Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Openbox Rocks!

When I fist installed and ran Openbox years ago, I thought it was way to simple for me.

When you first start up Openbox, it's basically an ugly grey screen with nothing but a right click menu.

I now realize what it really is, the tray, forks, knives and napkins at an all you can eat Linux buffet.

Openbox is simple because it's the foundation for what you intend to do with your desktop.

After installing and running applications like wicd-gtk, tint2, feh, obmenu, pcmanfm, and grun it can be molded to be beautiful, functional, simple, and quicker than greased lightning. (and maybe gkrellm if you like what you see below.)

My personal set up starts with a file I had to create in the /home/user/.config/openbox/ folder. the file named is autostart, and it is very useful. (Replace user with your username, for me it would be /home/denny/.config/openbox/... also, .config is hidden, you may have to use control h to unhide it.)

I right clicked in that folder, and chose 'create new' and then 'blank file'.

After naming it autostart, I added a autostart template from the Official Openbox Wiki.

My autostart file looks like this:

feh --bg-scale /home/denny/Pictures/wallpapers/starnight.jpg & tint2 & wicd-gtk & gkrellm

Here I am telling feh to set my background image, then i fire up tint2, then wicd-gtk (i use a wireless network) and then for my weather and email checking I use gkrellm.

Tint2 is a panel application. I chose it because it is simple and elegant. You could just as easily install xfce4-panel or lxpanel, both would work quite nicely.

Since I use regular old Ubuntu, and then hack the stuffing out of it once it's installed, i do have at my disposal the wireless panel app that comes with regular Ubuntu, but for some reason it doesn't want to show up on Tint2 unless I actually add tint2 to the /etc/xdg/autostart/ folder in desktop configuration file format, which I would rather not do.

So I instead use wicd-gtk, which has been exceptional on this machine.

Here is my screenshot:

There are a lot of other Openbox screenshots available here:

You can see feh has changed the background image, tint2 is displaying my running apps, shutter is taking the screenshots, gkrellm is telling me whether I have email, what the weather is like, and how my processor is doing, and wicd-gtk is handling my wireless net connection.

One of the first things I do when installing Openbox is to run obmenu, and then I use obmenu to add obmenu as a menu option. That way you can change the menu through the menu option your created, very useful.

I also install grun and add it to the menu. Then I add pcmanfm to the menu, listed above in the menu options as home. with these few things you have a very easy way to get to and to do the rest of your modifications without having to fire up your terminal window to do so.

I top it off with some of my favorite cli apps like moc for my music player and htop in the "tools section", and I use terminator for my terminal emulator. These are all just suggestions, the fun part of Openbox is making it your own!

I hope after reading my little article you give openbox a try again... it can be quite rewarding, and make your machine run much faster.


  1. I switched from tint2 to lxpanel about a week later.

    as nice as tint2 looks, lxpanel has a few more gadgets to offer. other than that, it's the same.

    1. And then I switched to xfce4-panel, and then i switched back to tint2 with the option to run xfce4-panel in the obmenu.

      I am a strange nit picky bugger.

  2. Still, I don't like the Openbox theming engine. Window buttons must be single-colored. Corners must be square. There's little room for theming and the experience seems more akin to Windows 98.

    1. I was thinking about your comment, and you are right.

      XFCE is very simple and fast too, but has a lot more options with theme-ing.

      There are rounded corners, and even some themes like the beos theme that barely have a bar at all.

      If I was serious about making the system look and feel the way I wanted and still have decent reaction and boot times, I would use XFCE.

  3. I have been using Openbox for a total of three hours; I am already a convert. Openbox is configurable and powerful yet friendly (once the first shudders of Omygodwhereisthetaskbar are gone!).

    1. I am always such a nit picky individual when it comes to my desktop. I am the guy that has installed unity, gnome 3, xfce lxde and openbox.

      My favorite though is still Openbox. But even there, I am always switching from no tray to tint2 or xfce4-panel or lxpanel.

      My favorite setup is to have tint2 running normally, and then have xfce4-panel as an option on my obmenu, in case I forget the name of a program I want to use.

      xfce4-panel can be turned off by right clicking the panel and choosing panel > log out. Then it will quit instead of log you out.

      I am never happy with my setup it seems, or maybe I am onnly happy when it is changing all the time.


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