LinuxAndUbuntu Review Of BunsenLabs Linux

Once upon a time there was Crunchbang Linux, and then it was no more, and then the community brought it back to life in another form known as BunsenLabs Linux. This distribution offers a lightweight and easily customizable Openbox desktop.  

System Requirements

​The minimum requirements for BunsenLabs is 256MB RAM and an installation using a little over 2GB of disk space. You can use lower resources if you do not intend to run a graphical desktop with low resource-intensive applications.  

Download and Installation

BunsenLabs is available in 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. There is an extra 32-bit build which does not require PAE support in the computer’s CPU for older machines. Grab them from here. After downloading the file, burn the ISO image to a CD/DVD or write it to a USB thumb drive using tools such as Unetbootin or Etcher and then boot from it. Upon bootup, you will have the option of booting into the live environment and trialing the distro or you can go ahead and install if you are sure you want to install it. You cannot install from the live environment, you will need to come back to the boot menu to install.

bunsenlabs grub boot menu

​If you choose to install, the process is very straightforward as it uses the simple Debian installer. You will be required to set up the usual things such as disks, language and keyboard, user account and password and a few others. The process will take a few minutes and you will have your desktop setup and ready to use.

create partitions for bunsenlabs linux

First Impressions

​If you choose to install the distro, you will be presented with the login screen which is nice and simple.

bunsenlabs login screen

Clean Desktop, Smooth Experience

​Upon login, you immediately see the direction the distro chooses to go with keeping things simple. By default, there is a panel at the top of the screen with a few quick launch icons on the left (firefox, file manager, gedit and terminal). On the right, you have the system tray showing your network, battery and volume icons with system time.

There are no icons on the desktop except some system information on the right powered by Conky. You can appreciate the system performance as RAM usage is less than 200MB. The wallpaper is nice with bunselabs written in the center with a flame atop. Everything looks grey and I bet a whole lot of folks will definitely want something more colorful.

bunsenlabs openbox desktop


BunsenLabs comes with 2 workspaces by default. I only discovered this by accident as I was scrolling through a page with the mouse wheel only for it to change workspaces. The behavior was quite strange I must say and I am still looking for a way around this as it happened a few more times.

bunsenlabs workspaces

Right click for menu

openbox right click for menu

​Right-clicking on the desktop will popup the menu as there is no launcher or menu icon on the top panel or any other place on the desktop. Everything or place available in the distro is accessible from this menu. Your installed applications, recent files, places, and system settings or preferences are just a right click away.  

Preinstalled Apps In BunsenLabs

Internet Apps

BunsenLabs packs a lean selection of software with only a handful of some essentials. Firefox is the default web browser but you can also install Chromium, Google Chrome or Opera with just a click. You also have transmission BitTorrent Client, HexChat IRC, Filezilla and links to install OpenSSH server and client and remote desktop app.

firefox running in bunsenlabs openbox

Office Software

​When it comes to Office, you have only Writer out of the LibreOffice suite installed. Impress, Calc or the entire suite can be installed, once again my just a click. You have Gnumeric and Google Docs available by default which I think is pretty cool.

libreoffice in bunsenlabs

For Graphics you have Mirage image viewer and a screenshot app installed with GIMP, Blender, Inkscape, and some others only a click away.

vlc in bunsenlabs


Cruchbang offers no limit to customization except your imagination. Let us look at this briefly.  

BunsenLabs Wallpapers

change wallpaper in bunsenlabs linux

​The first thing I wanted to change after booting up the distro was the wallpaper. I don’t know why everything has to look so dim but unfortunately, the wallpaper selection was more of the same (variants of the default). To change the wallpaper, right-click on the desktop and navigate to Preferences> Choose Wallpaper.  

Look and feel

customize look & feel in bunsenlabs

Under preferences, you can click on Appearance to customize the look and feel of the desktop. You chose a darker widget theme, edit the colors or change the icons or cursor themes.  

Conky, Tint2 and more

​Conky is available and running by default on BunsenLabs. You can choose from other pre-installed themes or install other themes and further customize your desktop.

conky installed on bunsenlabs

​You can also move the top panel to the bottom by going to the thing menu.

edit conky in bunsenlabs

If you know what you are about, you can modify Openbox and compositor. You can choose a theme for your notifications even (theme and location) and all these are available under preferences in the right-click menu.

bunsenlabs linux notification settings


​Lovers of the discontinued Cruchbang distro can rejoice at the success and quality of this community-powered project. BunsenLabs has made me wonder why I have not used the Openbox desktop environment that much. Bunsenlabs does a good job keeping things minimal. But I must say BunsenLabs is no distro for beginners as things are somewhat complicated not that it is too hard.

Also, the number of installed applications are almost too little for new users but then again you can install some curated ones with just a click. On the other hand, BunsenLabs will be ideal for old computers and computers with low hardware config. I like Bunsenlabs quite a lot because it keeps things simple and gets out of the way.

Also Read – Top Linux Distributions For Old Computers


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1 Comments Text
  • The last line of your article makes the most sense to me. A minimal system cannot be too simple & allow people like me to start writing configuration files for so many things, it might as well be a full sized Debian. I mostly installed BunsenLabs when Windows 7 couldn’t update on a computer too old to work that hard. My old Toshiba C655 starting to run almost quickly again without a desktop manager. Even the Lithium I just barely got an optical disk to run had a panel with too many of the attributes of an XFCE desktop, until I lurched into the GUI that made me realize just changing themes caused Openbox to be the thing I clicked on (by setting the TINT2 panel vertical & its default, more minimal apps. My problems are the same as they were on this computer 10 years after I bought it. It doesn’t like the i915 Intel video driver (DRM) driver that much, and it doesn’t like Thunar as much as a lighter app, like pcmanfm or spacefm. I’ve tried using bunsen-alternatives upgrade scripts the novice (I will always be one, because of cognitive deficits) has access to in the menu, but neither Chromium or alternative file managers & text editors, terminals..Seem able to be downloaded. Your review states the obvious: Bunsenlabs runs best as a minimal interface with few paths to take & cause glitches. As the most user friendly software might be open source, it still makes it the most complicated for a user like me to keep stable.

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