How to Replace Mate’s Default Window Manager with Openbox

The MATE desktop environment is one of my favorite desktop environments. From its low memory usage to its customization options, there’s a whole lot to love. If there is only one thing that I don’t like about it, it has to be the window manager. There’s not a lot of configuration options, and it lacks some features. I just don’t like using it on my installation.

Instead of using MATE’s window manager, I’ve replaced it with Openbox It’s a fairly popular window manager. It’s extremely configurable and infinitely customizable. Not to mention, it’s a really lightweight experience.

Install Openbox

Before you can do this tutorial, you’ll need to install Openbox.

For Ubuntu:

For Fedora:

For OpenSUSE:

For Arch Linux:

Is your distribution not listed? Just use your operating system’s package manager to search for and install Openbox!

Replace Mate’s default window manager with Openbox

Replacing MATE’s own window manager with Openbox is a fairly simple process. All you have to do is download and install one single program. This program is called “Dconf editor.” It allows you to edit a lot of the configuration in MATE.

Install it on your Linux distribution to get started. Are you not sure where to find it? Using the package manager on your system, search for “dconf-editor” or something similar. When installed, launch it.


Inside the dconf editor, find the “org” drop-down menu and click on it.


In the “org menu” find the “mate” drop-down menu and click on that.


There are a lot of options in the “mate” drop-down menu. Sort through them, look for the “desktop” drop-down menu and select it.


The “desktop” drop-down menu, like the “mate” one, has a ton of options. Look through and find the “session” drop-down menu and select it.


In the “session” drop-down, there are a few options. The only one you need to worry about is “required-components.” Click the “required-components” option to be brought to its configuration settings.

The “required-components” area will give you three changeable settings to work with. The only one we need to change is the window manager one. To change MATE’s default window manager, just click on the part after “windowmanager” and write “openbox” in there.


Once you add “openbox”, it will auto-save your changes. After that all you need to do is log out of your MATE session, then back in and Openbox will be your new MATE window manager!

How to return to the default MATE window manager

Have you decided you don’t want to use Openbox with MATE? It’s easy! Just follow the directions above to find your way back to the “required-components” area.


Inside the “required-components” area, just click on the window manager column (like before) but this time click the “set default” button in the bottom right of the dconf editor. This will change the window manager settings back to the way they were before.

Configuring Openbox

Do you want to configure Openbox to make it go better with your Mate setup? Start off by installing the Openbox WM configuration tool. It’s called ObConf. It’s a fairly simple program, but it’s super useful. With this, you can change a lot of aspects in the Openbox window manager (like settings, themes, etc).

For Ubuntu:

For Fedora:

For OpenSUSE:

For Arch Linux:

Like before, if your distribution isn’t listed, you’ll need to search for “obconf” using your operating system’s package manager.


MATE’s default window manager is cool for what it is. However, the simple fact is that Openbox is far, far better. It’s really great and an awesome addition to anyone’s MATE desktop configuration. By replacing the default with this one, you’ll open up your desktop environment’s potential even further.

Derrik Diener Derrik Diener

Derrik Diener is a freelance technology blogger.


  1. very interesting…

    but, in Linux Mint 17.1 / Mate there are some problems:
    – title and window’s controls are invisible
    – elements in taskbar too

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