Slackel Linux Works Well Inside Its Openbox

The latest release of Slackel Linux renews and improves the mashup of Slackware and Salix built around an Openbox pseudo desktop environment.

Slackel 7.2 hit the download servers on July 20, eight months after the release of Slackel 7.1 Openbox edition. Slackel also is available in two much older versions running the KDE and Fluxbox environments. All releases are available in 64-bit and 32-bit builds.

Slackel, based in Greece, is a Linux distro a step away from the typical mainstream Debian-based Linux OS line. Based on Slackware and Salix, the distro is fully compatible with both Slackware and Salix software repositories.

That combination gives Slackel Linux a better range of software. Slackware-based distros typically have far smaller software repositories than do Debian-based distros and others. Think in terms of a few thousand packages compared to 35,000.

Slackel 7.2 Openbox desktop

The Slackel 7.2 release has an energized Openbox desktop display that provides a simple yet functional user interface.
– click image to enlarge –

Finding Linux packages that will run in Slackel is less of a challenge, but you will still experience slimmer pickings.

Bigger, Better Build

The two-base combo comes with useful advantages for Slackel users. One is the inclusion of Slackware system tools.

Another is the built-in access to all the Salix Linux system tools known for their efficiency in making system administration easy and straightforward. For instance, the Salix codecs installer application quickly and easily installs patent-encumbered codecs.

A third user benefit comes directly from a key improvement to this latest Slackel Linux release. Linux kernel 4.19.59 powers the distro. It also has the latest updates from Slackware’s current software tree.

Previous releases came with two downloadable ISO files. One was the live session version. The other was the installation disc. This latest release combines the two. The new ISO image is an isohybrid that can be used as installation media.

Installation tools are another big improvement. Slackware and Salix installations — as well as previous Slackel Linux text-based installers — have made the process less than user-friendly. Four tools improve installation routines.

  1. Instonusb is a GUI tool to install Slackel 32-bit and 64-bit live ISO images to a USB stick. It also can create an encrypted persistent file for live session use.
  2. Multibootusb is a GUI tool to create a live USB image including 32-bit and 64-bit live editions of Slackel and Salix, and to choose the one to boot into a live environment at boot time.
  3. SLI is a complete GUI installer.
  4. Live ISO image creates persistent file encryption after installation on USB devices.

Taking Up the Slack

Slackel Linux has a lot to offer. It has a long line of prominence with growth from two influencers. Slackware and Salix are two well-oiled Linux families from which Slackel Linux evolved.

Slackware Linux is a throwback to the early days of the Linux OS. It is among the oldest actively maintained Linux distros. It dates back to 1992. By comparison, well-known and well-used distros such as Ubuntu, Fedora and Linux Mint were introduced in the mid-2000s.

Despite Slackware’s longevity, is has not joined more modern Linux offspring in terms of user-friendliness. The Slackware project started as a way to install a Linux system that already included some core packages like the kernel and an X window system.

Slackware Take 2

Slackware may have lost its relevance to anyone but diehard Slackware fans. Over the years, Slackware has updated but not improved much.

Unlike Slackel Linux, Slackware still is not easy to set up and use. Slackel Linux attempts to fix that weakness by being more user-friendly as a better Slackware model.

Similarly, Salix Linux is a GNU/Linux distribution based on Slackware. It is simple, fast and easy to use, with stability being a primary goal.

Slackel Linux gets much of its design philosophy from Salix Linux. Salix also is fully backward-compatible with Slackware. That adds reach to Slackel Linux’s access to software.

Openbox Odyssey

Openbox is the only available graphical user interface, or GUI, in the current release. Its simplicity and flexibility make it a good choice.

What is Openbox? It is a stacking window manager for the X Window System. It is very configurable, allowing it to function as a nearly full desktop environment.

Window managers control the appearance and functionality of windows within an operating system. For instance, they provide basic desktop functions for displaying windows and screen displays. They control actions such as opening, closing, moving, decorating, and other such window management operations.

Slackel's Openbox cascading systems menu

A key feature with the Openbox design is the ability to see a cascading systems menu anywhere on the desktop with a right-click. The standard main menu is always available by clicking on the “O” button on the far left of the bottom panel.
– click image to enlarge –

When a full-fledged desktop such as Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, MATE or GNOME is integrated into the operating system, a window manager takes care of the core functions to provide a graphical interface for navigating the screen display. The desktop shell adds more advanced features to enhance the GUI’s functionality, such as providing animations.

Window managers such as Fluxbox, JWN, Enlightenment and Openbox often are used in conjunction with a full desktop environment, but window managers can serve as a pseudo standalone desktop as well. For instance, Openbox often is paired with GNOME and KDE to enhance those desktop environments.

Serves Slackel

Openbox is a halfway measure between Slackel Linux having a minimal or a full-blown desktop environment. Openbox has a powerful set of options and is easy to use.

Its characteristic visual box style is built around a minimalist appearance. Still, its setting controls and other design options allow a variety of display appearances to suit any taste.

Do not let Slackel’s reliance on Openbox over other so-called more modern desktops diminish your view of GUI appeal. It is the window manager used by the LXDE desktop environment.

Especially when a distro developer wants a lightweight distro that works with lower-powered hardware such as legacy computers, Openbox can be a simple and ideal operating system component. It gives you control to change almost every part of how you interact with your desktop without making you do everything.

Slackel's Openbox Configuration Manager panel

Slackel’s Openbox Configuration Manager panel offers a full range of settings to let you design your own look and feel.
– click image to enlarge –

Openbox Look and Feel

The Openbox desktop design requires almost no learning curve. It is point-and-click simple. Both its appearance and its operation are old school. That is a good thing.

The standard panel bar sits at the bottom of the screen. The left side of the panel has a very easy-to-use, uncluttered menu. A few icons sit on the left.

The expected notifications are on the right end of the panel. Toward right center is a preconfigured workspace switcher with four virtual workspaces ready to use.

The panel bar is devoid of any extra features such as applets. Openbox is very simple and has some user tweaks built in, but power users will be less enchanted with its almost one-size-fits-all design.

Superior Software

I was less impressed with earlier Slackel Linux releases that used the KDE and Fluxbox options. Fluxbox is somewhat similar to Openbox in terms of its menu, but the range of functionality with Fluxbox is more minimal than I prefer. The KDE version was spoiled by having too many K-family software packages for my liking.

The Openbox edition takes a big step up by including the LibreOffice suite version 6.2x. LibreOffice is far superior to Amiword, which came in earlier releases.

A nice touch is the Gslapt Package Manager for access to Slackware, Salix and Slackel package repositories. Another of Slackel’s strong points is the systems tool collection from Salix Linux.

Bottom Line

The current Slackel Linux release can be a good choice for new users. It is easy to stumble through the installation steps, but this distro has some benefits.

Slackel is a reliable operating system that is easy to use. If you like to learn how Linux works, Slackel gets you closer to understanding the pure Linux environment without resorting to the terminal window and the command line.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Pleaseemail your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.Email Jack.


  • If I may Mr.Germain sir, might I recommend that if/once any other fellow distro spelunker are willing to then get Slackel out of their VM and onto a non production computer (just as a failsafe) then this post install update/upgrade step(s) are crucial:-

    ** one might wonder why I’ve linked this one instead of the dev’s own post at Slackel’s forum. Because what he posted here instead was the better solution :s

    sudo slapt-get -u

    sudo slapt-get -i slapt-get

    sudo slapt-get –upgrade

    sudo slapt-get -i aaa_base glibc glibc-i18n glibc-zoneinfo glibc-profile

    sudo slapt-get –upgrade

    sudo slapt-get -i kernel-firmware kernel-headers kernel-huge kernel-modules kernel-source

    sudo update-grub

    Yes by the above I mean at post installation, successful boot to desktop and configured internet then exit to tty1 (ctrl alt f1) and on with those commands. Precisely with this version 7.2, if anyone tries to go the lazier route and update through the GUI gslapt FIRST, you WILL end up in that world of reboot – fail to boot hurt.

    • Hi,

      Your post is very useful. Let me express some thoughts in detail.

      These above commands are for salix linux which use spkg in slapt-get/gslapt to upgrade packages.

      spkg has some bugs which lead to some failures when upgrading packages as glibc* or samba or mariadb. Upgrade report a post installation failure.

      spkg is fast because do not do a preinstallation.

      Slackel is a rolling release ( based on current tree of slackware, where things change quite often every day) and i faced these problems.

      Stability is important for the system, especially for new linux users, so i decided the slackel since previous edition to use slackware native tools like installpkg, upgradepkg etc. So system always will be upgraded without failures.

      Upgrading the system is more slow because of preinstallation but job done for sure without break the system. This is important for new users.

      You cannot upgrade the kernel, glibc etc using the gui gslapt application.

      EXCLUDE=^aaa_base,^devs,^glibc.*,^kernel-.*,^rootuser-settings,^zzz-settings.* in slapt-getrc file

      You can upgrade the kernel, glibc, aaa_base by running in a terminal

      sudo slapt-get -i aaa_base glibc glibc-i18n glibc-zoneinfo glibc-profile kernel-firmware kernel-headers kernel-huge kernel-modules kernel-source

      In slackware, slackel, salix the user is the master of its system so he has to take this decision

      In slackware, slackel, salix you know what is going on in your system. Have full control.

      and ALWAYS have to run in the end before reboot

      sudo update-grub

      otherwise system will be unbootable which also can

      be fixed using a live iso or another distro installed in the same machine to chroot in the slackel system.

      Yesterday, i installed slackel-openbox-7.2 64 bit in a external ssd disk and make a full upgrade using the above commands. Everything went fine.

      I did this because i develop mate slackel edition and after tests maybe it will be on Sourceforge servers for anyone.

      I hope to not get you tired, writing too much.


      • No no Sir djemos that was all a very necessary post. I should have asked before at your own Slackel’s forum as to why but I haven’t registered there yet hehehe.

        A MATE edition? New one? Good good as there’s quite a following for MATE DE these days. Personally I still prefer the way you implement Openbox and on my fairly old Thinkpad T60 it’s (if not) probably the fastest and lowest sys resource distro yet.

        Hopefully the tests fare well. Will there be any alpha/beta ISOs? Just asking though understandably in between the tests that might be too much extra work.

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