff I learned while installing it again and again, each time faster than before, and with a better knowledge of what I was doing. I’m not going to give you explanations on how to install it, but rather present you some packages I use to customize the default system.

System utilities

First, there’s a few packages not available through pacman or yaourt (the Arch Linux package managers). You’ll have to manually install them (by that I mean going to their website, and downloading them directly) :

yaourt redshift oh-my-zsh
  • redshift allows you to change the temperature of your screen. It tires the eyes less than having a blue screen, especially during the night.
  • oh-my-zsh is a zsh plugin that easily lets you configure your zsh.

Then, with pacman (sudo pacman -S [packages]):

lxrandr xfce4-screenshooter xscreensaver
  • lxrandr is a small utility that lets you configure multiple screens. It is graphical, and very user-friendly.
  • The screenshooter is the official xfce – well, get ready – screenshooter. A cool shortcut to launch it at any time is [Windows] + [Screen] (in Settings > Keyboard > Application Shortcuts).
  • I like to use xscreensaver to lock my PC. It’s customizable and there are plenty themes available. I often even display a RSS flux. It starts with the xscreensaver-command --lock command. It can be configured through xscreensaver-command --demo.

Xfce is faaaast.

I didn’t have the opportunity to test in depth a lot of graphical interfaces. Yet, it’s because xfce remains my favorite, and I don’t feel like testing other GUI, as this one entirely supplies my needs. It’s very fast, and highly customizable. During summer, I ended up having this ChromeOS like desktop, on xfce. Now I went back to more classical stuff :

Autostart xfce at login

Simply add this line to your zshrc config file, if this is the shell you’re using :

startxfce4

I’m not found of login managers, as they tend to slow down the boot time. Xfce is my only graphical interface, so I neither need to switch between it and something else, nor to change the language, keyboard disposition or brightness each time I log in. That’s why a simple console login is entirely sufficient for me.

A beautiful xfce interface

Here’s a beautiful theme, for afficionados of flat and sober themes like me. Its creator also made a great theme for firefox/chrome. The rendering is beautiful, and without any noticed bug so far.

arc-dark.png

It has several levels of configuration, from light to dark, all very well explained on the github page. It works well with this icon theme, and this cursor theme.

What you need to do if you want your main folders to always have a logo on them when displayed in thunar (the default GUI file viewer), is to add these lines to a file called ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs :

XDG_DESKTOP_DIR="$HOME/Desktop"
XDG_DOCUMENTS_DIR="$HOME/Documents"
XDG_DOWNLOAD_DIR="$HOME/Downloads"
XDG_MUSIC_DIR="$HOME/Music"
XDG_PICTURES_DIR="$HOME/Pictures"
XDG_PUBLICSHARE_DIR="$HOME/Public"
XDG_TEMPLATES_DIR="$HOME/.Templates"
XDG_VIDEOS_DIR="$HOME/Videos"

The result :

dirs

Yeah ! This looks like a completely different xfce now, doesn’t it ? Of course, don’t forget to customize the panels to fulfill your needs. I personally like to have a few launchers in a Windows-like style. The softwares icons you’ll need can be downloaded on Google and then added to the /usr/share/icons folder.

Conky

conky

Conky is a little tool that allows you to display system informations directly on your desktop. You can set the refreshing rate, and choose between a lot of informations to display (list of available variables). I like to keep it simple, and to only display time and date. Here’s what my ~/.conkyrc file looks like :

#############################
# Conky settings
update_interval 10
total_run_times 0
double_buffer yes
no_buffers yes
#############################
# Text settings
use_xft yes
xftfont Ubuntu
#############################
# Window specifications
own_window yes
own_window_type override
own_window_transparent yes
own_window_hints undecorated,below,sticky,skip_taskbar,skip_pager
gap_x 90
gap_y 800
#############################
# Graphics settings
draw_shades no
default_color ffffff
#############################
TEXT
${font Open Sans Light:pixelsize=80}${time %H:%M}${font}
${alignc} ${font Open Sans Light:pixelsize=30}${time %d %b %Y}${font}

There are plenty ways to configure the date and time format, listed here.

That’s it for my Arch configuration. I mainly talked about the graphical customization, because I like to interact with my OS through the GUI as well as through the command line. When the system is freshly installed, you already have almost every console tool you need, but, unlike Windows (already good-looking when installed), if you want your GUI (xfce) to look modern, you have to accept to take some time to customize it. Yes, I think xfce is a great GUI as it is fast and customizable, but, by default, it’s also very old-fashioned !

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