Gnome might be the de-facto default desktop for many Linux distributions, but that doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s favorite. For many Linux users that distinction goes to XFCE. While it’s not as lightweight as it used to be, XFCE remains a favorite among users who want their desktop environment to stay out of their way.
Just because you want a relatively minimal desktop doesn’t mean you want it to be ugly. Looking to spice up the look of your XFCE installation? You have plenty of options.
It’s nearly impossible to talk about XFCE themes without talking about Arc. Not only does this theme look great, but it’s often installed by default with XFCE. That doesn’t mean you should overlook it.
Arc has both a GTK theme and an XFCE window theme, making it easy to go for a coherent look. It also comes in three variants: Arc, Arc-Darker, and Arc-Dark. This goes from light to dark, and you can mix and match them between the GTK and window themes, letting you tailor the themes to your liking.
Numix started off as a GTK theme aimed mainly at Gnome users, but it works well for XFCE as well. The addition of an XFCE window manager theme means that it fits in very nicely. Throw in the matching icon theme and a good wallpaper, and you have a sleek-looking desktop.
The red highlights help Numix stand out from other color schemes that generally use shades of blue and gray. There are also varient XFCE window manager themes like NumixHolo if you prefer smaller window title bars.
3. XFCE Simple Dark
If you prefer your themes on the darker side, the aptly-named XFCE Simple Dark is a fantastic option.
Dark themes can often lead to poor visibility, especially in areas like the Thunar file manager. This theme doesn’t suffer from this at all. It can actually make navigation easier in some cases, though this is subjective.
This theme includes both a GTK theme for controls and an XFCE window manager theme so you don’t have to worry about unmatched elements. It also doesn’t hide elements on panels nearly as much as some other dark themes can.
Sometimes you find a GTK theme you love, but no XFCE window manager themes match it. That’s where a theme like Axis comes in handy. This theme doesn’t feature a GTK theme. Instead, it aims to match yours.
Axis is a very minimal theme, with squared off corners and simple window control elements. It’s a great match for GTK themes like Greybird that don’t always fit with other window manager themes.
If you like the silvery gray color scheme used on macOS but don’t want your desktop to be a clone of the Mac desktop, this theme may be for you. Pro-Dark-XFCE-Edition is definitely inspired by the look of older Mac desktops, but it has its own ideas as well.
PRO-Dark-XFCE-Edition has both GTX and XFCE window manager themes, and they blend together quite nicely. The dark panel option and light gray menus help keep it easy on the eyes while remaining visually distinctive.
6. OneColor XFCE
If you prefer a splash of color on your Linux desktop, look no further. OneColor XFCE comes in seven varieties. One is a fairly standard gray, while the other six are quite bright and very colorful.
This is only an XFCE window manager theme, so you’re free to pick whatever GTK theme you want to use with it. If you want an especially striking look, pair it with a dark GTK theme.
7. CDE / Motif Theme
Talk about a blast from the past. If you think that the CDE / Motif theme looks dated, that’s because it is, and that’s very much on purpose. This theme is based on the look of CDE, or the Common Desktop Environment.
The creator of this theme refers to it as “an elegant desktop from a more civilized age.” It even includes a custom panel based on the panel found in CDE. This boxy retro look isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth a quick look as a reminder of what Unix desktops used to look like.
Want to Customize Your Desktop Even More?
Adjusting the theme can make you feel more at home, but it’s far from the only way to adjust XFCE to your liking. You can customize the various panels, change the icon size, change the location of window controls and much more.
If you’re curious how to do this, don’t worry. We have a guide that will show you how to customize every aspect of your XFCE desktop.