Themes, icons and Xfce

With every (user-friendly) distro comes some DE and some theme and icon-set. It doesn't have to be specially created or DEs' default – it might be some existing theme, tweaked, and hopefully full icon-set added to it.
Xubuntu, for example, has 'elementary xfce' icon-set – which is 'elementary' set tweaked for Xfce.
You can get themes etc in three ways:
1. Download & install as a package from repository – like 'xfwm4-themes' or 'xfce-artwork' and so on. In this case you get bunch of something, installed to root. Available for every user. But it also means – to hack them is a bit hassle.
2. Download them from, Ubuntu-Art or some other (trusted) site. In this case you have to install them yourself (read install-hints).
a) To root – if you have more users in your Linux, and you want eyecandy to be available to others too. Generally, every theme-folder have to be copied to /usr/share/themes/ and icon-folders to /usr/share/icons/. Then they should automagically appear in Settings Managers.
b) To /home/your_user_name/.themes/ and to /home/ your_user_name/.icons/ - if you are only user or do not want to share, or want to tweak the stuff.
Not everything is compatible! Read notes (usually added) by author.
For example, when using Xfce and LightDM, it's silly to get themes for GDM (Gnome Display Manager). Both GTK 2 and 3 are OK. Metacity (Gnome) is not so OK, because Xfce has xfwm4 as a Window Manager. Sooner or later you happen to download something which doesn't fit and looks odd and broken.
3. You can create your own artwork. More about that later.

Themes use engines to run, that is, certain theme-families share the same engine, or theme may have several in use. Engines have to be installed for theme to work (theme-packages have engines included, separately downloaded ones – not always). When your Appearance Manager whines (hopefully it does - as opposed to simply displaying broken crap), use Synaptic and install the missing part. Just for a fun of naming some engine names: murrine, unico, pixbuf, nodova, aurora, equinox. There are more.

Xfce Window Manager uses specific xpm format, files sit in /xfwm4 folder (in themes' folder). Those files are used to build frame of every window. The process to create those files is not difficult, but it certainly takes time. Complete tutorial is here in xfce wiki. Not-Xfce themes doesn't have this xfce-specific part, unsurprasingly.
Settings Manager (xfce4-settings), includes appearance settings.
Xfce accepts both GTK 2 and GTK 3 style themes – gtk scripts create environment inside of every window. This is a bit more complicated – and I am not competent enough to give tweaking advice here. But, there are tutorials available in web, of course.
Gtk parts of theme live in gtk-2.0 and gtk-3.0 folders.
If you are adventurous and want to build your own theme, then a must is an app called thewidgetfactory (command is twf – it doesn't appear into menu, you have to create launcher yourself). Twf shows you how your buttons, sliders, check-boxes etc etc appear to look at current moment of scripting (or png-making). Gimp helps with png-s (tutorial page).
Gtk script is pure txt - use your text editor (in Xfce, Leafpad), or if you want to feel a bit more sophisticated and pro-looking: Geany or Bluefish might fit.

Icons are not part of theme, strictly speaking. Even more – they are not commonly added into theme-packs. Have to get them separately, then.
Icons are either png (standard format), or svg (scalable vector graphics, a format simply widely used) - for tweaking/creating those, use Inkscape. Icons' conf is described in index.theme file which sits in every icon-sets' folder. Icons are either fixed or scalable. There are hundreds of them, thematically grouped. Very common is to make symbolic links when the same icon is used in several places.
Changing those icons … can drive one almost insane, and it's marvelous to have more than 10 windows open at once... very business-like.
And here are some standards to muse over - when drinking evenings' Earl Grey and nibbling bisquits: Icon theme and Icon naming.

Looking back to past action ends here.

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