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The LXDE Configuration HOWTO


1.  Introduction

What is LXDE?

After installing your base Gentoo system, and The X Server, you have to make many choices regarding your graphical environment, if you want one at all. There are many options available to you, ranging from minimalistic window managers like Openbox, to full-featured desktop environments like KDE, and GNOME.

You may find yourself saying "well, I like the idea of having a lightweight graphical environment, but I don't want to install and configure every component individually like with Openbox." For quite some time, such users installed Xfce. While it provided a nice fully-featured environment without the system intensities of KDE or GNOME, it could still become a bit on the heavy side. Now, you have another choice: the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environemnt, or LXDE for short.

Components of LXDE

LXDE, being a desktop environment, is comprised of several components. Each program offers a certain functionality, and together, they form the complete desktop environment. Currently, there are eleven core components, and several other supplementary programs necessary to make a complete LXDE installation. These programs are the ones pulled in by the LXDE meta package, discussed in the installation section.

Core Components

  • LXappearance is a GTK theme and icon configurator that allows you to customise the look of LXDE.
  • LXDE-common is a collection of default configuration files and the main set of icons.
  • LXmenu-data is the application menu manager.
  • LXinput is a keyboard and mouse configurator.
  • LXpanel is the panel that includes the application menu, system tray, and clock.
  • LXrandr is a graphical interface to X Resize and Rotate, allowing for display manipulation.
  • LXsession is a session manager, providing options to shutdown, reboot, and suspend the system.
  • LXsession-edit allows you to enable / disable applications at startup.
  • LXshortcut is an easy way to edit application shortcuts, especially for desktop icons.
  • LXtask is the task manager used to view / edit running services and programs.
  • LXterminal is the vte-based tabbed terminal emulator.

Necessary Supplemental Programs

  • OpenBox is the window manager, responsible for drawing the containers for programs.
  • PCManFM is the incredibly fast, tabbed file manager.
  • ObConf is the configurator for OpenBox, allowing you to change window decorations and more.
  • GPicView is the default image viewer.

2.  Installation

Initial installation

After you have emerged and configured xorg-server, you are ready to install LXDE. Currently, all the LXDE packages are in the testing (~arch) branch. If you are running the stable branch, you will need to add all the LXDE packages to your /etc/portage/package.keywords (see the Mixing Software branches portion of the handbook for more information).

Note: You can tell if you are running the stable branch or the testing branch system-wide by looking at your /etc/make.conf. If you have a tilde (~) in your ACCEPT_KEYWORDS line (for instance, ACCEPT_KEYWORDS="~x86"), then you are running the testing branch. If there is no tilde, then you are running the stable branch.

Code Listing 2.1: Opening the Portage keywords file

# nano -w /etc/portage/package.keywords

Then you will need to add the following lines to your keywords file:

Code Listing 2.2: Adding LXDE packages to the keywords file


After adding the keyworded packages, you need to merge all of the packages. Fortunately, this can now be done with an easy meta build:

Code Listing 2.3: Installing LXDE

(Use emerge -av lxde-meta to preview which packages will be installed)
# emerge lxde-meta

Just like with other desktop environments, you will need to tell the X Server to load LXDE automatically, by adding it to your ~/.xinitrc.

Code Listing 2.4: Adding LXDE to your .xinitrc

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

This will automatically start your LXDE session when you type startx at the terminal.

Note: If you use a login manager like SLiM, XDM, GDM, or KDM, you do not need to edit your ~/.xinitrc. LXDE will simply show up as a choice in your login manager's screen.

Important: As each user has his or her own .xinitrc, you need to make sure to issue that command as your user, not as root.

3.  Configuration

GTK icon warning

Now that the X server knows to start LXDE on command, type in startx to fire up LXDE. The first thing you may notice is that you get a warning about an improper GTK icon set. To fix this minor hangup, you simply need to change the icon theme. To do so, click on the LXDE application menu (in the lower left-hand corner of the panel), and go to Preferences --> Appearance. In the LXappearance menu, click on the "Icon" tab, and choose nuoveXT.2.2. Hit "Apply," and then "Close." The next time you login to LXDE, the error message will not appear.

Right-click menu

In LXDE, every appearance option is not handled through LXappearance as one might believe. Rather, there are some common options that are handled through a right-click menu on the desktop. At the bottom of that menu is the "Desktop Settings" menu. In here, you can find icon sizes, single-click and double-click behaviour, maximum thumbnail size, and desktop wallpaper settings. It may behoove you to look through the these tabs for additional appearance settings.

Note: These "Desktop Settings" can also be found by opening up the file manager (PCManFM), and going to Edit --> Preferences.

4.  Further documentation

External resources

Though this guide will help you get LXDE installed, the documentation does not stop here. There are many resources available to you regarding the various facets of the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment. Some such resources are listed below:

  • On the Official LXDE website you will find information regarding developmental progress, a community of support, and recommend system specifications for running LXDE.
  • The LXDE wiki contains instructions for customising your LXDE installation, including keyboard layouts, autostarting applications, changing the default window manager, and much more.


Page updated August 13, 2009

Summary: This guide introduces the user to LXDE, explains its components, and leads the user through the installation.

Nathan Zachary

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