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During the Xfce 4.0 days we used to keep the files generated by autoconf, automake, libtool and friends in the CVS repository. Even worse, we also kept a copy of the required additional M4 macros per module in the m4/ subdirectory. The idea was to ease the installation of versions checked out from CVS for the average user.

But that turned out to be a very bad idea. Not only was there a lot of unnecessary traffic on the repository when somebody had to change a or a similar file, but the whole thing turned into a maintaince problem as well. Whenever I changed one of the M4 macros - fixing a bug or adding functionality - I had to commit the change to all modules (including the goodies) and rerun on all modules afterwards. As you might guess, this was neither very funny nor very productive.

The solution was obvious: Drop the automatically generated files from the repository and bundle the M4 macros and related stuff within a single package. And this is exactly what xfce4-dev-tools provides. And this effectively means, that starting with the Xfce 4.3 development branch, everybody that wants to build Xfce right from the SVN repository version will need to have the xfce4-dev-tools installed. This also applies to non-core applications like Xfmedia.


There is currently not much documentation available. I'm writing on a developer handbook for Xfce 4.4.0, but that will take some time to finish. In the meantime, you can check my article A brief introduction to the Xfce Developer Tools.



You will need atleast the following software packages in order to install and use the Xfce developer tools:

Stable releases

Source tarballs and binary packages of stable releases are available from the download locations listed below:

Getting the source from SVN

The Xfce developer tools - just like the other core components - are available from the Xfce SVN repository, which means that you will need to install a Subversion client in order to be able to check out from the SVN repository (you can use the web interface for browsing the repository).

You can download the latest version of xfce4-dev-tools using the following command:

svn co \

This will create a new directory xfce4-dev-tools in the current path, which contains the latest version from the repository. Please read the README file to learn more about the public Xfce Subversion repository layout.

Building and installing

If you downloaded a release tarball, you can simply run

./configure --prefix=/usr/local

now (you may want to adjust the prefix to point to another directory, tho). Else if you use a SVN snapshot, you need to run

sh --prefix=/usr/local

instead, because the automatically generated files have been removed from the repository as mentioned above.

Next, you continue with

make install

where the install step must be done with superuser privilegues. That's all.

Building other components

Once you have the Xfce developer tools installed, you can use them to build other components, like for example the Xfce core components for Xfce 4.4. Most of these components will contain a file, which takes care of everything for you. Just execute that file if present.

But some components may also come without the script. In this case it's usually sufficient to run xdt-autogen (which is part of the developer tools) in the toplevel source directory of that component.

Latest News

Xfce developer tools 4.4.0 released

20 Jan 07

xfce4-dev-tools 4.4.0 was released as part of Xfce 4.4.0 today, adding support for the latest GNU autotools and fixing a minor bug.

Xfce developer tools released

4 Nov 06

xfce4-dev-tools was released as part of Xfce 4.4RC2 today.

Xfce developer tools released

2 Sep 06

xfce4-dev-tools was released as part of Xfce 4.4RC1 today.

Xfce developer tools released

9 Jul 06

xfce4-dev-tools was released as part of Xfce 4.4BETA2 today.

Xfce developer tools released

16 Apr 06

xfce4-dev-tools was released as part of Xfce 4.4BETA1 today.

Xfce developer tools 4.3.0 released

9 Jul 05

The very first version of the xfce4-dev-tools was released to the public today.