Sleek Openbox in KDE on FreeBSD

We all readily admit that KDE is the greatest desktop environment ever developed for BSD, Linux, Solaris and other Unix-like operating systems, but that's not to say it can be improved by, or complimented with, other software.

ASIDE: Some people may not agree with my statement that KDE is the greatest desktop environment ever developed for Unix-like operating systems. I readily admit that Xfce is also very nice, especially when you’re using lots of GTK+ applications.

If you’re a GNOME person, well I guess we can’t all be perfect ;-)

Case in point, the Openbox window manager. Window managers draw the widgets, title bars, resize handles and other elements onto application windows. Desktop environments such as KDE, GNOME or Xfce bundle their own window managers along with software developed specifically for their environments, such as Konqueror for KDE.

Despite this bundling, it it is possible to replace the default window manager with one that you choose. You may do this to reduce memory usage, change functionality, or even just for a different visual style.

Openbox running in KDE (with Amarok listening to Whole Wheat Radio!)
Openbox running in KDE (with Amarok listening to Whole Wheat Radio!)

To use Openbox instead of Kwin in KDE on a FreeBSD (or similarly configured) machine:

  1. Update your ports tree, then
    cd /usr/ports/x11-wm/openbox/ && make install clean.
    Alternatively, just install the package with pkg_add -rv openbox
  2. Open the .xinitrc config file in your home directory
  3. Comment out # exec startkde (add a pound sign / hash)
  4. Add exec openbox-kde-session

For NetBSD, you'll want to update pkgsrc then /usr/pkgsrc/wm/openbox/ && make install clean clean-depends instead in step 1.

To make it easier to change visual themes, the layout of the widgets and so forth, you might also want to install the ObConf tool which is also available in FreeBSD Ports and in NetBSD's pkgsrc.