Difference between revisions of "Openbox"

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Save the file, and run: {{Codeline|openbox --reconfigure}}.
Save the file, and run: {{Codeline|openbox --reconfigure}}.
=== OpenBox Menu Generator ===
OpenBox Menu Generator, avaliable in the AUR as [http://aur.archlinux.org/packages.php?ID=27300 obmenugen-bin] is a menu generator for OpenBox using the *.desktop files. It provides a text file to filter using basic regex which menu items are hidden.
To use, simply run:
$ obmenugen
Then update OpenBox by:
$ openbox --reconfigure
=== Pipe menus ===
=== Pipe menus ===

Revision as of 05:04, 5 September 2010

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Openbox is a lightweight and highly configurable window manager with extensive standards support. Its features are well-documented at the official website. This article will pertain to running Openbox under Arch Linux.


Openbox is available from the standard repositories:

# pacman -S openbox

Once installed, pacman will direct you to copy the default Template:Filename and Template:Filename configuration files to Template:Filename, for example:

Note: Do this as a regular user, not as root.
$ mkdir -p ~/.config/openbox
$ cp /etc/xdg/openbox/rc.xml ~/.config/openbox
$ cp /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml ~/.config/openbox
$ cp /etc/xdg/openbox/autostart.sh ~/.config/openbox

Template:Filename is the core configuration file for Openbox. It is used to manage keyboard shortcuts, themes, virtual desktops and other features.

Template:Filename controls the Openbox application menu that appears when you click on your desktop. The default items are pretty sparse, but it's very easy to modify the menu structure to suit your needs. See the menu section below for more details, or visit the Openbox website.

Template:Filename The default autostart file sets up a number of things for you. You can use this script to launch a panel, to set your desktop wallpaper, or anything else. Visit the Openbox Wiki website.

Stand-alone window manager

To run Openbox on its own, simply add the following to the bottom of Template:Filename:

exec openbox-session

If you have used another window manager before, such as Xfwm, and Openbox won't start after logging out of X, try moving the autostart folder:

mv ~/.config/autostart ~/.config/autostart-bak

Using D-Bus/HAL or similar, use this instead:

exec ck-launch-session openbox-session

If you also use polkit and D-Bus (e.g. for automount drivers in nautilus from Gnome 2.28 / 2.30) use:

exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch openbox-session
Note: pyxdg is required for Openbox's xdg-autostart

Window manager for Desktop Environments


GNOME 2.26

Follow the next guide for GNOME 2.24. If it fails try this:

If after installing openbox and trying to log into the 'Gnome/openbox' session but it always fails then you can do the following as one way to achieve running openbox as your window manager every time you log into the 'Gnome' session from your login manager (xdm, gdm, kdm, entrance, slim, etc.)

  1. Log into your Gnome only session (which would still be using metacity as its window manager) if you aren't already.
  2. Install openbox if you have not done so already
  3. Explore your menus to System → Preferences → Startup Applications (possibly named 'Session' for older versions of Gnome)
  4. Open Startup Application, select '+ Add' and enter the text as seen in the box below whilst omitting the text behind the #.
  5. Now hit the 'Add' button for that data entry window and make sure the checkbox beside your new entry is selected.
  6. Thus log out of your gnome session and log back in and you should be running openbox as your window manager.
  7. Enjoy!
Name:    Openbox Windox Manager          # Can be changed
Command: openbox --replace               # Text should not be removed from this line, but possibly added to it
Comment: Replaces metacity with openbox  # Can be changed

This creates an entry in a startup list which is executed by gnome everytime that particular user's gnome-session is started.

GNOME 2.24

First, create Template:Filename containing the following:

[Desktop Entry]
# name of loadable control center module
# name we put on the WM spec check window

Then, in gconf, set Template:Codeline to Template:Codeline:

$ gconftool-2 -s -t string /desktop/gnome/session/required_components/windowmanager openbox

Finally, choose the GNOME session in the GDM sessions menu.

GNOME 2.22 and previous

  1. If you use GDM, select the "GNOME/Openbox" login option
  2. If you use Template:Codeline, add Template:Codeline to Template:Filename
  3. From the shell:
$ xinit /usr/bin/openbox-gnome-session


  1. If you use KDM, select the "KDE/Openbox" login option
  2. If you use startx, add Template:Codeline to Template:Filename
  3. From the shell:
$ xinit /usr/bin/openbox-kde-session


Log into a normal Xfce4 session. From your terminal of choice, do:

$ killall xfwm4 ; openbox & exit

This will kill xfwm4, run Openbox, and close the terminal.

Log out, making sure to check the "Save session for future logins" checkbox. On next login, Xfce4 will use Openbox as its WM. To be able to exit the session using xfce4-session, open your file Template:Filename (if it isn't there, copy it from Template:Filename).

Look for the entry:

 <item label="Exit Openbox">
   <action name="Exit">

and change it to:

 <item label="Exit Openbox">
   <action name="Execute">

Otherwise, using the "Exit" entry of the root-menu will cause Openbox to terminate its execution, leaving you without a window manager.

If you have an issue changing between virtual desktops with the mouse wheel skipping over virtual desktops, open your Template:Filename file and move the mouse binds with actions "DesktopPrevious" and "DesktopNext" from the context "Desktop" to the context "Root" (you may need to define the Root context).

If you want to use the Openbox root-menu instead of Xfce's, you may terminate Xfdesktop by running the following command in a terminal:

$ xfdesktop --quit

However, Xfdesktop manages the wallpaper and desktop icons, requiring you to use other utilities, such as ROX, for these functions.

(When terminating Xfdesktop, the above issue with the virtual desktops is no longer a problem.)


Currently, there are two options for configuring the core Openbox preferences; manually edit the Template:Filename, or use the ObConf tool.

Manual configuration

To configure Openbox manually, simply edit Template:Filename with your favorite text editor. The config file provides plenty of comments throughout, and full documentation is available at the official website.


ObConf is GUI-based Openbox configuration tool, which can be used to set most preferences including themes, virtual desktops, window properties and desktop margins.

To install ObConf, run:

# pacman -S obconf
Note: ObConf cannot be used to configure keyboard shortcuts and some other advanced features. For these modifications, you must edit Template:Filename manually (see above). Other option is ObKey application (available in AUR).

Application configuration

Openbox features per-application settings, allowing you to define rules for your programs. For example, you can:

  • load your web browser on a certain desktop
  • load your terminal without a window border
  • load your torrent client at a certain position on your screen

These are defined in Template:Filename. As you might expect, the instructions are well-documented within the file itself. Full details can also be found here: http://openbox.org/wiki/Help:Applications


The default Openbox menu includes a variety of applications to get you started, but you'll probably want to customize this at some point. There are a number of ways to do so:

Manual configuration

Similar to the Template:Filename file, you can edit Template:Filename with your favourite text editor. Although many of the settings are self-explanatory, full documentation is available.


MenuMaker is a powerful tool that creates XML-based menus for a variety of Window Managers, including Openbox. MenuMaker will search your computer for executable programs and create an XML menu based on the results. It can be configured to exclude Legacy X, GNOME, KDE, or Xfce applications if the user desires.

MenuMaker is available in the community repository:

# pacman -S menumaker

Once installed, you can generate a complete menu by running:

$ mmaker -v OpenBox3

By default, MenuMaker will not overwrite an existing menu.xml. To do so, run it with the -f (force) argument:

$ mmaker -vf OpenBox3

To see a full list of options, run Template:Codeline.

This will give you a pretty thorough menu. Now you can modify the menu.xml by hand, or simply regenerate the list whenever you install new software.


Obmenu is a GUI-based menu editor for Openbox. For those who don't enjoy editing XML source code, this is probably the best option for you.

It is available in the community repository:

# pacman -S obmenu

Once installed, simply run Template:Codeline and add or remove the desired applications.


obm-xdg is a command-line tool that comes with Obmenu. It can generate a categorized sub-menu of installed GTK/GNOME applications.

To use obm-xdg, add the following line to Template:Filename:

<menu execute="obm-xdg" id="xdg-menu" label="xdg"/>

Then run Template:Codeline to refresh the Openbox menu. You should now see a sub-menu labeled xdg in your menu.

Note: If you do not have GNOME installed, then you need to install gnome-menus package for obm-xdg to work.

Python based xdg menu script

This script can be found in Fedora's Openbox package. You will only have to put the script somewhere and add a menu entry.

Here is my paste: http://pastebin.com/f2f827625 And here is the head: http://cvs.fedoraproject.org/viewvc/devel/openbox/xdg-menu?view=markup

Download the one you like (maybe you'll prefer the head version of course). You can put the file anywhere, I used ~/Documents/build/xdg-menu (just modify the menu entry later according to YOUR filename/path.)

Then open your menu.xml with your favourite text editor and add the following entry where you want the new menu (of course, you can modify the label however you want):

<menu id="apps-menu" label="xdgmenu" execute="python /home/shiki/Documents/build/xdg-menu"/>

Save the file, and run: Template:Codeline.

OpenBox Menu Generator

OpenBox Menu Generator, avaliable in the AUR as obmenugen-bin is a menu generator for OpenBox using the *.desktop files. It provides a text file to filter using basic regex which menu items are hidden. To use, simply run:

$ obmenugen

Then update OpenBox by:

$ openbox --reconfigure

Pipe menus

Openbox (and other WMs like WindowMaker and PekWM) allow you to write scripts that dynamically build menus on the fly. Some examples are system monitors, media player controls, and weather forecasts. Many examples can be found on the openbox site.

Xyne has also created a file browser and brisbin33 has one for scanning for / connecting to wireless hot spots (requires netcfg). The relevant forum posts for these utilities are here and here

Startup programs

Openbox features support for running programs at startup. This is provided by the "openbox-session" command.

There are two ways to enable autostart:

  1. If you use startx/xinit to log into your X session, edit Template:Filename and change the line that executes openbox to execute openbox-session instead.
  2. If you log in with GDM/KDM, then select the Openbox session and it will automatically use autostart.

Startup programs are managed in Template:Filename. Full instructions and best practices for how to do this are available at the Openbox website.

Themes and appearance

With the exception of the Openbox Themes topic, the following section is intended for users who have configured Openbox to run as a standalone desktop, without the assistance of GNOME, KDE or Xfce.

Openbox themes

Openbox themes control the appearance of window borders, including the titlebar and titlebar buttons. They also determine the appearance of the application menu and on-screen display (OSD).

Additional themes are available from the standard repositories:

# pacman -S openbox-themes

This package is by no means definitive. You can download more themes at websites such as:

Downloaded themes should be extracted to ~/.themes and can be installed or selected with the ObConf tool.

Creating new themes is fairly easy and again well-documented.

For a GUI theme editor, take a look at ObTheme.

X11 Appearance

If you are running Openbox as a standalone, you will need to configure .Xdefaults file. Save a copy to ~/.Xdefaults and /home/root/.Xdefaults for windows opened as Root.

Xdefaults is a user-level configuration dotfile, typically located at ~/.Xdefaults. When present, it is parsed by the xrdb (Xorg resource database) program automatically when Xorg is started, and can be used to set or override preferences for X and X applications. It can do many operations, including:

- defining terminal colours
- configuring terminal preferences
- setting DPI, antialiasing, hinting and other X font settings
- changing the Xcursor theme
- theming xscreensaver
- altering preferences on low-level X applications (xclock, xpdf, etc.) 

Xdefaults Arch WiKi http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Xdefaults

X11 Mouse cursors

Extract the desired Xcursor theme to either /usr/share/icons (system-wide access) or ~/.icons (local user access). There are also a limited amount of themes available in the community repository that can be installed using pacman.

Add this to Template:Filename:

Xcursor.theme:   [name-of-cursor-theme]

where Template:Codeline is the name of the cursor theme directory. For example:

Xcursor.theme:	Vanilla-DMZ-AA

To change the size:

Xcursor.size: [size]

Sometimes it is required to symlink the icon directory into each user directory to make the window manager use them:

$ mkdir ~/.icons
$ ln -s /usr/share/icons/[name-of-cursor-theme] ~/.icons/default

For more information read the Arch WiKi http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/X11_Cursors

GTK Themes


First, extract the desired theme to /usr/share/themes (system-wide access) or ~/.themes (local user access), then:

GTK+ themes can be managed easily with the lxappearance, gtk-chtheme, or switch2 utilities. To install, run:

# pacman -S lxappearance


# pacman -S gtk-chtheme


# pacman -S gtk-theme-switch2

Now you can simply run Template:Codeline, Template:Codeline or Template:Codeline to set the desired theme.


For legacy GTK1 themes, install the gtk-theme-switch package:

# pacman -S gtk-theme-switch

Then run Template:Codeline to select a desired theme.

GTK fonts

To manually change the type and size of your fonts, add the following to Template:Filename:

style "user-font"
font_name = "[font-name] [size]"
widget_class "*" style "user-font"
gtk-font-name = "[font-name] [size]"

where Template:Codeline is the desired font and point size. For example:

style "user-font"
font_name = "DejaVu Sans 8"
widget_class "*" style "user-font"
gtk-font-name = "DejaVu Sans 8"

Both Template:Codeline and Template:Codeline fields are required for backwards compatibility.

You can also use gtk-chtheme or lxappearance to set GTK font settings. Please refer to the above section.

GTK Icons

First, extract the desired icon theme to /usr/share/icons (system-wide access) or ~/.icons (local user access), then:

Add the following to Template:Filename:

gtk-icon-theme-name = "[name-of-icon-theme]"

where Template:Codeline is the name of the icon theme directory. For example:

gtk-icon-theme-name = "Tango"

Ensure Template:Filename is configured to parse Template:Filename:

# ~/.gtkrc-2.0
include "/usr/share/themes/Rezlooks-Gilouche/gtk-2.0/gtkrc"
include "/home/username/.gtkrc.mine"

You can use lxappearance to choose GTK icon themes. Please refer to the above section.

Desktop icons

Openbox does not provide a means to display icons on the desktop. Xfdesktop, PcmanFM, ROX, iDesk, or even Nautilus (and the gnome-settings-daemon) can provide this function.

ROX and PCmanFM have the additional advantage of being lightweight file managers.

Desktop wallpaper

Openbox itself does not include a way to change the wallpaper. This can be done easily with programs like Feh or Nitrogen. Other options include ImageMagick, hsetroot and xsetbg. Or Pcmanfm and Xfdesktop can do it too.

You can disable the wallpaper loading in gnome-settings-daemon like this:

$ gconftool-2 --set /apps/gnome_settings_daemon/plugins/background/active --type bool False

Recommended programs

There is a list of Lightweight Software at Arch's wiki; most of it nicely fits with Openbox.

Login managers

SLiM provides a lightweight and elegant graphical login solution for standalone Openbox configurations. Refer to Arch's SLiM wiki for detailed instructions.

Qingy is ultralight and very configurable graphical login. It support login to both console and X Windows sessions. It uses DirectFB, therefore it does not start X Windows unless you choose X Windows session. See article about Qingy at Arch's wiki.

Composite desktop

Xcompmgr is a lightweight composite manager capable of rendering drop shadows, fading and simple window transparency within Openbox and other window managers. (It's worth noting that xcompmgr is no longer developed, and so any issues are unlikely to be fixed) (Developed an issue with tint2 0.9, the systray icons have a tendency to corrupt)

Cairo Composite Manager -- A versatile and extensible composite manager which uses cairo for rendering, is an alternative.

Panels, trays, and pagers

There are quite a lot of utilities available that provide a panel (taskbar), system tray, and pager to Openbox. The most common are:




Make your choice and add it to your startup file. If you wish to set the desktop layout without using a pager, you can use obsetlayout, which is a packaged version of the setlayout tool from the Openbox wiki.

File managers

There are many possibilities, but the most popular lightweight file managers are:

  • Thunar. Thunar supports auto-mount features and other plugins.
  • ROX (ROX provides desktop icons)
# pacman -S rox
  • PCManFM (pcmanfm also provides desktop icons)
# pacman -S pcmanfm

To access NTFS drives with PCManFM, install ntfs-3g:

# pacman -S ntfs-3g

and make sure you're added to group hal:

# gpasswd -a username hal

For even lighter options, consider Gentoo or emelFM2, both of which use the familiar 'Midnight Commander' two pane layout.

Others: Xfe muCommander (Will edit it later after I have tried them both.)

Of course, you can also use GNOME's Nautilus. Although slower than the above solutions, it has the additional advantage of VFS support (e.g. remote SSH, FTP and Samba connections)

Application launchers


Set-up dmenu as described in the dmenu wiki article. Then, add the following entry to the <keyboard> section Template:Filename to enable a shortcut to launch dmenu:

   <keybind key="W-space">
     <action name="Execute">


gmrun provides an excellent Run dialog box, similar to the Alt+F2 features found in Gnome and KDE:

# pacman -S gmrun

Add the following entry to the <keyboard> section Template:Filename to enable Alt+F2 functionality:

<keybind key="A-F2">
<action name="execute"><execute>gmrun</execute></action>


bashrun provides a different, barebones approach to a run dialog, using a specialized bash session within a small xterm window. It is available in the community repository and can be launched through the Alt+F2 style approach mentioned previously. To make bashrun act more like a traditional run dialog, add the following entry to the <applications> section Template:Filename:

   <application name="bashrun">
     <decor>no</decor>  # switch to yes if you prefer a bordered window


Launchy is a less minimalistic approach; it is skinnable and offers more functionality such as a calculator, checking the weather, etc. Originally for Windows, similar to Gnome Do.

# pacman -S launchy

It is launched by Ctrl+Space key combination.


The LXPanel run dialog can be executed with

lxpanelctl run


The gnome-panel run dialog can be executed with

gnome-panel-control --run-dialog

Clipboard managers

You may wish to install a clipboard manager for feature rich copy/paste ability. xfce4-clipman-plugin, parcellite, or glipper-old may be installed via pacman. Add your choice to autostart.sh. From the terminal, Ctrl+Insert as copy and Shift+Insert as paste generally works as well. You may also copy from terminal with Ctrl+Shift+C, and paste with mouse middle click.

Volume managers


a lightweight audio mixer which lets you control the audio volume through a tray icon [1]


A master volume mixer in the system tray [2]


Obmixer is a mixer appplet written in C which is intended to be a lightweight alternative to gnome volume control [3]


GTK+ application for controlling audio volume from system tray/notification area [4]


Volume control for your system tray [5]


Tray icon to change volume with the mouse [6]

Keyboard layout switchers


Keyboard indicator and switcher [7]


keyboard layout switcher/indicator [8]


QT4 keyboard layout switcher [9]


X Neural Switcher is a text analyser, it detects the language of input and corrects it if needed [10]

Tips and tricks

File associations

Since Openbox and the applications you are going to use with it are not very well integrated you might run into the issue that your browser does not know which programm it is supposed to use for certain types of files. The package in the AUR gnome-defaults-list contains a list of file-types and programms specific to the gnome desktop. It will be installed to


Open it with your text-editor and now you can search&replace everything with your appropriate programms. Like totem<=>vlc or eog<=>mirage. Save the file to:


Another way is to use the package perl-file-mimeinfo from the repositories, and invoke the mimeopen command like this:

mimeopen -d /path/to/file

You will then be asked what application to use when opening /path/to/file:

Please choose a default application for files of type text/plain
       1) notepad  (wine-extension-txt)
       2) Leafpad  (leafpad)
       3) OpenOffice.org Writer  (writer)
       4) gVim  (gvim)
       5) Other...

Your answer will be set as the default handler for that type of file.

Copy and paste

From the terminal, Ctrl+Insert as copy and Shift+Insert as paste generally works as well. You may also copy from terminal with Ctrl+Shift+C, and paste with mouse middle click.


By using the program transset-df, it is virtually the same as transset, (available by: pacman -S transset-df) you can enable transparancy of windows on the fly. For instance by editing the following in Template:Filename you can have your middle mouse scroll enable and disable transparency by scrolling down and up on the scroll button, respectively, while over the title bar (it is in the <mouse> section):

    <context name="Titlebar">
     <mousebind button="Left" action="Press">
       <action name="Focus"/>
       <action name="Raise"/>
     <mousebind button="Left" action="Drag">
       <action name="Move"/>
     <mousebind button="Left" action="DoubleClick">
       <action name="ToggleMaximizeFull"/>
     <mousebind button="Middle" action="Press">
     	<action name="Lower"/> 
       <action name="FocusToBottom"/>
       <action name="Unfocus"/>
     <mousebind button="Up" action="Click">
       <action name= "Execute" >
       <execute>transset-df -p .2 --inc  </execute>
     <mousebind button="Down" action="Click">
       <action name= "Execute" >
       <execute>transset-df -p .2 --dec </execute>
     <mousebind button="Right" action="Press">
       <action name="Focus"/>
       <action name="Raise"/>
       <action name="ShowMenu">

As of now, it only appears to work when no other actions are taken.

Xprop values for applications

If you use per-application settings frequently, you might find this bash alias handy:

alias xp='xprop | grep "WM_WINDOW_ROLE\|WM_CLASS" && echo "WM_CLASS(STRING) = \"NAME\", \"CLASS\""'

To use, run Template:Codeline and click on the running program that you'd like to define with per-app settings. The result will display only the info that Openbox requires, namely the WM_WINDOW_ROLE and WM_CLASS (name and class) values:

[thayer@dublin:~] $ xp
WM_CLASS(STRING) = "gajim.py", "Gajim.py"

Xprop for Firefox

For whatever reason, Firefox and its open source equivalents will ignore application rules (e.g. <desktop>) unless Template:Codeline is used, regardless of what xprop reports as the actual WM_CLASS values.

Linking the menu to a command

Some people would want to link the Openbox main menu, or any other, to a command. This is useful for creating a menu button in a panel, for example. Although Openbox doesn't support this, a very simple script, xdotool, can simulate a keypress by running a command. Xdotool is available on AUR. To use it, simply add the following code to the <keyboard> section of your Template:Filename:

    <keybind key="A-C-q">
      <action name="ShowMenu">

Restart/reconfigure Openbox. You can now magically summon your menu at your cursor position by running the following command:

# xdotool key ctrl+alt+q

Of course, you can change the shortcut to your liking.

Urxvt in the background

With Openbox, running a terminal as desktop background is easy. You won't need devilspie here.

First you must enable transparency, open your Template:Filename file (if it doesn't exist yet, create it in your home folder).

URxvt*geometry:124x24    #I don't use the whole screen, if you want a full screen term don't bother with this and see below.
URxvt*foreground:Black   #Font color. My wallpaper is White, you may wish to change this to White.

Then edit your Template:Filename file:

<application name="URxvt">
  <maximized>true</maximized> #Only if you want a full size terminal.

The magic comes from the Template:Codeline line, which place the application under all others. Here Urxvt is displayed on all desktops, change it to your convenience.

Note: Instead of using <application name="URxvt">, you can use another name ("URxvt-bg" for example), and use the -name option when starting uxrvt. That way, only the urxvt terminals which you choose to name URxvt-bg would be captured and modified by the application rule in rc.xml. For example: urxvt -name URxvt-bg (case sensitive)

Keyboard Volume Control

If you use ALSA for sound, you can use the amixer program to adjust the volume of sound. You can use Openbox's keybindings to act like multimedia keys. (Alternatively, you can probably find out the names of your real multimedia keys and map them.) For example, in the <keyboard> section of rc.xml:

   <keybind key="W-Up">
     <action name="Execute">
       <command>amixer set Master 5%+</command>

This binds Windows key + Up arrow to increase your master ALSA volume by 5%. Corresponding binding for volume down:

   <keybind key="W-Down">
     <action name="Execute">
       <command>amixer set Master 5%-</command>

As another example you can also use the XF86Audio keybindings:

   <keybind key="XF86AudioRaiseVolume">
     <action name="Execute">
       <command>amixer set Master 5%+ unmute</command>
   <keybind key="XF86AudioLowerVolume">
     <action name="Execute">
       <command>amixer set Master 5%- unmute</command>
   <keybind key="XF86AudioMute">
     <action name="Execute">
       <command>amixer set Master toggle</command>

The above example should work for the majority of multimedia keyboards. It should enable to raise, lower and mute the Master control of your audio device by using the respective multimedia keyboard keys. Notice also that in this example:

  • The "Mute" key should unmute the Master control if it is already in mute mode.
  • The "Raise" and "Lower" keys should unmute the Master control if it is in mute mode.