Desktop Overhauling With Blackbox

By Rossi Fernandes Published Date
01 - Jul - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Jul - 2007
Desktop Overhauling With Blackbox

Go ahead, have some fun, Change windows' look and feel!

Windows Vista may rule when it comes to modern interfaces, but there are some who think Linux still has an edge over Windows in the looks department. Now, window managers are software that change the look and feel of your operating system. Wouldn't it be nice to have the functionality of Windows we're so used to, coupled with the clean look that most Linux window managers provide?

Blackbox is a minimalist and highly customisable window manager. It has been developed on a wide range of *nix-based operating systems. There are variants like Fluxbox for Linux that have branched from Blackbox. The well-known ones for Windows are bbLean, Xoblite, BB4Win, and Bluebox. The functioning and theme support for these variants are pretty much the same.

We used bbLean for this demonstration where we show you how to get up to speed with Blackbox quickly, but the steps should be the same for any of the variants that you might use.

Setting Blackbox As The Default Window Manager Download any of the Blackbox variants (bbLean: bblean/). Installing is done by simply unzipping the archive to a folder. To make Blackbox the default window manager, in a Run window, enter the location of the Blackbox executable followed by the -install parameter, for example, C:BlackboxBlackbox.exe -install. A confirmation window will pop up, followed by a prompt asking whether you want all the users of the OS to use Blackbox. Click No if you only want your account to be set to use Blackbox. Reboot your computer for the changes to take effect. When you reboot and log in, Blackbox will load up instead of Windows' Explorer.

At any point, if you wish to remove Blackbox as your default window manager, follow the same step, using "-uninstall" as the parameter. You can also right-click on the Desktop and select Blackbox > Install > Uninstall.

Installing Styles
Themes-or styles-in any software enhance the way it looks; Blackbox has good style support. Adding styles to your Blackbox installation is simple. It involves copying of a few files here and there. You normally get a set of themes with any Blackbox flavour, and you can easily find many more themes on the Internet at Blackbox community sites such as Boxshots (, Deviantart (, and Lostinthebox ( Blackbox themes are extremely compact when it comes to download size. Two thousand themes can be compressed to within 2MB! You can find one such theme pack at Boxshots. Download the themes and unzip the archives if any. Copy the files into your BlackboxStyles folder. Now right-click on the Desktop, click on Styles, and then on the Style of your choice. It will be applied immediately.

Customising Menus
Once installed, Blackbox automatically creates shortcuts to commonly-used folders such as Programs, Quick Launch, drives, Control Panel, and so on. To create any new shortcuts in the menu, edit the menu.rc file in the Blackbox folder using Notepad (or any other text editor).

To create shortcuts to programs, add new entries using the [exec] keyword. For example, "[exec] (Notepad) {c:windows notepad.exe}" (without the quotes) will create a shortcut with the name "Notepad" pointing to notepad.exe in the Windows folder.

Using the [path] keyword will let you browse a path through the Blackbox menu itself. For example, "[path] (Games) {c:Games}".

Using the [submenu] keyword adds a submenu to the Blackbox menu. For example, "[submenu] (Applications)" adds a submenu called Applications. All further entries that you add to the file will fall under the submenu you just created. Adding the [end] keyword ends the submenu.

Installing And Configuring Add-ons
Similar to adding skins, Blackbox has add-ons developed by the community that adds new features to the software. To add plugins to Blackbox, unzip the plugin to the Blackbox plugins folder. Now to make the plugin load every time Blackbox loads, open the plugins.rc file in the Blackbox folder using a text editor. Here, add a new entry for the plugin in this format: pluginspluginnameplugindllfilename.dll

An example would be pluginsbbRunbbRun.dll. Restart Blackbox by right-clicking on the Desktop and clicking Restart under the Blackbox submenu.

Settings For Blackbox
Not all the settings need to be changed using a text editor. Some of the more basic settings can be accessed by right-clicking on the Desktop and then selecting Blackbox > Configuration. Here, you can change the options relating to menus and looks. Then right-click on the Desktop, then on Blackbox, and select Restart to restart Blackbox so the options are applied.

You can also alter Blackbox settings by making changes in the extensions.rc file in the Blackbox folder using a text editor like Notepad. Settings for any plugins that you may install can be modified by editing the .rc files in their respective folders. In fact, the themes in Blackbox, too, are text files that can be modified to change the look of the theme.
Many a time, colours need to be altered within Windows so they better suit the themes in use. You can do this by right-clicking on the Desktop and clicking Properties. Click the Appearance tab and then on the Advanced button. Here you can change colour properties of some items. If you want more control over the colours of the items than Windows provides, you can use a program called Jasmin Color Changer (

Quick access to settings in Blackbox

Blackbox is great fun if you want to customise Windows' looks. Blackbox also adds functionality such as virtual Desktops, detachable menus, foldable windows, and more-without sacrificing system resources. Have lots of fun hours tweaking Blackbox! 

Rossi FernandesRossi Fernandes