Blackbox Tutorial - Part I: The Shell

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OK, I finally realize I can't postpone this anymore - the interest runs high and if I wait for more corrections and additions I will probably never submit it. So, here is my Blackbox Tutorial. It ain't perfect, it ain't complete, but it will do for the time being...
There are 3 parts, so far - The Shell, The Plugins, and The Styles. Knowing me, will probably add more on the way... :D
Have fun and happy Blackboxing!

THE SHELL

OK, I have two sets of instructions for Blackbox - the short one and the loooong one. I am sure most people will read the short one, tho the long one is more detailed and safer. Here we go...

The short one

1) Dowload Blackbox for Windows. There are three clones: bb4w (www.bb4win.org), xoblite (www.desktopian.org/bb), and bblean (bb4win.sourceforge.net/bblean my personal favorite which I strongy recommend).

2) Create a folder under, say, c: named Blackbox. (c:Blackbox). Unzip the con

tents of the zip file there. Subfolders are created automatically.

3) Double click Blackbox.exe. Easy!

If u want a full installation (Explorer, as shell, will be replaced by Blackbox (recommended))

1) If u downloaded bb4w 0.90, after unzipping files double click install.bat. If u downloaded bblean, type in the commandline blackbox -install.

2) If u want to uninstall: for bb4w 0.90, double click uninstall.bat. For bblean, type blackbox -uninstall.

The long one (but recommended)

Win XP is the best way to run Blackbox, but the clone I'm going to suggest works perfectly well with Win 98/Me/2000. Yes, it will radically change ur desktop. I don't know if u had any experience with alternative shells before, but I'll tackle this as if u hadn't.
Windows' interface works with a certain shell, or GUI (graphic user interface) application, Explorer. Yes, Explorer is not only a file browser but the very heart of the Windows system. Delete Explorer and Windows crash. Now, Explorer determines the look and the usage of every component like the desktop, the taskbar, the systembar etc. etc.
Many people don't like the looks of Windows' native shell, or the fact that it's heavy (which means that it eats up ur memory). So, many different shells were developed during the last 6 or 7 years, most of them based on Linux' window managers. Litestep, the most popular alternative shell around, for instance, is based on Afterstep, a Linux manager, and Blackbox for Windows is based on Blackbox, another Linux window manager. In fact, B for W and B for L are so similar that their styles (themes) are interchangeable. Which means that u can choose from about 3,000 styles (themes) around the web.
Now, what an alternative shell does is a) make things lighter (usually). Less CPU usage, less RAM needed, faster responses, and b) change the looks completely (or not). What u saw in my screenies was Blackbox in full motion - at the top, a task bar including choice between different desktops (yes, u can have as many desktops as u wish) and a clock. On the right, there is a "wharf bar" (program launcher), a more graphical clock and the desktop management plugin for 6 desktops (I don't need more). And, at the bottom, a "slit" (something like a drawer) with some plugins running, like a choice of styles, a waste bin manager, a window skinner, an audio player including volume slider(s), application shortcuts (the icons) and a systembar with running system applications. Now on the right there is a sidebar I created using bbinterface. It's not released yet, but will be, probably next week. More later...
On the left, u can see the menus (as many as u wish) which can be accessed by right-clicking on the desktop. The menus are something like the start/programs/all programs thingie under the Explorer shell, but are floating around and much more flexible.
Now, what makes Blackbox unique is the ability to change the colors and the textures of all its components on the fly - which means I can change everything, including the wallpaper and windows trimmings, within fractions of a second. So, I can have 3,000 styles, 3,000 wallpapers and lotsa plugins on my hd and create as many as I wish within 15 minutes each - authoring styles is VERY easy.

There are currently three "branches" of Blackbox (under Windows, there is only one under Linux).

1) Blackbox for Windows (bb4w)

2) Xoblite

3) BBLean

I personally use BBLean since it's more flexible, light, and impressive. This is the dl link:

bb4win.sourceforge.net/bblean/

Now, if this is ur first time with an alternative shell, as an added precaution I'd advise u to use a shell switcher, like ShellOn or Carapace (I personally use ShellOn 2.0, www.dx13.co.uk). Carapace's link is www.pixolpod.org, thanx sryo for the info.
First, download Blackbox following steps 1 and 2 in the short instructions section above. Don't run Blackbox and don't install it as shell.
Second, download and install the shell switcher.
Third, add Blackbox as an alternative shell in the shell switcher's configuration window. Read instructions carefully.
The shell switcher may ask u to reboot. Do so and when the "choose shell" window appears, choose Blackbox.
Voila! Ur first Blackbox session.

What u will see is a basic configuration, but remember: Blackbox is highly customizable. U will need sometime, however, to get accustomed to it. U can switch between shells, if u like, so in fact u don't ever have to uninstall Blackbox: u can use Explorer AND Blackbox.
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There is a detailed explanation on YouTube

placidsiroraj's avatar
Hey mate. Nice post. Am new to this so downloaded the shellon. But the Blackbox link for bblean is an exe file and not a rar file!!!! What do I do now? What about the additional folders you mentioned about??
Tanx a lot
Btw these themes are sexy :)
pitkon's avatar
Thanks so much! The tutorials, as I point out, are rather old. It's easier for you to install ShellOn following instructions (the chm file) and then download any of my latest themes (the full packages) and follow instructions once again. Reboot and you are there. Let me know if you need more assistance :)
placidsiroraj's avatar
Tanx a lot :) I replied to your watch message before seeing this :) I gotta learn to be more patient :) tanx again.
pitkon's avatar
Lol... It's quite alright :nod:
placidsiroraj's avatar
Sorry to bug you :( But when I click the 'set shellon as shell' button an error reading "Failed to set data for shell" appears on screen. I did everything given in the chm file in order. I downloaded your music theme and made it the default one. Help pls
pitkon's avatar
You are using Windows 7, right? 7 sometimes do that, but they do set ShellOn as shell. I suggest you reboot anyway. If the ShellOn window does not appear on startup, repeat the ShellOn procedure - add explorer and blackbox as shells (remember to check the Catch Crashes icon) and click again on the Set ShellOn as Shell button. Let me know how it went.
placidsiroraj's avatar
Ok this is dumb. But I've just downloaded the bbCLEAN version and extracted it. Now do I need to execute the blackbox.exe file which is extracted and then proceed? Cuz I didnt install last time. I just selected the .exe file. I remember reading somewhere that if I execute the file the explorer.exe will be replaced. So am kinda apprehensive :(
pitkon's avatar
Explorer.exe is never replaced. Only if you delete it, causing a Windows crash, but I guess you won't do that :) You don't install Blackbox, you just unzip the whole package under C:\Blackbox and then add Blackbox.exe to ShellOn.
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placidsiroraj's avatar
selected the blackbox.exe from the shellon
placidsiroraj's avatar
Btw I used the ShellON version 2 as one deviant had suggested that the tutorial in it is good.
rolimpo23's avatar
Wonderful.. Dude im a beginner. When I click the link where to download the Shellon, it doesn't seem to show the exact link to download it.. How do you do it? is there an alternative link?
Subdue420's avatar
I'm also just now wading into the world of shell replacements, but I do have some links which people who are reading this now might find useful.

ShellOn v2: [link]

Older program. Haven't tested it so I can't say if it works but new users should download it anyway because it has a very useful Help file which explains the basics of how to use ShellOn, along with more advanced information for people familiar with the program.

ShellOn v3: [link]

The most current version of ShellOn.
pitkon's avatar
The links may have changed after all these years :) Google for it, it's somewhere out there. Thanks for your kind words!
evolutionhotline's avatar
ok, i hope you're able to answer all of these. i read your tutorials, and of course, have questions. now, you've seen some of my screenshots, and how i like my desktop to look and work. i'd like to keep most of that, if that's possible.

so, how do i choose which version of blackbox i want to use, or can i use multiple versions (i assume not)?

and how easy is it to switch between windows and blackbox, do i have to keep restarting everytime? or can i just switch while running?

how easy is it to create a new colour scheme, how long would it take?

can i still use all my windows programs, like winamp, widgets, messengers, firefox, etc?

and you say 'explorer, as shell, will be replaced by blackbox (recommended)', but i'd like to keep my explorer and use it. if i did the full install, would i actually lose explorer? and why is it recommended? (also, this will sound stupid, but i don't know what 'type in the command line' means).

i looked on dx13's site, and there are two shell managers, v2 and v3. it says 'some people prefer v2', so how do i decide which one i should use? have you used both, and do you have a preference?

and i downloaded bblean, but it was an exe, and you talked about a zip file. (i guess it's time to update your tutorials, hehe).

and this won't damage any of my system or files, will it?

also, now that i've read these, and still have questions, what all can you tell me to get me set up and running? i'd like to have all plugins/options possible, especially all the ones you use.

i ask for your help and guidance, because i have learned to be careful with my system, i've had to reinstall so many times, because of some random program messing everything up, and i try to stay away from that whenever possible. so i'm sorry if i sound inexperienced or whatever, but i want to make sure i do this right.

i looked at some screenshots from '04, like 'depth', and tried to compare them with your new ones, and got confused. i didn't quite know what i was looking at. i hope that's not too much.
pitkon's avatar
so, how do i choose which version of blackbox i want to use, or can i use multiple versions (i assume not)?

IT DEPENDS ON THE WINDOWS VERSION YOU ARE USING. IF RUNNING XP, GO FOR BBLEANMOD (THE ONE I AM INCLUDING IN MY LATEST UPLOADS). IF USING 7, GO FOR BBCLEAN.

and how easy is it to switch between windows and blackbox, do i have to keep restarting everytime? or can i just switch while running?

VERY EASY, IF YOU USE A SHELL SWITCHER, LIKE I AM SUGGESTING. YOU CAN SWITCH WHILE RUNNING, BUT IT'S BETTER TO RESTART IN ORDER TO GET THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. BUT WHEN YOU START USING BLACKBOX, THERE IS NO GOING BACK - EVERYBODY SAYS SO :)

how easy is it to create a new colour scheme, how long would it take?

IT'S RELATIVELY EASY, WHEN YOU USE A COLOR PICKER. IT CAN TAKE FROM A FEW HOURS TO A FEW DAYS, DEPENDING ON HOW SATISFIED YOU WILL BE WITH THE OUTCOME AND THE COLOR COMBINATIONS. THAT GOES FOR MAKING A STYLE (A COLOR SCHEME, AS YOU PUT IT). CREATING A THEME, WITH THE USE OF BBINTERFACE AND OTHER ELEMENTS MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER - BUT IT CAN BE DONE IN A SINGLE DAY, DEPENDING AGAIN ON SATISFACTION AND EXPERTISE.

can i still use all my windows programs, like winamp, widgets, messengers, firefox, etc?

OF COURSE YOU CAN. THEY WILL WORK AND LOOK BETTER, TOO :)

and you say 'explorer, as shell, will be replaced by blackbox (recommended)', but i'd like to keep my explorer and use it. if i did the full install, would i actually lose explorer? and why is it recommended? (also, this will sound stupid, but i don't know what 'type in the command line' means).

EXPLORER IS MORE OR LESS USELESS AS A SHELL, BUT IT WILL BE THERE IN CASE YOU NEED IT, OR WHEN YOU NEED TO SWITCH. YOU WON'T LOSE ANYTHING. COMMAND LINE IS THE EQUIVALENT OF RUN IN START/ALL PROGRAMS/RUN. YOU WON'T NEED IT FOR THE TIME BEING.

i looked on dx13's site, and there are two shell managers, v2 and v3. it says 'some people prefer v2', so how do i decide which one i should use? have you used both, and do you have a preference?

I PREFER (AND USE) V2, SO I SAY GO FOR V2...

and i downloaded bblean, but it was an exe, and you talked about a zip file. (i guess it's time to update your tutorials, hehe).

BBLEAN is AN EXE, BUT YOU NEED THE ZIP FILE WITH FULL PARAPHERNALIA. AGAIN, LOOK AT ANSWER #1 AND DECIDE WHICH VERSION TO USE.

and this won't damage any of my system or files, will it?

OF COURSE NOT. AND IF YOU USE A SHELL MANAGER, YOU WILL HAVE A PARACHUTE OPEN AT ALL TIMES. JUST READ V2 INSTRUCTIONS OR ASK ME, OK?

also, now that i've read these, and still have questions, what all can you tell me to get me set up and running? i'd like to have all plugins/options possible, especially all the ones you use.

FIRST OF ALL, INSTALL BLACKBOX AND GET ACQUAINTED WITH IT. THEN INSTALL ONE OF MY LATEST THEMES. IN THE ZIP FILES I INCLUDE ALL PLUGINS NEEDED.

i ask for your help and guidance, because i have learned to be careful with my system, i've had to reinstall so many times, because of some random program messing everything up, and i try to stay away from that whenever possible. so i'm sorry if i sound inexperienced or whatever, but i want to make sure i do this right.

YOU DO THE RIGHT THING AND I APPLAUD YOU FOR THAT. I HAVE DONE THE SAME THING(S) MYSELF, SO DON'T WORRY.

i looked at some screenshots from '04, like 'depth', and tried to compare them with your new ones, and got confused. i didn't quite know what i was looking at. i hope that's not too much.

MY THEMES HAVE PROGRESSED WITH BLACKBOX. YOU ARE LOOKING AT DIFFERENT SETUPS, DIFFERENT PLUGINS AND MORE (OR LESS, IN THE CASE OF THE OLDER ONES) OPTIONS. I WILL GUIDE YOU ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER... LOL... SO DON'T WORRY.
HOPE THIS HELPED. DON'T HESITATE TO WRITE AGAIN.
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evolutionhotline's avatar
that was very helpful, thank you so much. the only question i have left, is:

'you need the zip file with full paraphernalia', so where do i find that zip file? cause the link you give only goes to the exe.

after i find that, i think i'm finally ready to dig in.
pitkon's avatar
[link]
This is BBLeanMod's site (the one I am using) Its in japanese, but go for bbLean mod package (100901) :)
evolutionhotline's avatar
ok, thanks. now, i read how to install this, so i'm going to take it slowly, step by step, and see if i do it right. i first unzip the bblean, then i install the switcher, and set blackbox as the alternative shell in its settings. i hope i do this right. thanks again for all your help. i'll let you know how it goes.
pitkon's avatar
Yes, this is the right procedure, since Blackbox needs to be there for the shell manager to see it. You are very welcome and feel free to ask, if you need any help. Don't forget to check the Catch Crashes box in each shell entry in the shell manager to be on the safe side. But if anything goes wrong, you can always reboot :)
evolutionhotline's avatar
that's good to know. now, i just got a little confused again... in your tutorial, you say 'if you want a full install, which is recommended', is that after i've booted into blackbox using the shell switcher?
pitkon's avatar
Yes. Basically, the shell switcher will be the full install thing - and it will choose (that is, YOU will choose... lol) among as many shells as you have in your drive. For the time being, Blackbox and Explorer are enough :)
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a289e895ae45e84baa96's avatar
I downloaded 64-bit install, ran that and am using it on my 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate system.
Have you had experience with BB and W7?
It seems to be doing fine running on top of Windows, I haven't put it under pressure though.
I've quit out of BB, into Windows and then ran BB again from it's location on C:\bbLean, multiple times.

I want to know if I can edit the boot configuration as to give me the option during bios startup, to boot either Windows OR BlackBox. Much the same as I would if I were dual booting XP and Vista (back in the day).
Or does BlackBox require Windows to boot anyway?

Thanks, hope you can answer my question.
pitkon's avatar
Hi! OK, let's see. First, BB DOES need Windows to boot. Second, you can pick your shell by using a shell switcher/manager like ShellOn V2 and switch between Explorer (Windows) and BB (or among many shells, like Litestep, Emerge etc.) Second, using a shell manager you can use BB as your main shell. Running it on top of Explorer means a heavier environment and some of BB's features will be missing. Hope this helped - please write back if you need anything more :)
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