How to Install and Use Whisker Menu in Xfce Desktop

5 min

A simple guide for beginners showing how to install and configure the Whisker menu in the Xfce desktop environment.

Xfce desktop has a stock menu that’s quite user-friendly and straightforward. However, if you’re looking for a more advanced and modern menu for your Xfce desktop, I highly recommend trying the Whisker menu. It’s a fantastic option for those wanting to customize their menus further and ensure everything is easily accessible.

Default Xfce menu
Default Xfce menu

Whisker Menu is a feature-rich and user-friendly application menu for the Xfce desktop environment. It’s one of the easiest and most organized ways to access all the apps and settings on your Xfce desktop. Plus, you can customize it to make it totally your own! And the search function is a lifesaver when you need to find something fast.

Pre-requisite for Whisker menu

I assume you already have Xfce desktop installed in any modern Linux distributions. Or, you are using any Linux distribution with Xfce, such as Xubuntu or Debian Xfce. You can also use Arch Linux with Xfce as well for this guide.

So, in a nutshell, this is what you need:

  • A system running Xfce desktop environment
  • Administrative privileges to install software

Install the Whisker menu on the Xfce desktop

Xfce desktop allows several plugins to extend the functionality of the desktop. The Whisker menu is an official Xfce plugin which you need to install.

The plugin name is xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin , and it is available in all major Linux distributions featuring Xfce.

Open a terminal and enter the following command to install.

  • Debian/Ubuntu: sudo apt install xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin
  • Fedora: sudo dnf install xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin
  • Arch Linux: sudo pacman -S xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin
  • openSUSE: sudo zypper install xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin

Note: Some distributions package this by default, so you may not need to install it,

Enable the Whisker menu by replacing default Xfce menu

The menu is a plugin for the top panel. Hence you need to modify it accordingly.

  • Right-click on the panel and select Panel > Panel preferences.
  • Select the Items tab and click Add.
  • On the Add New Items window, select the Whisker menu and click on Add. Hit Close to close the new items window.
  • Once you do that, the new menu will appear on the Items list of the Panel preferences window.
  • Move it up using the top arrow to the extreme top.
  • Remove the Application Menu plugin using the Remove button. Confirm Yes on the permanent removal popup.
  • Press close once done.
Adding Whisker Menu plugin to Xfce panel preferences
Adding Whisker Menu plugin to Xfce panel preferences
After adding the Whisker menu
After adding the Whisker menu

Configure Whisker Menu

Now you have added the Whisker menu, let’s try to customize it with various options.

The default setup for the Whisker menu works just fine. Although, if I may suggest, I personally prefer having the search box on top and the app categories on the left, a list of items on mouse hover instead of clicks and so on.

So, to change all these, right-click on the Whisker menu icon and select properties.

Whisker menu settings
Whisker menu settings

In the settings window of the Whisker menu, there are plenty of options. You can configure the looks of icons, behaviour, search configurations, etc.

For example, I want the search bar at the top of the menu so that I can quickly start typing for my desired application. Also, I want the icons to the left of the menu panel, and they change when I hover the mouse cursor on them.

Additionally, I want a slight opacity of the menu background for better theming on the Xfce desktop.

These are the settings which I selected for my use case.

Various Whisker menu settings
Various Whisker menu settings

And above changes made the menu look like the one below.

Whisker menu after configuration
Whisker menu after configuration

There are plenty of options available. You can play around with them and tweak the Whisker menu as needed. For example, you can also keep the icons horizontal to make them look like this. This is just an idea of how much customization you can do using this versatile menu.

Whisker menu with an alternate view
Whisker menu with an alternate view

Open the Whisker menu by Super key

The SUPER key, known as the WIN key on Windows or the ⌘ CMD key on a Mac, is like your keyboard’s magic button. When using most Linux desktop setups, you can just hit that SUPER key, and voila! It opens up your applications menu.

Once that menu pops up, you start typing a few letters of the app you’re after. Like, let’s say you want to rock with a text editor. Just type “text,” and watch the default text editor’s name light up on the Whisker menu.

All that’s left is to press ENTER, and boom! Your chosen app springs to life, ready to roll.

Picture this: You’ve copied something from the web, and you’re eager to jump into your text editor. Just type “text” until that trusty text editor is all bright and shiny. Then, hit ENTER, and watch the magic happen.

I totally get it; this method is a game-changer. It’s like your productivity levels just hit the roof! But hold up – there’s a teensy issue. The XFCE Whisker menu doesn’t play along with the SUPER key by default. But hey, don’t sweat it! Here’s how to fire the Whisker menu with the super key.

  • Open “Keyboard” from the menu in Xfce.
  • Go to the Application shortcut tab.
  • Click on Add and enter the command xfce4-popup-whiskermenu. Press OK.
  • In the “press a key” popup, hit the SUPER key from your keyboard.
  • Once you do that, you can see the command is mapped to “Super + L”.
  • When you hit the super key, the Whisker menu pops up, making your life easy.
Whisker menu launch using Super Key
Whisker menu launch using Super Key

Wrapping up

In this tutorial, we’ve jazzed up your XFCE desktop by swapping out the ordinary applications menu with the versatile Whisker menu. This little change not only gives your XFCE desktop a fresh, modern vibe, but it also supercharges your workflow. Imagine this: after setting it up to pop up when you hit the SUPER key on your keyboard, you can now press that key, type a few letters of the app’s name, and simply hit ENTER to launch it. It’s snappy, it’s handy, and you won’t even need a mouse to kickstart your apps.

How cool is that?


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