How to install OpenBox on Debian 11 minimal bullseye

If you are using a minimal Debian 11 bullseye server distribution and want a lightweight Windows manager along with a display manager and low resource consumption desktop panel; Then here is the tutorial on installing the OpenBox Window Manager on a minimal Debian 11 Linux distribution from the command line.

What is Openbox Window Manager?

Openbox is a very fast and lightweight window manager that is equipped with a high level of customization options. It is known for its high adaptability and low resource footprint. Users can customize or customize the desktop environment to their liking by editing just three files. However, for easy configuration, users can use other programs that provide graphical user interfaces to configure settings and menus. In addition, Openbox is the standard window manager of the desktop environments LXDE or LXQt and thus also from Lubuntu. There are various unofficial Ubuntu variants that also rely on Openbox.

The Openbox window manager is particularly useful for those who are looking for an individual user interface, but who are familiar with Linux work, since they have to deal with adapting a rudimentary configuration.

Steps to install OpenBox on Debian 11 Bullseye

The steps given here for setting up and configuring OpenBox under Debian 11 also apply to Debian 10 Buster and Ubuntu 20.04.

1. Update the system’s APT cache

Well, the packages we need to install are available through Debian 11’s APT package manager. So before we go any further, let’s run the update command to rebuild the repository cache and install available system updates.

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

2. Install OpenBox for Debian 11 Minimal

It doesn’t matter if you’re on the Debian 11 minimal or full desktop, the command to install OpenBox is the same for both. In addition, together with OpenBox, another tool called obconf, it is a graphical tool that provides a GUI interface to instantly configure the preferences and configuration settings of Openbox. At the same time we are also installing Xorg. the menu is used to get the Debian menu in the OpenBox context menu to access various installed applications on your system.

sudo apt install openbox xorg menu

Manual configuration files

Openbox can be fully configured with just three files: rc.xml, menu.xml and autostart. As a user, you will find these files in the folder ~/.config/openbox. If these are not available, you can use the system-wide configuration files in the /etc/xdg/openbox Folder as a template (copy to your own home directory) and adapt to your own needs.

We can configure the OpenBox by editing these configuration files, but instead of editing their file globally, we prefer to customize them to keep their global files intact. Copy them for your user:

mkdir -p ~/.config/openbox
cp -a /etc/xdg/openbox/ ~/.config/


~ /.config/openbox/rc.xml : Main configuration file (appearance, keyboard shortcuts (hotkeys), etc.)
~ /.config/openbox/menu.xml : Configuration of the context menu (right mouse button)
~ /.config/openbox/autostart  : Autostart script *

note: If you are not satisfied with the Debian menu for accessing apps on Openbox, you can opt for desktop panels or dock.

3. Install the desktop panel for OpenBox

Read this before proceeding: To access the application and menu we can either install that Desktop panel or dock. Here we have given orders for both of them. Just choose one of them according to your choice.

Commands for popular lightweight panels

XFCE panel for openbox

By default there is no system tray to access system applications and menus. To enable this we can install various available Linux desktop panels such as: B. the light lxpanel. However, this is not the only option, we can also use other desktop panels such as fbpanel, tint2, A2Deskbar and xfce4-panel. Here we rely on a light xfce4 panel together with a nano editor and an Xfce terminal.

sudo apt install xfce4-panel nano xfce4-terminal -y

note: If you don’t want an XFCE terminal, you can install it gnome-terminal, just replace it in the command above.

Configure Open box to start the XFCE4 Panel automatically with system start.

nano ~/.config/openbox/autostart

At the end of the file add:

xfce4-manager &

Save on computer the file by pressing Ctrl + O, hit them Input Key, and then Ctrl + X.

For dock panels only

Dock installation for open box minimal

1. Install Dock for OpenBox using the given command. This is set up and configured xcompmgr and cairo-dock Utilities on your system

sudo apt install xcompmgr cairo-dock

2. Now instruct the OpenBox to start the dock automatically with the system login. Edit the startup script file.

nano ~/.config/openbox/autostart

3. Add the following line to the end of the file and save with Ctrl + O, that’s her name Input Key, and then Ctrl + X.

xcompmgr &cairo-dock -o &

4. Install Display Manager on minimal Debian 11

We also need a display manager to get graphical login functionality for your Linux distribution. It controls user sessions and manages user authentication.

sudo apt install lightdm -y

5. Reboot your Debian 11 system

When you’re done, restart your system to activate the settings you made above.

sudo reboot

Here is the interface we get after running the above command with the XFCE panel.

OpenBox installation on Debian 11 Bullseye Linux

6. Change the background image in Openbox

Those who didn’t like the default wallpaper can follow the given steps to change the wallpaper and set the wallpaper to your liking.

#1. Method:

Install the error package tool

sudo apt install feh

After that, use to set any picture available or downloaded on your system to set as wallpaper

feh --bg-scale /path/to/your/background/image.jpg

Set the background image to Openbox

# 2. Method:

Alternatively we can use the graphical tool like nitrogen to easily navigate and set the wallpaper from any command line:

sudo apt install -y nitrogen

• Once the app is installed, go to Applications and start the nitrogen App.
• click on Preferences.

Set wallpaper path in Debian

Select the available wallpapers, then click the Apply Button.

Install the nitrogen wallpaper manager

7. Install the file manager Thunar for Openbox – Debian 11

We can install a file manager application such as Thunar to easily access all files and folders via the graphical user interface. Thunar is a popular, lightweight and fast file manager that does not slow down your system at all.

sudo apt install thunar -y

Install the Thunar file manager

8. Graphical configuration tools


With the program obconf You can configure the look and feel of Openbox on Debian 11. The following setting options are available:
opportunity effect
theme Topic selection (window decoration, colors)
The appearance Fonts and layout of a window’s title bar
window special window functions
Move & resize Behavior when changing the position and / or size of a window
mouse Window focus and behavior when double-clicking the title bar
Desktops Number of virtual desktops
Margins The behavior of the edge areas of the desktop
dock additional toolbar / program bar

Files with the extension .obt3 can be loaded directly via the ” To install new topic” Button. Alternatively, downloaded archive files extracted manually and copied or moved to the hidden user Folder ~ / .themes or with a system-wide installation with root rights, to / usr / share / themes.

Graphical Openbox configuration tool

Final thoughts:

Well, this was the quick guide to installing and working with OpenBox on Debian 11 with minimal configuration. This gives your system GUI access without using any system resources. To do other configurations and learn more – see the Debian Wiki page for Openbox.

Other articles:

• How to install the i3 Window Manager on Ubuntu 20.04 or Debian 11
• Install Dash to Dock on the Pop OS Linux distribution

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