Friday, January 20, 2006

Brown paper Fluxboxes tied up with string

Fluxbox is a window manager for X. Its chief advantage over Metacity—the window manager with which you'll be familiar if you use GNOME—is its streamlined design; it runs much faster. For this reason, distros like DSL use it as their default window manager. It can also be customized by editing a few text files. Users often set up impressive Fluxbox themes (see below). Unfortunately it didn't "just work" on my Debian system.

Several FAQs on setting up Fluxbox mention an executable called fluxbox-generate_menu. When run, it's supposed to take an inventory of your applications and generate corresponding items in the Fluxbox menu, which initially lists nothing but a launcher for xterm and the options to restart Fluxbox or logout. It isn't the best tool; it tends to clutter your menu with items you never actually use and omit ones you do. But I consider it more efficient to run it and then adjust the menu accordingly, rather than track down every application and add them to ~/.fluxbox/menu. There was one problem: installing the fluxbox package didn't seem to install fluxbox-generate_menu as promised. I had to search for a while before I found the solution.

It's kind of dopey. Apparently there's a bug in the package, and consequently the archive containing fluxbox-generate_menu doesn't get decompressed and copied to /usr/bin during the installation. So we have to do it manually. It's not tough.

# cd /usr/share/doc/fluxbox
# gunzip fluxbox-generate_menu.gz
# cp fluxbox-generate_menu /usr/bin
# chmod a+x /usr/bin/fluxbox-generate_menu

Let's go line by line. The cd command changes your working directory. Then the gunzip command decompresses or "unzips" the archive. You could alternately use gzip -d here. We use the cp command to copy the executable to the appropriate directory. The chmod a+x command gives all users permission to run it; otherwise only the root user could. It can be used with other options for different effects.

These commands should all be run as the root user. You can become root by entering sudo su at the command line or by logging in with user name "root" and the root password (not your user password, which may be different).

I'm still having a problem with fluxbox-generate_menu, but that's a discussion for another day.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I've never "gotten" the *box Window Managers. They go the opposite extreme. They are too minimalist for my taste.

And after viewing some of the "exotic" screenshots these desktops, it seems like people spend more time making their desktop look like a work of art than they do running applications (like email, word processing, etc etc...).

I actually have Fluxbox on my box. :-P

I do just because I can. I rarely use it. I spend most of my time split between GNOME and KDE.

Speaking of which they follow established "standards" that Fluxbox doesn't. That's one reason why the menus are such a chore.

I just installed Openbox which supposedly follows standards. I've not yet looked at it. I installed it mainly for curiosity's sake. It's obvious that the *box window managers are just waaay too minimalist for my taste.

Everyday tasks are generally much easier in GNOME or KDE.

BTW, on Debian based distros you can "apt-get install menu" and then run "update menus". Your Fluxbox menu will reflect your installed apps.