On Xubuntu 16.04.3 LTS the labels attached to the icons on my desktop could span more than one line.

Now I have installed Xubuntu 18.04.3 LTS. This version (with its default settings) truncates all labels on my desktop where a line break would become necessary.

That's quite unsatisfactory since I sometimes have similar items which distinguish themselves not in the first say 12 characters but rather in some later ones which would appear on the second or third line of the label if linebreaking would happen instead of truncation.

I have to admit that the line breaking on Xubuntu 16.04 sometimes happened in odd places, e.g. in the middle of a word, sometimes even giving rise to strange interpretations of the words... At least it was better than what I have now.

Can I tell Xubuntu not to just truncate the label but rather to provide space for say up to three lines?

It would be even nicer if Xubuntu could display labels to the icons with reasonable hyphenation... just as a matter of aesthetics.

  • Can't find it for thunar. Doesn't use dconf from the looks of it. So could be a totally different option or non-existant. I would ditch Thunar if it was me. Heck that change to desktop icons got me using budgie :D Pity.
    – Rinzwind
    Nov 26, 2019 at 15:20
  • Maybe try using the Custom Font Size under Desktop Settings in the Icons tab. I have found that between 6-8 pt fonts look good and show the most that I can get out of them. But that is my opinion. The desktop defaults to 9 pt font.
    – Terrance
    Dec 6, 2019 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


Things aren't really that bad in Xubuntu 18.04:

If an item is not selected, you'll see this:

icon with only one line of text

But if you click on the item, you'll see this:

Icon with expanded text: filename with spaces

Or this:

Icon with expanded text: filename has no spaces

However, if you always want more of the label's text to be visible, whether or not the item is selected, you'll need to use a theme that supports such a feature. To know which of your themes would do, run

grep -r XfdesktopIconView 

from within ~/.themes or /usr/share/themes. The Greybird and Numix themes are present in Xubuntu by default. And both are suitable. (Adwaita is not.)

For either of these themes, open the gtk-2.0 folder and then open the gtkrc file. Search for the line below:

XfdesktopIconView::cell-text-width-proportion = 1.9

Increase the value from 1.9 to meet your needs. To test, save the file, switch themes away from Greybird and then back to Greybird using the Appearances application.

Note that if we consider the desktop surface to be a grid, a higher value will increase the dimensions of each cell in the grid resulting in fewer total rows and columns. You can see how the item below the Appearances icon get pushed down and even out of sight as this animated gif shows:

Animation showing increased length of labels

The approach described above is applicable to Xubuntu 19.10 as well.

  • Your answer shows me that I am not asking for something impossible. Unfortunately most labels except such small ones are truncated on my computer with Xubuntu 18.04 now. You have proven that one can use longer labels, even very long ones which exceed practical requirements. Up to three lines would be fine! But how? Currently I am using the Adwaita theme with elemetary xfce selected in the second tab "Symbols" of "appearance". But I see nothing which influences the maximum number of lines. Nov 26, 2019 at 16:40
  • What happens if you use the default Greybird GTK theme? The icon choice probably is not the issue.
    – DK Bose
    Nov 26, 2019 at 16:46
  • The same holds for the greybird theme: Labels are truncated at the length of a line. You are right, when selected, the label content can be seen. Nov 26, 2019 at 21:51

This is really a strange answer which I found by accident: The icon size was set to 48 in the desktop settings when I complained about the label truncation. After I enlarged it to 49, all over a sudden the second line of the labels shows up for all labels. Now the labels are truncated at the end of their second line, but that already makes all my desktop items discernible.

If I enlarge the icon size to 70, a third line for labels shows up (if an item really has such a long name). But 70 is a bit wasteful.

I would rather prefer to reduce the icon size and spend the gained space for labels. Is there a way to influence the raster spacing for the icons. I assume it has an influence on the labels.

  • A basic and unavoidable consequence of having more characters per line always visible, not just on highlighting the item is the consumption of more space per desktop item. • If you're still interested, I can post something that doesn't involve changing the icon size for Greybird, not Adwaita.
    – DK Bose
    Nov 27, 2019 at 13:13
  • Yes, of course I am interested. I would spend more space to the label at the expense of smaller icons, their spacing grid should stay as it is. I am not specifically fond of the Adwaita theme, the only thing I would prefer to change with Greybird is to Increas the contralst of text in the task bar with respect to its background. Currently the text is (for some reason which I don't understandI The types seem to be written with 9e9e9e. Why not ffffff? The same applies to the drawing og the bluetooth-symbol and the like. But Parole's symbol has excellent contrast: fcfcfc on 242424 background. Nov 27, 2019 at 17:32
  • I modified my answer. Take a look. I haven't addressed the contrast issues you've raised. Perhaps, you could post a separate question.
    – DK Bose
    Nov 28, 2019 at 10:59

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