How to configure and customize Openbox [Linux]

How to configure and customize Openbox [Linux]

Openbox is a lightweight and highly configurable window manager. It is perfect for light distributions like minimal Ubuntu. However, getting used to it can be a bit intimidating for new users. For starters, when you first install it, you will be greeted with a black screen. While it can be intimidating, with a few pointers you will get used to the setup and be able to configure it to not be greeted with a black screen every time you log into your computer. Here we show you how to install and configure Openbox on your Linux PC.

Install Openbox

On Debian / Ubuntu based distributions, use the following command:

For Fedora:

For OpenSUSE:

For Arch Linux, use the following:

Note: we will be using Ubuntu for this tutorial. However, the commands and steps can be adapted for other distributions.

Applications menu and Openbox Configuration Manager

This has already been mentioned, but you will see a blank screen when you first log in.

Openbox Installer Customize 1st start 0

Don’t worry, all of your apps are still there. You can access it from the Openbox Applications menu. To access this menu, right click on the desktop and hover over Applications.

Openbox Installer menu Customize applicationsOpenbox Installer menu Customize applications

If you want to change the theme, you can do so by right clicking and selecting Obconf to open the “Openbox Configuration Manager”.

Openbox Installer Customize Change ThemeOpenbox Installer Customize Change Theme

There are a number of themes available and you even have the option to install new themes.

Openbox installation theme windowOpenbox installation theme window

In addition to a Themes tab, you will also have access to the following tabs:

  • Appearance: here you can change the appearance of your windows and fonts.
  • the Windows: this tab allows you to modify the parameters linked to your windows.
  • Move and resize: here you can adjust the way your windows are resized.
  • Mouse: this tab allows you to modify the parameters related to your mouse. For example, you can choose whether or not to focus windows when the mouse pointer is over them.
  • Desktop computers: this allows you to modify the parameters related to the management of several desktops.
  • Margins: here you can set the screen margins if you want.
  • Dock: this allows you to adjust the appearance of your Dock app.

Dock and wallpaper manager

Your desktop probably looks pretty weird now without a dock, so let’s sort that out. Go to your terminal and install Cairo Dock with the following command:

You will need to start Cairo Dock automatically now. You can do this with the following commands:

The last command will open the nano editor. Add the following entries to nano and save the file (using Ctrl + THE).

Log out and log back in, and you will be able to see the dock.

Openbox Installer Customize Cairo DockOpenbox Installer Customize Cairo Dock

Cairo Dock adds shortcuts such as an application menu and a browser shortcut. You will also have access to a desktop switch.

Openbox Installer Customize Cairo Dock Desktop SwitchOpenbox Installer Customize Cairo Dock Desktop Switch

With the dock in place, the next major thing that’s missing is the wallpaper. You can start this process by installing Nitrogen. Do this with the following command:

After installing Azote, open the app preferences and choose the locations where you have stored the wallpaper. You can select them and the images in these folders will be made available as wallpapers. You can then choose to set the wallpaper of your choice.

Openbox Installer Customize nitrogen wallpaperOpenbox Installer Customize nitrogen wallpaper


As you can see, it is easy to install Openbox, but it can be difficult at first to understand why it is so good. However, when you add some familiar layers, such as the dock and wallpaper, you can appreciate the versatility and personalization of this window manager. You might also want to check out some of the best Openbox themes to spice up your desktop. If you don’t like Openbox, you can also try another lightweight window manager like LXQT. Do not hesitate to consult the Openbox Wiki for more information on modifying Openbox.


William elcock
William elcock

William has been playing with technology for as long as he can remember. It naturally turned into helping friends solve their tech issues and then blogging about tech.

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