Openbox and dual-monitor setup: placing popup dialogs

Published June 23, 2013

This post is primarly a note to self

Apparently, accordingly to the Openbox’ default configuration, in a dual-monitor setup, the primary monitor is the one on the left, and this leads to an annoying issue when you use as primary monitor the one on the right, as in my case: in fact, if the monitor on the left is off, you won’t be able to see dialogs popups, for instance the application switcher popup or the virtual desktop switcher.

My problem was not being able to show those dialogs on the proper monitor.

I googled a little bit… nothing.
I posted a thread on a forum… nothing.
I RTFM‘d… still nothing.

In the end, I found these lines in the OB’s configuration file, around the 20th line (~/.config/openbox/rc.xml):

<placement>
  <policy>Smart</policy>
  <!-- 'Smart' or 'UnderMouse' -->
  <center>yes</center>
  <!-- whether to place windows in the center of the free area found or
     the top left corner -->
  <monitor>Primary</monitor>
  <!-- with Smart placement on a multi-monitor system, try to place new windows
     on: 'Any' - any monitor, 'Mouse' - where the mouse is, 'Active' - where
     the active window is, 'Primary' - only on the primary monitor -->
  <primaryMonitor>1</primaryMonitor>
  <!-- The monitor where Openbox should place popup dialogs such as the
     focus cycling popup, or the desktop switch popup.  It can be an index
     from 1, specifying a particular monitor.  Or it can be one of the
     following: 'Mouse' - where the mouse is, or
                'Active' - where the active window is -->
</placement>

Bingo. Intuitively, to have dialogs showed on the monitor on the right you have to replace 1 with 2 in the <primaryMonitor> tag. Choose Mouse if you want dialogs following your mouse or (my ultimate choice) Active, that shows dialogs on the monitor where the active window is.
Brilliant.

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