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How to set up the Fluxbox window manager on Linux

Fluxbox is a window manager for Linux and other Unix-like operating systems. Fluxbox is lightweight, supports multiple desktop workspaces, and a configurable, editable app menu. It’s perfect for those looking for a light, fast alternative to modern Linux desktop environments.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to get the Fluxbox window manager installed, and configured. We’ll also go over the different keyboard shortcuts, features, and how to get it running well on your Linux system.

Install Fluxbox on Linux

The Fluxbox window manager has been available for many Linux distributions for quite a long time, as it is an old project. If you’d like to install it on your system, you must open up a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard.

Once a terminal window is open on the desktop, follow the command-line instructions outlined below that correspond with the Linux operating system you currently use.

Ubuntu

On Ubuntu Linux, the Fluxbox window manager is distributed in the “Universe” software repository. Enable “Universe” with the add-apt-repository command.

sudo add-apt-repository universe

Run the update command to refresh your software sources.

sudo apt update

Following the “update” command, you must use the Apt install command to load up the latest version of the Fluxbox window manager on your Linux PC.

sudo apt install fluxbox

Debian

On Debian, the Fluxbox window manager can be easily installed with the Apt-get command.

sudo apt-get install fluxbox

Arch Linux

On Arch Linux, Fluxbox is available via the “Extras” software repository. Ensure that “Extras” is enabled on your system. Then, use the Pacman command to install Fluxbox.

sudo pacman -S fluxbox

Fedora

On Fedora Linux, you will be able to install the Fluxbox window manager with the Dnf command in a terminal window.

sudo dnf install fluxbox

OpenSUSE

OpenSUSE Linux users can get their hands on the Fluxbox window manager quite easily with the following Zypper command.

sudo zypper install fluxbox

Generic Linux

The source code for the Fluxbox window manager is available at Fluxbox.org. No matter what Linux operating system you use, it is possible to download the code and compile it to run.

Logging into Fluxbox

To log into the Fluxbox window manager on your Linux PC, do the following. First, log out of the desktop environment you’re currently using, and return to the login screen.

Upon returning to the login screen, look for the session menu. Please note that on certain types of login screens, it may not say “sessions” and may instead be an icon (like a logo or gear) instead. Be sure to refer to your operating system’s login screen manual for guidance if you cannot find the sessions area.

Inside of the sessions area, find the “Fluxbox” option, and select it. Then, click on your user once again, and log into the Fluxbox window manager.

To exit the Fluxbox window manager at any time, right-click on the desktop and select the “Exit” option.

Launching programs in Fluxbox

The Fluxbox window manager is not a desktop environment. There’s no “start menu” or smart search box that can help you find your favorite programs and applications. Instead, you launch everything from the right-click menu on the window manager’s workspace (AKA desktop).

To launch any program in the Fluxbox window manager, do the following. First, right-click on the Fluxbox workspace with the mouse to bring up the right-click menu.

Inside of the right-click menu on the workspace, look for “Applications” and hover over it with the mouse. This area will show you a sub-menu of app categories. From there, look through the different categories to launch any program you wish. Alternatively, press Alt + F2 and write the name of any program to launch it.

Accessing Fluxbox Options

Fluxbox has many options and settings. If you’d like to access the Fluxbox window manager settings, do the following. First, right-click on the workspace to open up the right-click menu.

Once in the right-click menu in Fluxbox, find “Configuration,” and hover over it with the mouse. Inside of this menu, you’ll find settings to tweak everything from Maximization Options, Focus Model (how Fluxbox focuses apps), Tab Options, Transparency, Toolbar options (your taskbar), and more.

When you’ve changed settings in “Configuration,” apply the settings by right-clicking on the workspace and selecting the “Reconfigure” option. It will reload Fluxbox with your new settings.

Setting the Fluxbox style

The Fluxbox window manager comes with many different built-in themes to choose from. If you’re not a fan of the default look, you can change to a different by doing the following.

First, right-click on the workspace and open up the right-click menu. Then, find “Styles” and hover over it with the mouse. From there, look through the different “Styles” available to apply a new look to the Fluxbox window manager.

Setting the Fluxbox wallpaper

Setting the wallpaper in Fluxbox isn’t as easy as it is in a traditional desktop environment. To do it, start by downloading your favorite wallpaper to the “Downloads” folder in your browser of choice.

Once the wallpaper file has been downloaded, open the right-click menu, click “Applications,” followed by “Shells,” and select “Bash” to open up a terminal window.

When the terminal window is open, use the Nano text editor to open up the Fluxbox menu file.

Note: You must have Feh installed on your Linux PC before attempting this. To install Feh, head over to Pkgs.org, and choose your distribution from the list.

nano -w ~/.fluxbox/menu

Inside of the menu, find “[end]” under the “[include] (/etc/X11/fluxbox/fluxbox-menu)” line, and erase it. Then, press Enter to create a new line.

After adding a new line, paste in the following code.

[submenu] (Backgrounds)
[wallpapers] (~/.fluxbox/backgrounds) {feh --bg-scale}
[end]

Save the edits in nano by pressing Ctrl + O, and exit with Ctrl + X. Then, use the mkdir command to create two new folders.

 mkdir -p ~/.fluxbox/backgrounds
sudo mkdir -p /usr/share/fluxbox/backgrounds

Move into the “Downloads” directory with the CD command.

cd ~/Downloads

Run the ls command to view the contents of the directory. Then, copy the wallpaper file into the “~/.fluxbox/backgrounds” folder using cp.

cp name-of-wallpaper-file.png ~/.fluxbox/backgrounds/

Or, if JPEG, try:

cp name-of-wallpaper-file.jpeg ~/.fluxbox/backgrounds/

When the file is in the right folder, close the terminal. Then, open up the right-click menu, and select “Backgrounds,” followed by your wallpaper file.

More information about Fluxbox

There’s so much to learn about the Fluxbox window manager. In this guide, we’ve covered the basics — enough to get you started. However, we can’t cover absolutely everything it has to offer, or it would be an endless article.

Instead, if you want to know more about what Fluxbox can do, check out the included manual. To access the manual, launch a terminal, and write:

man fluxbox

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