Swarthmore College Department of Computer Science

customizing your desktop

Customizing xfce is fairly easy. Just right-click anywhere in the desktop area and go to the Settings-->Settings Manager option. From there you should be able to change your desktop background (Desktop), change how the mouse focus works (Window Manager), change the number of panels (Workspaces and Margins), and more.

If you right-click somewhere in the dock you can change the size and position of the dock, or add/change the buttons in the dock.

customizing your shell

  • What is a shell?
    The Unix shell is the connection between the user and the kernel. The kernel is the most basic part of the Unix system. It gets instructions and interprets them for the processor. It also takes care of all processes, deciding what order they should be carried out in. It handles all input and output.

    You can choose what shell you want to use. Your default shell is probably bash. You may also choose zsh, tcsh, and others. Run chsh to change your default shell.

  • How do I customize my shell? Each shell has it's own "dot" files, which can be used to change the default behavior when you log in. For example, the tcsh shell uses .cshrc and .login files, and bash uses .bashrc and .profile (or maybe .bash_profile). Try reading the man page for your shell, and maybe look at our old Using Unix III notes.

    Things you can do in these shell dot files include: changing the way your prompt looks, adding command aliases, changing your default PRINTER, and setting up your command search list (PATH variable).