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Using Openbox as your Window Manager in Gnome

This tutorial is geared toward replacing the Metacity window manager with the openbox window manager in gnome, but this information can be used as the basis for replacing Metacity with any other window manager which is compatible with the gnome desktop environment.

Nautilus manages the desktop and the desktop right-click menu in gnome. I have always had a dislike for the gnome desktop right-click menu as it isn't very configurable. I found that you can replace Metacity (the default window manager in gnome) with another window manager (openbox, enlightenment, fluxbox, etc.) that has a nice desktop menu. I have always liked fluxbox and openbox, but it seems easier to get openbox working quickly in gnome. So, I am going to outline how to install and setup the openbox window manager in gnome so you can take advantage of the configurable desktop menu which openbox provides.

What is openbox?

First of all, visit http://icculus.org/openbox/ and see if openbox will suit your needs. You can also visit http://xwinman.org/ for a nice listing of other window managers - some will work well in gnome, others won't, you'll have to do some research for some of these. I do know that openbox works very well in gnome and is quite easy to setup.

Installing Openbox

You'll need to install the following packages from the Universe repository:

sudo apt-get install openbox openbox-themes obconf

Please see https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Repositories for information about adding repositories to your /etc/apt/sources.list.

I also recommend installing obmenu, but this app is totally optional. obmenu provides a nice gui for editing the openbox menu. Otherwise, you can just edit the /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml file in your favorite text editor. obmenu can be found at http://obmenu.sourceforge.net/

Run Openbox instead of Metacity when gnome starts

  1. You'll need to change a setting so that the openbox menu will be visible. Open gconf-editor (Applications -> System Tools -> Configuration Editor) and uncheck the apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop key. This will disable the nautilus desktop menu so that the openbox menu will be displayed.

  2. Open ~/.gnomerc in your favorite text editor and add this line:
    •   export WINDOW_MANAGER=/usr/bin/openbox
      If ~/.gnomerc doesn't exist, simply create it and add the above line into it. The next time you log into gnome, openbox will be loaded as your window manager instead of Metacity.
  3. Log out and back in so that openbox will be loaded. Then, launch obconf (Applications -> Other -> ObConf) and tweak the openbox settings to your liking.

  4. For those of you who like to use the Run Dialog (Alt+F2 in gnome), you can add this command to the openbox menu to get the Run Dialog back: gnome-panel-control --run-dialog

Further reading

Openbox FAQ, documentation and screenshots can be found at http://icculus.org/openbox/

More openbox themes can be found at http://themes.freshmeat.net/browse/1086/

ReplaceMetacityWithOpenbox (last edited 2013-12-10 03:09:41 by cprofitt)