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XFCE theming - a few suggestions

The default debian XFCE theme looks quite ugly and outdated.

However XFCE allows for quick and easy customization that can make this DE looks both beautiful and modern.

Here are a few easy tips that can help XFCE feel more modern and practical for Whonix users:

  1. User-friendliness
  • Replace the default program list with Whisker-Menu (already implemented as of Whonix 14)
  • Install xfce4-goodies which provides panel plugins and small packages that improve user-friendliness (more details here: https://packages.debian.org/stretch/xfce4-goodies)
  • Add Pulse Audio plugin in the panel -> users expect to be able to change sound volume easily
  1. Overall look and design
3 Likes

//cc @Algernon

Yes, looks much better generally.

Patches are welcome.

It’s a meta package. (It does not have any relevant files itself. (apt-file list xfce4-goodies))

It has a lot dependencies of stuff we won’t need. Such as xfce4-cpufreq-plugin will not be useful and confusing in VMs.

apt-cache show xfce4-goodies

Depends: mousepad, ristretto, thunar-archive-plugin, thunar-media-tags-plugin, xfburn, xfce4-battery-plugin, xfce4-clipman-plugin, xfce4-cpufreq-plugin, xfce4-cpugraph-plugin, xfce4-datetime-plugin, xfce4-dict, xfce4-diskperf-plugin, xfce4-fsguard-plugin, xfce4-genmon-plugin, xfce4-mailwatch-plugin, xfce4-netload-plugin, xfce4-notes-plugin, xfce4-notifyd | notification-daemon | notify-osd, xfce4-places-plugin, xfce4-screenshooter, xfce4-sensors-plugin, xfce4-smartbookmark-plugin, xfce4-systemload-plugin, xfce4-taskmanager, xfce4-terminal, xfce4-timer-plugin, xfce4-verve-plugin, xfce4-wavelan-plugin, xfce4-weather-plugin, xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin, xfce4-xkb-plugin
Recommends: xfce4-power-manager
Suggests: gigolo, parole, xfce4-indicator-plugin, xfce4-mpc-plugin, xfce4-radio-plugin

Therefore, could you please pick the packages that are useful to us so we can only install the useful stuff you’re mentioning but not the stuff we won’t need?

A lot better (not impossible otherwise) if we could use something already packaged for and available from packages.debian.org. Looks like this one even is: https://packages.debian.org/buster/arc-theme
Maybe we can just install that package?

Available in Debian too?

Yes, let me see in details and pick up the useful ones (obviously can be installed separately, better than metapackage).

I agree, I think it was not included in stretch, let me test the buster version. Unfortunately as far as I know the Arc icons are not yet available as a buster package.

3 Likes
  1. arc-theme (deb package, buster)
    Installing arc-theme requires 28.4 MB of additional disk space:
user@host:~$ sudo apt install arc-theme
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following additional packages will be installed:
  albatross-gtk-theme blackbird-gtk-theme bluebird-gtk-theme
  gnome-accessibility-themes gnome-themes-extra gnome-themes-extra-data
  greybird-gtk-theme gtk2-engines-murrine murrine-themes
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  albatross-gtk-theme arc-theme blackbird-gtk-theme bluebird-gtk-theme
  gnome-accessibility-themes gnome-themes-extra gnome-themes-extra-data
  greybird-gtk-theme gtk2-engines-murrine murrine-themes
0 upgraded, 10 newly installed, 0 to remove and 22 not upgraded.
Need to get 5,911 kB of archives.
After this operation, 28.4 MB of additional disk space will be used.

It comes in three flavors: Arc, Arc dark, Arc Darker. I personally prefer the Arc one.

  1. Arc Icons
    Only way I found was to download them on GitHub (no debian package) and copy them into /usr/share/icons folder (only the Arc folder, not the rest).
    7.8 MB, not a big deal.

Result: Whonix Buster with Arc theme and Arc icons, screenshots

Notice: I also did some changes to the outlook of XFCE4-terminal

2 Likes

Of course we could also change the default background image. To a color, variations of colors, or another image.

2 Likes

Looks amazing!

Sorry, forgot to mention, during build it will have to be installed similar like this (kinda using --no-install-recommends):

sudo apt-get install arc-theme --no-install-recommends

Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following additional packages will be installed:
  gtk2-engines-murrine
Recommended packages:
  murrine-themes
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  arc-theme gtk2-engines-murrine
0 upgraded, 2 newly installed, 0 to remove and 9 not upgraded.
Need to get 373 kB of archives.
After this operation, 8,927 kB of additional disk space will be used.

In other words, we have to pick from your “accidentally installed ones”…

albatross-gtk-theme arc-theme blackbird-gtk-theme bluebird-gtk-theme
  gnome-accessibility-themes gnome-themes-extra gnome-themes-extra-data
  greybird-gtk-theme gtk2-engines-murrine murrine-themes

…which ones we really want and which ones we don’t need.

1 Like

OK I did a new test on a fresh Workstation 15 with

sudo apt-get install arc-theme --no-install-recommends

It did pull the following dependencies. I guess we cannot do without them.

user@host:~$ sudo apt-get install arc-theme --no-install-recommends
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following additional packages will be installed:
  gnome-themes-extra gnome-themes-extra-data gtk2-engines-murrine
Recommended packages:
  gnome-accessibility-themes murrine-themes
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  arc-theme gnome-themes-extra gnome-themes-extra-data gtk2-engines-murrine
0 upgraded, 4 newly installed, 0 to remove and 22 not upgraded.
Need to get 1,469 kB of archives.
After this operation, 10.5 MB of additional disk space will be used.

onion_knight via Whonix Forum:

OK I did a new test on a fresh Workstation 15 with

sudo apt-get install arc-theme --no-install-recommends
You reverted to a previous snapshot (or removed all previously installed
packages), then did sudo apt-get install arc-theme --no-install-recommends, and the result was the pretty result as above?

It did pull the following dependencies. I guess we cannot do without them.

If the answer to my above question is yes, then my answer to this will
be also “yes”. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Not sure how they go with the other enhancements above, but for me, geany and terminator are a must and make life so much more comfortable.

https://packages.debian.org/stretch/terminator - the horiz / vertical splitting, with easily changing text size in each is much more friendly to use than xfce terminal tabs or opening multiple windows.

https://packages.debian.org/stretch/geany - defined as a fast and easy IDE but I prefer it over mousepad (or other programs) for any text file editing.

I also agree that the arc theme looks way better than the current one.

3 Likes

The answer is yes, I used a clean unmodified Whonix 15 version :slight_smile:

1 Like

Regarding package xfce4-goodies

After a brief reviewing, I agree that it is probably unnecessary in a VM scenario. I would maybe only keep the xfce4-screenshooter, but wouldn’t call it really necessary either.

Another suggestion that came to mind:
why not adding desktop icons? Also something that most users of classical OSes expect to see. Also, I remember that in Whonix 13 there were different shortcuts on the Desktop for Whonix-related stuff, such as Whonix-Check, Tor-Arm, Whonix-Documentation, etc. Why not having them also back on the desktop?

Here how it looks with desktop icons (activated by: desktop settings -> Icons->Default Icons: Home, Filesystem, Trash, Removable Devices):

Other suggestion:
Default /home/user environment has only the Desktop directory. Why not adding the classical XFCE4 default user directories also during build? Also something expected by most users I would think:
Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Public, Templates, Videos

1 Like

Not sure anymore, I think we didn’t figure out how to add them by default without a confusing warning when using them for the first time. Also when applications changed and desktop icons broke, users got concerned. Maybe we could resurrect these packages if anyone has ideas:

There should be at least /home/user/Downloads but it is broken due to this bug:

As for the others: there’s never been a question / feature request about those. I personally always found these too much. When doing backups, never knowing if something ended up there. Too much since not everything happens in the a single Whonix VM.

OK I understand the rationale. Maybe a Download directory could be added somewhere at the end of the build, with a simple mkdir command but probably non-critical.

As for simple Desktop icons (not whonix-related), what would you think? It’s not supposed to break or cause problems, and simple to add, but again, not critical I guess.

1 Like

God, that looks so much better. I’m trying it in my working W14 though, and there are some problems.

My install steps:

  • Theme:

    • sudo apt install arc-theme
    • Selected Arc Style theme in ‘Appearance’ settings.
  • Icons:

    • I first had to do: sudo apt install autoconf git
    • I followed the git terminal install steps at https://github.com/horst3180/arc-icon-theme
    • I then did (because it was needed): sudo gtk-update-icon-cache /usr/share/icons/Arc
    • Selected Arc Icon theme in ‘Appearance’ settings.

Problems (which still persist after Workstation reboot):

  • Theme appearance for top RH corner window buttons (close, max, min, arrow) is still showing as my former selected theme (Xfce-dawn) on all Windows, unless ones hat are behind the current active window. Only non-active (but visible) windows correctly show Arc window buttons. Weird. (fixed)
  • Taskbar item text of minimized windows apart are too dark (I have Panel opacity set to 100%, as normal). Text is quite hard to read. It could be worse though.
  • I don’t think the icon set is complete, as they say. e.g. Settings ‘slider’ icon in whisker menu.

But @onion_knight your screenshots are better. Is it Buster that fixes it, or the buster repo version of the theme (it’s clearly newer than the stretch one), or another variable?

I also first installed the theme via this direct deb and it was even worse. Mouse selection of both page text and address bar text in Tor Browser had no normal dark-colored bgcolor contrast, so it was unusable.

I’m happy to test a Whonix 15 OVA if need be. Maybe this theme upgrade should only be for W15 release and Buster.

1 Like

@AnonymousUser glad you like it and thanks for testing!

Well, I wasn’t even aware the arc-theme existed as a package in debian stretch, always used github links (or worse, Ubuntu packages) before buster! So I don’t know why it’s not working on your side, maybe they actually fixed your issues with the buster version?

For the icons, you are right to mention the sudo gtk-update-icon-cache /usr/share/icons/Arc command that should be performed after install, although I am not sure which concrete issues it actually solves (other than the Icons panel in the appearance menu stops complaining about the lack of cache…).

It’s weird, did you make sure to also change the theme of the Window Manager settings? whisker menu->window manager->Style->Arc

Don’t know about this one, maybe a screenshot would help?

Yes, I know about that, some panel icons (for instance the Thunar icon) are not always working properly (still show stock Adwaita icons). Don’t know why, maybe related to panel configuration, I will try to look into that.

1 Like

For sure. Whonix 14: security upgrades and major bug fixes only.
Most development is focused on latest Whonix version only.

onion_knight via Whonix Forum:

OK I understand the rationale. Maybe a Download directory could be added somewhere at the end of the build, with a simple mkdir command but probably non-critical.

chroot script style so to speak. That’s ideally avoided. Better to implement as much as possibly with packages. Why:

  • consistency with upgraded versions;
  • apt-get install metapackage compatibility;
  • consistency with Qubes-Whonix builds

As for simple Desktop icons (not whonix-related), what would you think? It’s not supposed to break or cause problems, and simple to add, but again, not critical I guess.

Patches are welcome.

Ah, that did it! Thank you.

Ah, I’d have to set up a testing W14 for that. But it’s not a big deal-breaker for now. Let me live with the theme for a week and see if I still find it hard to use. It may be fine after some adaptation. :slight_smile:

I also find that the file browser / desktop text is blurry by default (on my machine) and I can make them nicely sharp at Appearance > Fonts by changing Hinting and sub-pixel color settings.

Not sure if we tend to customize images with little setting choices like that as well? I’d love it, if possible, makes Whonix by default more appealing for people and increases adoption.

1 Like

As long as users can agree on some set of settings I don’t see any reason to not make those the default.

3 Likes