Fluxbox: How I make it feel like home

In the wars between GNOME and KDE (which now has even split between the two factions warring over KDE4 and KDE3.5), some of the other environments get lost in the shuffle and are often forgotten about.

One which I think is underappreciated is Fluxbox. Based on the original Blackbox 0.61.1 code, Fluxbox is a blindingly fast, simplistic approach to providing a graphical user environment while staying out of one’s way. Easy to use, easy on resources, and easy on the eyes, Fluxbox is an elegant choice that is often overlooked when the options are weighed between other graphical environments on Linux machines.

I started using Fluxbox when I was on some extremely quarrelsome hardware and needed something with a lot less going on than GNOME or KDE so that I could more effectively troubleshoot it. What I found out was that Fluxbox had an extremely tweakable interface… and I like things I can tweak and customize. I also discovered that it ran extremely fast on the limited hardware I had at the time, something else that KDE and GNOME didn’t have.

Intrigued, I stuck with it for a while and over time I learned a few good hacks that I thought I would share with the three or four readers I’ve acquired here.


If you’re a Slackware user, you won’t need to worry about it… Fluxbox is one of the window managers that Patrick Volkerding includes with the best Linux distro on Earth. If you didn’t bother installing it with your Slackware setup, it’s on the disk, otherwise, it’s pretty easy to download it from Fluxbox.org and install it with a few simple steps:

tar -zxvf fluxbox-1.0.0.tar.gz
cd fluxbox-1.0.0
(as root) make install

In Slackware you’ll then want to (as root) cd /etc/X11/xinit and change the symlink you have there to xinitrc.fluxbox by entering the following arcane command:

ln -s xinitrc.fluxbox xinitrc

This will make Fluxbox your default window manager.

If you don’t already have an xinitrc.fluxbox in your xinit directory, you’ll need to create one. Mine looks like this (and it’s the default one that installed with Fluxbox as a part of my base Slackware installation):

sysmodmap=/usr/lib/X11/xinit/.Xmodmap# merge in defaults and keymapsif [ -f $sysresources ]; then
xrdb -merge $sysresources

if [ -f $sysmodmap ]; then
xmodmap $sysmodmap

if [ -f $userresources ]; then
xrdb -merge $userresources

if [ -f $usermodmap ]; then
xmodmap $usermodmap

# Start the window manager:
exec /usr/bin/startfluxbox

Once you create it, make sure you chmod +x xinitrc.fluxbox to make it executable, or else it won’t work.

Confused yet? Well, that’s your own fault. You should have just installed it from the Slackware CD, like I usually do. It’s a lot easier that way.

If you’re running an Ubuntu box, this gets a lot easier. Just open a terminal window and type this:

sudo apt-get install fluxbox

It’ll prompt you for your password, and after that it’ll do all the dirty work for you. Then, once it’s installed, all you have to do is log out and log back in (making sure you selected Fluxbox from the “switch session” option in the login manager).

If you’re using something other than Slackware or Ubuntu, you’re out of luck. I do most of my howto articles on this blog on those two distros, for simplicity’s sake. Haven’t you been paying attention?

Next Page: Configuration: The All-Important Fluxbox Menu

11 thoughts on “Fluxbox: How I make it feel like home

  1. Good article Trent, now you’ve got me back to using Fluxbox even with my dying hardware-generated glitches.

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  3. why so difficult install procedure? or was it meant generally for any distro? because in slackware you can just do: slackpkg install fluxbox.
    nice fluxbox howto. thank you.

    • Because in my experience, that doesn’t always work for everybody, so I figured I’d go into the nuts and bolts of installing it from scratch — which, if you’re a slackware user, shouldn’t be too difficult. :)

      • it’s not about difficulty. I preffer using slackware packages, that are prepared for me. if slackware offers it, why to use something else? and in case, that there will be some update, slackpkg will automatically update package (fluxbox) for me. I believe, this is safer, and keep my box more “consistent”. if you will install it manually, you are on your own.
        sure, that’s only my way, and my opinion. if you like it in that way, it’s completely OK, I didn’t mean it’s wrong.

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    • My pleasure!

      In all honesty, I still actually refer back to this old post once in a while when I forget how to do something or miss a step or two. :)

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