Openbox Themes and Apps

From ArchWiki
Revision as of 00:55, 18 August 2011 by BurntSushi (talk | contribs) (→‎Pagers: formatting)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This template has only maintenance purposes. For linking to local translations please use interlanguage links, see Help:i18n#Interlanguage links.

Local languages: Català – Dansk – English – Español – Esperanto – Hrvatski – Indonesia – Italiano – Lietuviškai – Magyar – Nederlands – Norsk Bokmål – Polski – Português – Slovenský – Česky – Ελληνικά – Български – Русский – Српски – Українська – עברית – العربية – ไทย – 日本語 – 正體中文 – 简体中文 – 한국어

External languages (all articles in these languages should be moved to the external wiki): Deutsch – Français – Română – Suomi – Svenska – Tiếng Việt – Türkçe – فارسی

Note: This article is a supplement to the main Openbox article.

This wiki article deals with customizing the appearance of Openbox in Arch Linux. Helper programs such as panels and trays are also explained.

Themes and appearance

Note: The main Openbox article has information on installing Openbox.

This supplemental wiki article has information about customizing your desktop interface after installing Openbox.

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

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

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.

If you have Template:Codeline, it can avoid you from changing the gtk theme and reverting back to original theme. By default, the for openbox provided with the package runs it. So, make sure that you don't have it running.


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. You can also use lxappearance2-git from the AUR to handle the Mouse Cursor, GTK Theme and Icon Theme and Colour Scheme. If you also install the optional lxappearance-obconf-git as well, you can configure Openbox's Window Decoration settings from lxappearance as well.

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

In Gnome 3 use:

$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background draw-background false

Recommended programs

Note: The main Openbox article has information on installing Openbox.

This supplemental wiki article details specific applications you may want to deploy after installing Openbox.

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

Login managers

SLiM is a light graphical login manager. It works for standalone Openbox configurations. Refer to Arch's SLiM wiki for instructions.

Qingy is a light, highly-configurable graphical login manager. It supports login to either a text console or an X session. It uses DirectFB. Qingy does not start an X session unless you choose a session that uses X Windows. See the article about Qingy at Arch's wiki.

Compositing the desktop view

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, pagers

A number of utilities provide panels/ taskbars, system trays, or pagers to Openbox:


  Avant window navigator






If you wish to set desktop layout without using a pager, try obsetlayout, a packaged version of the setlayout tool.

File managers

Two popular lightweight file managers are:

  • Thunar  Thunar supports auto-mount features and other plugins.
  • ROX  ROX provides a set of file/desktop icons.
# pacman -S thunar
# pacman -S rox
# pacman -S pcmanfm   #  PcManFM package also provides desktop icons.
# pacman -S ntfs-3g   #  Allows PCManFM to access NTFS drives.

For even lighter options, consider Gentoo or emelFM2.. These programs implement a typical two-pane layout. Other file managers are  xfe  and  muCommander.

Alternatively, you may use Gnome's Nautilus as your file manager. It is heavier and slower than previous solutions, but Nautilus supports virtual file systems, allowing folder access via SSH, FTP, or Samba. This is an advantage.

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

For details regarding Gmrun, see the wiki article here. 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>


bashrun2 provides a different, barebones approach to a run dialog, using a specialized bash session within a small xterm window. It is available in the AUR and can be launched through the Alt+F2 style approach mentioned previously. To make bashrun2 act more like a traditional run dialog, add the following entry to the <applications> section Template:Filename:

   <application name="bashrun2-run-dialog">
     <decor>no</decor>  # switch to yes if you prefer a bordered window


Kupfer is a launcher inspired by Quicksilver, written in Python.

"You use it to summon an application or document quickly by typing the first parts of its name. It can also do more than getting at something quickly: there are different plugins for accessing more objects and running custom commands."


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 a richer copy/paste experience.

xfce4-clipman-plugin, parcellite, or glipper-old can be installed via pacman. Add the clipboard manager to your  Template:Filename.

Volume managers

Gvolwheel, gvtray

Gvolwheel is an audio mixer which lets you control the volume through a tray icon. gvolwheel at AUR.

Gvtray is a master volume mixer for the system tray. gvtray at AUR.

Obmixer, PNMixer

Obmixer is an appplet written in C. It intends to be a lighter alternative to Gnome's volume control. obmixer at AUR. Obmixer is no longer maintained.

PNMixer is a fork of Obmixer with a number of additions. PNMixer at AUR.


Volti is a GTK+ application for controlling audio volume from the system tray/ notification area. volti at AUR.

Volumeicon, volwheel

Volumeicon is a volume control for the system tray. volumeicon at AUR.

Volwheel is a tray icon which changes volume via mouse wheel. volwheel at AUR.

Battery & CPU


Trayfreq is a light battery monitor and a cpu frequency scaler.

Keyboard layout switchers

Fbxkb, xxkb, axkb

Keyboard indicator and switcher fbxkb at AUR.

Keyboard layout switcher/ layout indicator xxkb at AUR.

QT4 keyboard layout switcher axkb at AUR.


X neural switcher is a text analyzer. It detects the language of input and corrects it if needed. aneur at AUR.

Logout dialog

exitx and exitx-polkit are available in AUR as logout dialogs which use sudo and PolicyKit, respectively.

Template:Package AUR is great openbox shutdown manager.

Alternatively, you can also use openbox's menus to create a simple dialog. Which can also be binded to a key for easy access.

An example with exit-menu as the id and Exit as the label(using PolicyKit/Dbus):

<menu id="exit-menu" label="Exit">
	<item label="Log Out">
		<action name="Execute">
			<command>openbox --exit</command>
	<item label="Shutdown">
		<action name="Execute">
			<command>dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest="org.freedesktop.ConsoleKit" /org/freedesktop/ConsoleKit/Manager org.freedesktop.ConsoleKit.Manager.Stop</command>
	<item label="Restart">
		<action name="Execute">
			<command>dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest="org.freedesktop.ConsoleKit" /org/freedesktop/ConsoleKit/Manager org.freedesktop.ConsoleKit.Manager.Restart</command>
	<item label="Suspend">
		<action name="Execute">
		<command>dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest="org.freedesktop.UPower" /org/freedesktop/UPower org.freedesktop.UPower.Suspend</command>
	<item label="Hibernate">
		<action name="Execute">
		<command>dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest="org.freedesktop.UPower" /org/freedesktop/UPower org.freedesktop.UPower.Hibernate</command>

Add this to your menu.xml, then later in your menu or pipemenu of choice call:

<menu id="exit-menu"/>

If you would like to bind this to a key, simply add this example keybind to the keyboard section your rc.xml:

<keybind key="XF86PowerOff">
  <action name="ShowMenu">

This will bind it to your power button, if you prefer otherwise change XF86PowerOff to your preferred key.