Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Application Launcher for Openbox

If you log into Openbox for the first time you are greeted with nothing except a basic and generic right click Openbox menu. At least that is how it is in ArchLinux, also note that I have no other Desktop Environment or Window Manager installed...

The first thing I was looking for is an easy to use application launcher.

You can edit the Openbox menu yourself, or use something like obmenu to help you edit it, or even generate a menu with an app like MenuMaker. Great, but in my old age I'm looking for ease, for comfort, something that I can just click and there you have it, every single app and service available is listed.

This is where Avant Window Navigator comes in. What started out as me just looking for a neat Kde/Gnome like application launcher ended up bringing along a somewhat complete solution to my initial needs.

To install AWN you will need some composite manager to help out and bring out all the effects of AWN. I have tried quite a few and finally settled on dcompmgr.
Xompmngr and Cairo Composite Manager were very unstable and crashed when relocating tabs in Firefox, switching between some windows, etc.

The only time dcompmgr has let me down so far is when I play Steam games, but I'll come to that later.

  • Install your composite manager of choise.
    After you have it installed, start it from a terminal:

    # dcompmgr

    Notice that I did not put the & to start it in the background, this way I can see what is wrong if it crashes and fix it. If we are happy later on that everything is working like it should, then we can run it in the background.

  • Now install Avant Window Navigator and Avant Window Manager extra applets.
    If you do a search in your package manager for Avant or AWN you will see all available packages for AWN, choose what you think you will need and install it.

    Start it from another terminal like we did with dcompmgr:

    # avant-window-navigator

    If all goes well you should now see the standard AWN bar somewhere on your screen (middle top or middle bottom), go into the AWN settings and edit it to your hearts content.
    What I added to solve my application launcher problem is the "Yet Another Menu Applet".

    After adding the volume control, date and a few applications to the taskbar I ended up with this setup:

I'll get to the icon theme a bit later. But that is it, a functional "office friendly" application launcher, nice!

There are times when the composite manager will crash for some odd reason, like mentioned earlier dcompmgr crashes whenever I start Steam or play a Steam game. You can always start the composite manager from a terminal, but even if you open it in the background you need to have that terminal open at all times otherwise the program will stop.

The solution to this is to bind the composite manager to a key on the keyboard and then use this to start the composite manager whenever you need to. Painless and elegant.

Look for the post on binding key to see how to do it.

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