From Alpine Linux

Xfce screenshot.


Basic Xfce desktop installation

Typical minimal package selection to install:

# apk add xfce4 xfce4-terminal xfce4-screensaver lightdm-gtk-greeter


xfce4-screensaver may be necessary for screen locking after inactivity (screensaver may stay disabled).
lightdm-gtk-greeter may be omitted if Xfce should only be started from or after a command line login, i.e. the machine should not boot to a graphical login screen (display manager). However, it is then necessary to add some theme files instead, to get a proper (themed) appearance. The theme that would otherwise be included by default may be added with adwaita-gtk2-theme adwaita-icon-theme.

Starting dbus (desktop bus) service:

# rc-service dbus start

Enabling dbus to start on boot:

# rc-update add dbus

If dbus is not running it leads to issues like missing icons and keyboard shortcuts.

Starting Xfce

With a display manager (graphical login)

If the package lightdm-gtk-greeter has been installed above, the lightdm display manager may be started to log in graphically with your new user.

# rc-service lightdm start

Once you have verified that it actually works, lightdm can be enabled to start up during boot:

# rc-update add lightdm

From the command line

From a console, Xfce may be started with:


But when it should get started via another script or mechanism like xinit, then use startxfce4. For example, calling it with "exec startxfce4" at the end of the ~/.xinitrc configuration file.

Localized keyboard layout

Settings->Keyboard->Layout->"Keyboard layout" only seems to get activated after once temporarily switching the button "Use system defaults" on, logging out and in again, and then turning it off again.

Allowing shut down and reboot

In order to allow the users to shut down the machine or reboot, the packages elogind and polkit-elogind need to be installed.

# apk add elogind polkit-elogind

And a reboot is required to let it take effect.

lbu commit # if running in diskless mode, to save state reboot

Auto-mounting USB drives

To enable automatic mounting of USB drives, install these packages:

# apk add gvfs udisks2

Depending on what devices you intend to mount, some additional packages may have to be added to the above:

ntfs-3g NTFS support gvfs-cdda audio CDs gvfs-mtp media players and mobile devices that use MTP gvfs-gphoto2 digital cameras and mobile devices that use PTP gvfs-afc Apple mobile devices

To list descriptions of all gvfs- packages:

apk info -d gvfs-*

Also, make sure that mounting is enabled in

Thunar>Edit>Preferences>Advanced>Volume Management>Configure>Storage>Removable Storage

Network browsing

For browsing of network shares within XFCE that works seamlessly with file associations, you can install the gvfs packages for the network protocols you use.

For example, to browse in a SMB/cifs windows network:

# apk add gvfs-smb

(Check: If the above may already be sufficient for gvfs to initiate the fuse kernel module. Else, try to identify if there are necessary steps in:)

# apk add gvfs-fuse

The OpenRC script for fuse is in a separate package.

# apk add fuse-openrc

Then the fuse service can be started manually.

# rc-service fuse start

(The XFCE sessions already in progress need to be restarted for this to take effect, i.e. log out and log in again.)

If it works, the fuse service can be added to start up automatically at boot time:

# rc-update add fuse

Desktop Applications

A collection of ideas for Applications to install that should fit well with the light-weigth Xfce may be found at Xfce_Desktop.

Theme installation (optional)

Just an example of installing and enabling a different theme.

  • apk add paper-gtk-theme # gtk2 !?
  • change xfce4 style/icons to paper: Settings -> Appearance -> Style and Icons
  • change window manager theme to Paper: Settings -> Window Manager -> Style
  • set custom desktop background picture, to see the transparency effects
  • Settings - > Appearance -> Fonts: Turn on Anti-aliasing (is the default) and enable Sub-Pixel order -> RGB

Optional example, changing to another icon theme.

  • apk add paper-icon-theme # ~125MB
  • Change mouse Theme to Paper: Settings -> Mouse and Trackpad -> Theme
  • enable all Composer Shadows: Settings -> Window Manager Tweaks -> Composer

Optional example, changing fonts to international font Noto.

  • apk add font-noto
  • Settings - > Appearance -> Fonts: Set to Noto Sans UI



If the Xorg server segfaults in kvm/qemu then add nomodeset as a boot option when booting up.

If the mouse / keyboard is not responding, you can try to disable hotplug.

  Section "ServerFlags"
    Option "AutoAddDevices" "False"

If the mouse / keyboard is not responding, you can try to disable hotplug.

  Section "ServerFlags"
    Option "AutoAddDevices" "False"


If you are unable to login, check /var/log/lightdm/lightdm.log, there may be output there from X to indicate failed modules, etc.

If you are unable to login, or you see an error "Failed to execute login command", you should check ~/.xinitrc (if you're using .xinitrc) with your preferred text editor (vi, nano, etc) and ensure that it is set to load xfce. To do this, the 'exec' line (usually the last line in the file) should read "exec startxfce4". If ~/.xinitrc does not exist, create it and add the exec line. this command will do it:

$ echo "exec startxfce4" >> ~/.xinitrc


If the panel and windows disappear or start flickering after logging in to xfce once, logout, and then login again, this is because xfce is writing a default config file with the compositor enabled, but does not enable it during your first login. Clear out the ~/.config/xfce directory, and login as "first time" again, as the default vblank setting for the compositor is likely incorrect. Open the windows manager tweaks and dconf editor (or use dconf-query) before you log out. Tick the compositor to off in the window manager tweaks ui. If you have a recent enough xfce (4.14) there is a ui in window manager tweaks to set syncing mode, and you can try different values, such as vblank, xpresent, and glx, while turning the compositor on and off, until you find one that works. Or, from dconf editor, you can set xfwm4 /general/vblank_mode, which you will find is set to "auto" by default, and then turn the compositor on again. This can also be accomplished from the command line using using:

xfconf-query -c xfwm4 -p /general/vblank_mode -s mode

where mode is vblank, glx or xpresent.

You have to use xfconf-query from within the xfce terminal session, or at least with the xfce settings daemon started.