XFCE theming - a few suggestions

That’s the next widely established development goal: don’t duplicate code / data whenever possible. Even more important goal than not “stealing” packages owned by third party packages.

Is that what you mean by using it as a ‘drop-in folder’?


With drop-in I mean .d style folders. some info here:

Examples include /etc/grub.d

That we have to live with (unless too much disk space gets wasted) (in this case I guess it is ok).

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I don’t want to take the wind out of anyone’s sails, but, I do not agree with:

It’s good. It’s nice enough. I don’t think we should try to compete with anyone on looks. It isn’t ugly. What’s ugly about it? it’s great as far as I’m concerned. Even some excessive features here and there but not worth messing with.

This is where I’d vote yes. Whisker-Menu is a great improvement, but already implemented. Volume control - yes.

I tried transparency before, I really don’t see it’s very useful. The white on black is good. The terminal is one of the only places where we don’t have a strain on the eyes coming from too much white / bright colors. Please keep it that way.

Icons beauty - couldn’t care less. If it takes the time from a developer working on anything else then I’d say give it a miss. The current icons are good! If it has 1% chance to cause bugs (which additional feature doesn’t?) or a 0.1% chance to add any security vulnerabilities then not worth it.

Whonix XFCE looks good as it is!

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I agree that terminal transparency isnt’t something for everybody. But the white on black default setting seems quite old and off-putting IMHO. Maybe just something more elegant while still functional, like black on white background?

I agree that these things should not divert precious and already scarce developer time from important things. But this is definitely not the case here (no developer involved, just me suggesting things).

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Sorry but that would be the worse possible option IMO, again due to

When I get an editor that looks like that, I spend the first 5-10 minutes or as much as required to figure out how to change the background to black or at least to the darkest color possible.

To jazz up the terminal, use more text colors, but selectively - user@host in different color etc. That can both improve readability and look more lively. In addition, the main text can be very light grey while the background very dark grey instead of the high contrast B/W. That will look less monochromatic and still comfortable enough. Also, allow mouse wheel control of font size.

I strongly disagree. The current theme looks extremely off-putting, unattractive, and not nice to work in at all. Furthermore, this matter is important for the safety of the entire Whonix project and community. If our UI turns off people from adopting or continuing to use Whonix, we have a smaller anonymity set as a result, as well as less chances of people contributing to further make Whonix better.

Lastly, if it’s at all possible, the consensus on this should be taken from as wide a polling or data set as possible. So none of us here in this thread should be taken as the vocal majority, let alone the silent majority, which is way larger again (and more important). But is a forum poll is the best we can do within limited resources?


This risks bikeshedding.

If someone wants a poll - which might at this point would be the only way to stop this:
please write a forum post with a fair comparison of the two choices using old (maybe yet to be created) and these new screenshots with a poll. I’d then move it to the Whonix news forum and also spread in social media.

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I like the default theme of XFCE like it is.
Also, other themes are often not supported very well, they might have bugs and they increase also the download size and make it more difficult to overlook the whole whonix project, when they also change functions they even might introduce security vulnerabilites.

The only thing i would change is the background image in whonix gateway.
For the background image of Whonix Gateway i would suggest to use a completely red background with the words “Warning, this is the gateway of whonix!” as a warning so that users don’t use it for daily work and surfing and think they are anonymized by Tor when surfing with the whonix Gateway VM on the internet instead of whonix workstation.

I am yet to see a single person who cares about their security / anonymity who was put off by whonix’s UI or stopped to use it because it didn’t have enough goodies.

Sorry, but those are far fetched fairy tales.

Poll: experience shows that the vast majority of whonix users are not actively participating in this forum. Just check past polls and tell us if you think the number of participants says anything about overall Whonix users.

I agree.


I love Patrick how you have a law that explains absolutely anything ever discussed. :sweat_smile:

As long as there’s no rush to decide, I myself have more testing to do but I’d be fine to present such a poll with comparative screenshots if I finalized a working smooth solution for a custom theme after I ruled out any bugs with it.

I still have the Arc bugs I described earlier, but that’s in my Whonix 14, not 15 (need to test that), for example, and I will get to it some time soon-ish.

Theming is a must. I think most Whonix devs are on the same page here. Please continue testing so we can iron out the quirks and include it by default.


@AnonymousUser that shows you how decisions are made here :slight_smile: no polls. And really that’s the realistic way to do things.

If developers are happy with security level and no increased risks, I am content with every decision. I really hated KDE but endured with it because that was the only option at the time. Getting XFCE was like a breath of fresh air again. I am worried that piling more and more flashy features may be bringing us closer to bloated feel again.

Last remark on the subject: during the last year users moved from Whonix 13 to Whonix 14 to Whonix 14 XCFE. Debian buster stable is expected in a few months if I understand correctly. It’s really good and encouraging to see the progress in development here but please also consider that too frequent changes can be confusing. I will be happy with minimal GUI changes from Whonix 14 XFCE to Whonix 15.

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Apologies for my delay, I have a lot to do and can’t always be active in this forums day-to-day. I will continue testing arc etc. and troubleshoot / provide feedback.

Just for now:

This is the current XFCE default theme. It’s not just ugliness. Look at this window. Is ‘Application Shortcuts’ two tabs? Oh wait, it’s not, it’s one, but the dark theme is so dumb that there’s no way to even tell without clicking on it.

These are usability and accessibility issues. Not just how it looks, and whether it’s pretty or not.

@micky I do understand what you’re saying, and that makes sense. But we have to balance more than just that concern. We also have to think about completely new users joining the Whonix user base who are seeing it for the first-time. And that’s a long-term consideration.

I’d like to know: has there been a noticeable increase in Whonix OVA downloads in the last 18 months? Because if so, I am quite sure that I would have contributed to that due to my Whonix advocacy. I’m not trying to pointlessly brag, just demonstrating that I care and contribute to this aspect of the Whonix project a great deal.

And @micky a theme change isn’t comparable to an entire desktop change like KDE to XFCE (which had dozens of default app changes like Dolphin -> Thunar, KWrite -> Mousepad, and Qt -> GTK-based, resulting in the need to change to a different GPG app, and much more.)

Perhaps we should consider the theming of both Whonix 15 and Whonix Host together (handling each item in both systems) to make sure we properly differentiate between them, instead of doing one, then the other.

For example, when thinking of desktop, how should it look in the VM vs in the host.
How should the terminal look in the VM vs in the host. How will it look when VM terminal and host terminal are next to each other? if they look the same or similar, and both are debian based, it will be very easy to make mistakes there.
How should taskbar look in either of them. How will it look when one task bar is above the other?

I think the host should be very different than the VMs. Just a different desktop image isn’t enough. Perhaps use similar color themes as with Qubes. Host windows: all have gray frames and headers. Workstation windows all say dark blue or green frame, Gateway windows all red.

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I agree that they definitely need to look different to avoid potential confusion. This would be the default case if we apply some theming to the Workstation only: as a result they would look quite different, as the Gateway would keep its stock appearance.

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Someone up to send a pull request against https://github.com/Whonix/whonix-xfce-desktop-config/tree/master/etc/xdg/xfce4 theme changes? This task is independent from what I am writing below.

whonix-xfce-desktop-config could be the shared package which gets installed on gateway, workstation, host.

To make gateway, workstation and/or host look different that could added to other packages:

We don’t necessarily need all 3 of them. Maybe just the host package.

Once there are packages [or other ways to express what belongs in which file if git is too daunting] with files in /etc/xdg/xfce4, I can sort out the packaging.
[I.e. I can sort out any issues of whonix-xfce-desktop-config fighting for ownership with same file for XFCE thinking that using config-package-dev displace.]

Sooner or later we will have requests to apply some features / themes to the host as well. Defaults are rarely what people are interested in.

It’s good to think about what we want to have in each in advance rather than react later.

I am more concerned about host theme vs VM theme than about workstation vs gateway, since the gateway is (should be) used only for non frequent configuration changes or monitoring, while the host can and will entertain a broad range of activities.

OK I finally have been able to return to some theme testing for Whonix 15 Workstation consideration.

Testing arc-theme and arc-icons in Whonix 15, this bug happens when Linux Mint is the host, but not in other hosts (such as Tails).

I think this bug is kind of a deal-breaker unfortunately, as we have to think of compatibility with widely used host OSes for Whonix. Am I right? If yes, should I move on to finding an alternative superior theme to test?

Or are hacks to the theme welcome, and we could develop our own forked theme that fixes arc’s bugs / shortcomings?

The only host that matters for us is Debian which Whonix Desktop is based on.

OK, I’m personally fine with that. Debian closer to stock (e.g. Tails) is what I’m moving towards anyway, away from Mint. So, should I continue doing my theme testing on W15 on Debian host and ignore that bug with Mint?

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