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How To Install Openbox Themes On Linux

Openbox is an incredible window manager, with dozens of themes available. Sadly, due to how little publicity it gets, not a lot of Linux users know how to install OpenBox themes. That’s why in this tutorial, we’ll go over exactly how to install Openbox themes.

Install Obconf

Before installing any new themes to the Openbox window manager, you’ll need to install the Obconf tool. “Obconf”, or Openbox Configuration tool is an app that Linux users can install to modify a lot of different settings in the Openbox window manager. With it, users can switch between themes, change dock settings, and more.

Usually, installing an Openbox session on Linux also pulls down the Obconf package, but this isn’t always the case. If you need to install the program separately, open up a terminal window and do the following.


sudo apt install obconf


sudo apt install obconf

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S obconf


sudo dnf install obconf


sudo zypper install obconf

Other Linuxes

The Obconf tool is a big part of Openbox, so any Linux distribution that already distributes Openbox easily should also have the Obconf tool available for installation. To install it, open up a terminal and use your package manager to search for “obconf”. From there, just use the install command to get it working on your Linux PC.

Finding Openbox themes

There are many places users can find decent Openbox WM themes on the internet, but probably the best place to look is Box Look. It’s a website that has dozens of Openbox WM themes available for download. Look to the sidebar on the page and click on “Openbox Themes”.

Box Look sorts themes in two different ways: “Latest” and “Top”. To find the newest Openbox themes click the “latest” section. Alternatively, click the “Top” section to sort through the most popular Openbox themes available on the website.

Installing Themes – Pre-made themes

Openbox themes downloaded from the website usually come in several different formats. Some formats are the compiled OBT format, and others are compressed archives that the user needs to build manually. In this tutorial, we’ll cover both ways to install themes. Let’s start off by installing a compiled theme.

Find a theme to download from Box Look. In this example, we’ll be working with the 1977 Openbox theme. Go to the theme page, select “Files” and start the download. Once the download is complete, open up the Obconf tool and select the “Theme” tab.

Inside the theme tab, find “Install a new theme” and click on it. From here, use the theme browser and browse for the 1977 Openbox OBT file on your Linux PC. Click on it to open, and it should install into Openbox and register as a new theme.

Installing Themes – Compiling Your Own

The second method of installing Openbox themes — like mentioned before — is compiling a theme manually. This is sometimes needed as not every Openbox theme developer puts an OBT file up for download. Luckily, doing it yourself doesn’t take too long and isn’t really that complicated. To start off, find a theme to work with. In this tutorial, we’ll focus on the Arch Blue theme.

Head over to the page, click “Files” and download the latest Tar archive. Once downloaded, open up a terminal window and use the Tar tool to completely extract the theme archive to a folder.

cd ~/Download

tar xvjf 74000-arch.blue.tar.bz2

Now that everything is extracted, open up the Obconf tool and click on “theme”. Look at the bottom of the app for the “Create a theme archive (.obt)” button and click on it. Using the file browser that appears, browse for the folder that the Arch Blue theme extracted to and open it.

Within a few seconds, Obconf will print a message that the new theme was “successfully created”. Go back to Obconf and select the “Install a new theme” button. Use the file browser to find the new OBT file. Keep in mind that these new files usually save in /home/username/.

Switching Themes

Switching to different themes in Openbox is pretty easy. Start off by opening up the Obconf tool. When Obconf is open, look for “Themes” and click on it. From there, just scroll through the list and click on any of the items in the list. Openbox should switch to it instantly.

Other Theme Settings

Looking to make tweaks to Openbox, so that your themes look better? Inside Obconf, click on the “Appearance” button on the left. Inside this area, users can change different Openbox WM settings. To change the way Openbox WM draws borders, uncheck “Windows retain a border when undecorated”. Additionally, uncheck “Animate iconify and restore” to change the animation settings.

When you’re satisfied with these changes, click the “close” button at the bottom to exit.

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