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Minimal openbox desktop guide

This guide will show you how to install and configure openbox complete with composite manager, desktop icons, background support, taskbar and a graphical file manager.

Installing the packages

We will start by installing the minimum packages necessary to use and configure openbox.

user@devuan:~$ sudo apt-get install openbox obconf obmenu

It is also helpful to install the menu package as it provides menu items for software that supports it.

user@devuan:~$ sudo apt-get install menu

We should now install the compton composite manager.

user@devuan:~$ sudo apt-get install compton

The idesk program can be used to manage desktop icons and background images.

user@devuan:~$ sudo apt-get install idesk

For a task bar we will use the lightweight tint2.

user@devuan:~$ sudo apt-get install tint2

We will use the Xfe file manager because it is able to mount volumes without using an auto-mounter backend - provided that user mode is set on a per mount-point basis in /etc/fstab.

user@devuan:~$ sudo apt-get install xfe

By default openbox uses scrot to take screenshots when the screenshot key on your keyboard is pressed. If desired install this now, screenshots will be saved in your home directory in PNG format.

user@devuan:~$ sudo apt-get install scrot

In the section on configuring idesk we will be using the default Devuan background - purpy. Install the desktop-base package that provides the purpy background.

user@devuan:~$ sudo apt-get install desktop-base

Configure Openbox

When we start openbox we want to make sure that our composite manager, desktop manager, and taskbar is available. We will need to make sure the openbox directory exists in ~/.config and create an autostart file for openbox to read.

user@devuan:~$ mkdir -p ~/.config/openbox user@devuan:~$ sensible-editor ~/.config/openbox/autostart

In the autostart file add the following and save the file. Note that each line ends with & except the last line.

compton & idesk & tint2

Configure idesk

In order to use idesk we need to create the directory it uses to store desktop icons or it will not start.

user@devuan:~$ mkdir ~/.idesktop

Start idesk so that it generates the default configuration. You should kill the process using ctrl + c afterwards.

user@devuan:~$ idesk

We will now modify the config file so that we can set the purpy background.

user@devuan:~$ nano ~/.ideskrc

Find the line that reads “Background.File: None” so that you can set the default background. We will change it to the purpy background.

Background.File: /usr/share/images/desktop-base/your-way_purpy-wide-large.png

Now that we’ve got a background we can setup some icons. Using the default desktop link as a template we will create a desktop icon for Xfe.

user@devuan:~$ cp ~/.idesktop/default.lnk ~/.idesktop/xfe.lnk

Open the new Xfe desktop link with an editor.

user@devuan:~$ sensible-editor ~/.idesktop/xfe.lnk

Make your new desktop link look like the following. Note that we have changed the vertical position (Y:) for this icon so it does not overlap the default desktop icon.

table Icon Caption: Xfe Command: /usr/bin/xfe Icon: /usr/share/pixmaps/xfe.xpm Width: 48 Height: 48 X: 30 Y: 120 end

Login using the openbox session manager

If you use a display manager you may now login to your openbox desktop by choosing openbox-session as the session manager. If not you can use your user xinitrc configuration file and invoke the startx script after you login at the console.

user@devuan:~$ echo "exec openbox-session > ~/.xinitrc" user@devuan:~$ startx

If you prefer you can change the default session manager to openbox-session using alternatives so that it is globally honoured.

user@devuan:~$ sudo update-alternatives --config x-session-manager

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