Openbox for the first time

To save me from falling down into a rabbit hole too many times, what do I need to know before trying Openbox for the first time. Currently I’m running kde/plasma on a desktop and laptop and want to try Openbox on my laptop. I’ve installed openbox from the repositories and can open yakuake, but haven’t started any customizations.

From a completely inexperienced viewpoint (mine) there are ways to find all sorts of things on the web. One way to find stuff on configuring Openbox is to look at a distro that ships it. It is a bit of a strange one, but judging by the things I learned about Arch and XFCE on it, it could help on setup. The distro I refer to is Arcolinux. It is set up for the purpose of learning Arch - and the default ISO includes XFCE, Openbox and i3.

I don’t still use it - but I learned lots - and borrowed some setups along the way :grin:

And, after you learn - you end up here!


Maybe new ISO will include Openbox? :smiley:
Or it is too early to expect that?

  • If you want a panel, the quickest/easiest way top get one is to install tint2. It will have a working config out of the box. Then put tint2 in your openbox autostart
  • You probably also want something that updates openbox’s menu which comes up on right click. obmenu-generator from the AUR will do this for you. Run obmenu-generator -p from a terminal to get it kickstarted.
  • If you want a compositor, you can install picom
  • If you want a desktop background and desktop icons, install pcmanfm or pcmanfm-qt. Then add pcmanfm --desktop(or pcmanfm-qt --desktop) to your openbox autostart.
  • Alternatively, if you only want desktop background, install nitrogen or feh. If you aren’t familiar with those, nitrogen is easier since it has a gui. Use the gui to select your wallpaper and then add nitrogen --restore to your openbox autostart

Just some thoughts to get you started.


If you are looking for a stacking window manager OB is a wonderful choice. (My opinion) I use it on both Debian (MXLinux) and ArchLabs. If you want to learn a lot about OB ‘fast’ visit the BunsenLabs website. The community dev person (linux-aarhus) on manjaro has done some spectacular work with OpenBox.

Such for an old guys opinions…


@dalto your hints have gotten me started. One correction, I could not find ob-generator. I installed obmenu-generator. I’m guessing this is what you meant. I now have a usable openbox.
@manyroads if I didn’t like Arch so much, I’d install BunsenLabs Helium.

Oops, sorry about that.

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The Arcolinux Openbox contains a lot of stuff from XFCE4 so isn’t a real openbox. My advice is build it from scratch or wait for the Endeavouros version.

Doesn’t really surprise me - their concern is getting people to try it out - not to ship an ‘optimized’ version (whatever THAT might look like!) I did think that there might be some good settings/setups/scripts/ and yad apps (maybe from BunsenLabs?) that would be worth checking out. I’ve actually adapted/enhanced some of their stuff for Conky use for my own “Control Centre”.

Of course - maybe it’s only for conky, but do pipemenus belong in OpenBox?

You will need to install gtk2-perl alongside obmenu-generator if you want the icons in the menus.

The thing about window managers to remember is that they do not do as much for you as most Desktop Environments do… here’s a good Window Manager definition:

Generally that means that you will add ‘stuff’ to make your personalized setup comfortable for your needs. What that might or might be depends on your needs. There are also style choices to address regarding the actual Window Manager you might want to use, Personally I use a number of WMs for a few reasons:

  1. because I can
  2. because I like them
  3. I find them fun to tweak and build

Your reasons will most likely be different… I believe there are no right answers. Enjoy the journey. Have fun. Build something that you like and enjoy. When you tire of it, try something new and different. This is Linux afterall, it’s all about choice.


WMs are fun. I haven’t tried many of them yet, but I think I will. I feel that I am having more control of what’s going on than when I am using a DE. Simple config file, apps I’ve installed and set up and no nested GUI menus with options (ugh).

But I just wanted to add to the list @dalto wrote that you’ll probably need a some kind of screen locker as well . I am using xscreensaver for that purpose, but I saw people recommending slock as a simple locker.

@CMarch Would you post your experience here? I mean after using Openbox for a while can you share why you’d stick to it as opposed to Plasma, or why you’d sooner give it up and return to KDE, whichever the case may be?

Sure. I’m still experimenting, but as soon as I use it for a few days I’ll gladly share my experience.

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I installed Openbox on a EOS KDE/Plasma laptop per the discussions in this thread and configured it to be somewhat usable. But it was taking too much time and effort to make it into something that I would use every day.

Next I tried ArchBang, but failed miserably trying to install it on my uefi laptop.

Following that was an attempt to install PacBang minimal. Another abysmal failure. My fault in not understanding the cli installer and not fully reading the instructions.

Finally I settled on the full Manjaro OpenBox and it’s wonderful. This has replaced KDE/Plasma on my laptop and will be my daily driver there. KDE/Plasma will still be on my desktop computer (the love has not diminished). But honestly I don’t find it a bit confusing to move from one to the other. I had to install some additional software: some cups stuff, base-development group, yay, printer driver, Chromium, LXTerminal, Leafpad, Gimp, etc. And had to configure a few items, but the menu system is fantastic, especially the Preferences menu.

If Endeavour releases a version of OpenBox, this is what it should look like. Anyone who wants to try a fairly full and well configured OpenBox installation, I hightly recommend Manjaro OpenBox. @linux-aarhus and other contributors have done a great job. If I were more talented, I’d build an EndeavourOS version.

FWIW PacBang and manjaro OB are done, these days, by the same guy.

As another voice… I think the work pacbang/manjaro OB work is excellent although the setup for me is not usable. But remember that Linux is about choice; and in truth, window managers are meant to be tweaked to death to fit your style.

To my mind, minimalist setups are what distros should provide. Too much work and the distro risks alienating as many folks as it pleases;and at a high cost in sweat equity if nothing else.


It’s great when you stumble across one that pleases you mighty :slight_smile: You tend to think less about the aliens then.

I’m lazy, that’s why I don’t go full-Arch, so i seek distros that offer some degree of pre-customization that is compatible with my tastes.

Makes me wanna try it.

I have no idea if Carl Duff is still Manjaro people or not … but Pacbang OpenBox for me is Masterful and it still is. Everything is at hand with minimal resources (- 300MB) without work in the manager.
In my ultrabox:

Carl Duff has nothing to do with pacbang these days… it’s Frede Hundwaldt (a smart dude).