Edit Openbox menus in Crunchbang Linux

Unlike some of the heavier, fully functional desktop environments typically provided by the top five on Distrowatch, Openbox used by Crunchbang will not always automatically add the names of newly installed programs to the menu used to subsequently invoke them.

Most folks who are not as far down the rabbit hole as I am, understandably just want a desktop that works but they should pause for a moment before turning off to the idea of Openbox and Crunchbang for the following two reasons.

1. It makes full disk encryption (not just your home directory) available to you during installation which is very reassuring if you should get your laptop stolen.

2. Each time I consider parting company with it and going back to a heavier distro, I find I can’t bring myself to do it because it does everything I need it to.  Plus it does it more efficiently and in as minimalist a way as my puny hardware resources could ever hope for, so why would I?

On top of the Linux kernel, you’ll already be running sufficient packages put into place by the installation procedure to provide a working desktop environment that handles a bunch of important stuff you won’t have thought about, such as handling removable devices such as usb sticks, encrypting the files that get written down to disk, searching for wireless lans or sending a DHCP request if you plug into a network in the hope that it’ll learn of some nearby DNS servers so that your web browser will work when you ask for google.com, but depending on how lightweight your chosen distro is in nature, it may not have much else.  Crunchbang is one of these.  It does the hard stuff up front, and leaves you with a pretty blank canvas on which to build and have fun.  For those of you who say I only need web and email, that’s nonsense. There’s a whole bunch of stuff you need for web and email at the application level to work properly but rest assured Crunchbang already provides it, despite it’s blank, black appearance.

It’ll even keep on working when you find yourself needing to do real work. I have to successfully run my own company using just my laptop during the week when I’m away from my home and the rest of my infrastructure and also use it for entertainment so there’s really no better test than that. Reviews are great, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I want to get the work done, and that means I want a fast, super responsive interface that doesn’t mess about. My laptop isn’t for impressing my friends with, it’s key to my survival and my only source of free entertainment. It has to deliver and if it comes up short, I will find out quickly. I also like messing about with photographs so those extra system resources are appreciated.

Additional functionality comes in the form of freely available modules (programs and their dependent libraries) installed and removed at will using Synaptic Package Manager which downloads all the software you’ll ever need from known repositories as and when functionality is required or retired on your desktop – much like your iphone or android phone, only crunchbang doesn’t carry the advertising or any of the bad stuff that leaves you wondering if your computer is actually free or even your own.  Install it and you’ll see much blackness!  No childish fisher-price icons here to lure in paying consumers, just a blank, black canvas and a package manager.  That’s as simple as it gets.

BUT, as I started out saying, it won’t necessarily add the programs to your desktop menu after they’re installed.  Before you let that become an issue for you and miss out on feeling like that kid felt in the 70’s when he/she opened that box and smelt that plastic, read on.  It’s easy to edit the menu to add the programs you’ve just installed.

 

Settings, Openbox, Edit menu.xml (not Reconfigure as shown – thats for afterwards).

The menu.xml file will open in geany text editor.  Anything between <item> and </item> is a, well, item.  So copy an existing block of code and paste it in somewhere appropriate according to what type of program it is (Media, Office, Graphics etc), then just modify the label and executable as required.  I added the xcalc calculator (shown below).

When you’re happy with your edit, save it, then Settings, Openbox, Reconfigure to re-load the .xml file you just modified and see the new item in the menu.  Test it to make sure it works.

 

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