by August 9, 2003 0 comments

Users are fond of, and some actually addicted to, the Windows desktop environment, intuitively knowing where to find particular options and applications, such as the calculator and Notepad programs under Start>Programs>Accessories. In other words, even when working on another OS, a Windows user expects a Windows desktop-like accessibility to options and applications. 

When it comes to Linux, its popularity at the desktop is often benchmarked on the basis of how close it is to Windows. The KDE desktop does come close to Windows, while software like Crossover Office and Wine can run Windows applications on Linux. 

Though KDE may be close to Windows, there is something closer yet–look at the above screenshot. Believe it or not, that is a Linux desktop. That is XPde, a new desktop environment package aimed at bringing Windows XP-like environment and accessibility to Linux. XPde is a standalone desktop environment and window manager. Note that XPde is not one of the many Windows-desktop themes for KDE; in fact, you can run it without KDE or GNOME. In this article, we will see how to install XPde on PCQLinux 8.0 (given with the March 2003 issue of

Log in as root. Mount this month’s PCQEssential CD. Copy the file named xpde-0.3.5-20030426. tar.gz to /opt directory. Change to /opt directory and extract the archive as:

tar —zxvf xpde-0.3.5-20030426.tar.gz

This will produce a directory named xpde-0.3.5 under /opt. Change to this directory and issue the following command.


Next, you must set up the XPde desktop for each user or login account. Only that user will see the XPde desktop when he launches X Window. For this, log in as the user for whom you want to set up the desktop, change to the directory /opt/ xpde-0.3.5 and issue the following command.


Change to the home directory of user (/root in case of root user or /home/<username> in case of other users). You will find a file named xinitrcDEFAULT. Before proceeding, you may like to back up a file named .xinitrc if it exists in the home directory. Next, rename xinitrcDEFAULT to .xinitrc using the following command.

mv xinitrcDEFAULT .xinitrc

Note that there is a dot prefixed to xinitrc in the above command. 

Now, launch X Window using the startx command. If you are already in X Window, stop it by pressing
CTRL+ALT+Backspace keys. If you are dropped on to the Linux command line, issue the startx command.

Adding applications
XPde is still in its beta and besides a bare-bones calculator, command prompt and file explorer, you will not find any other applications for it. You can, however, add KDE or GNOME applications to the start menu of XPde. As of now, this is not as easy as drag-n-drop of application link onto the Start menu. But, it is not all that difficult either. 

In the home directory, you will find a directory .xpde. Change to subdirectory Start Menu>Programs in the .xpde directory. You will find a directory named Accessories and several files with
.lnk extensions. 

If you want to add program links under Start>Programs, then you have to create a .lnk file. The format of a .lnk file is as follows.

Icon=<path to icon>

For example, to insert Writer (a word processor) under Start>Programs, create a file named ‘Word Processor.lnk’ in the directory
.xpde/Start Menu/Programs. Add the following lines to the file.


In the above lines, /usr/bin/oowriter is the path to the executable of Writer. The directory /opt/xpde/ themes/default/16×16/system contains a number of small-sized icons suitable for the programs on the Start menu. Restart XPde by pressing CTRL+ALT+Backspace. You may have to issue the startx command if you are dropped on to the Linux command line. 

To add a new program group (such as Accessories) on the Start menu, you have to simply create a directory. For example, to create a program group named Entertainment under Start>Programs>Accessories, create a directory named Entertainment in .xpde/Start Menu/Programs/Accessories. 

To add entertainment programs such as audio players, video players and sound mixers, create .lnk files (as explained above) within this directory. 

If not for all desktop applications, a Linux machine can be certainly used for simple text editing, Web browsing, e-mailing and downloading. 

To save cost, an organization may like to substitute Windows machines used for such applications with Linux machines. Products like XPde can largely reduce the migration time by providing familiar environment and accessibility, making the Windows users feel at home on Linux. 

For more on XPde refer to

Shekhar Govindarajan

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