The ROX Guidebook

If you've just got ROX installed, or are thinking of trying it, this guide will show you the basic features.
For help on installing ROX, see the Help Installing page.
After installing the filer and unpacking all the other applications you should have run ROX-Session to make ROX your default desktop. Having logged out of your old desktop and logged back in you're ready to start using ROX...

First login

Welcome to ROX! If you've just logged in for the first time, you should see a panel along the bottom of the screen and a plain grey background (the 'pinboard'), as shown here. Both the pinboard and the panel are used to load files and applications.

From left to right, the panel initially shows these icons:

Exploring the filesystem

Click on your home directory to open a ROX-Filer window. This is the place to save any documents you create. In fact, it's normally impossible to save files anywhere else, so you can't easily lose stuff. It contains all the files that are specific to you. Initially, it contains just the Choices directory, which contains various personal settings (such as what items should appear on your panel).

The titlebar of the window shows which directory you're looking at. It currently shows ~, which is a short-hand for your home directory. Your personal home directory is inside the main /home directory, which contains home directories for all users of the computer.

Use the Up arrow on the toolbar to move into /home, and you'll see your personal directory listed alongside those of the other users.

If you go Up again you'll reach the root directory (/), which contains everything in your system. You can't go up any further from here.

Click on home to return to /home and then click on your own home directory to get back to where you started from. You can also get back here by clicking on the picture of a house in the toolbar.

Creating files and directories

With a filer window showing your home directory open (as in the screenshot above), click Menu (the right mouse button) over the window and choose New->Directory from the menu. Replace the selected sample name NewDir with a suitable name, such as Tutorial and click on the Create button to create the directory.

The new directory will appear inside your home directory. Click on it to see inside. Use directories to organise your files. You can create more directories inside this one if you want, as many levels deep as seems useful.
We'll be using this directory several times in this tutorial. To make it easier to get to we can put it on the panel. Click on the Up button to return to your home directory and drag the Tutorial directory onto the blank area in the middle of the panel. The panel will highlight the empty space as you drag over it, showing you whether the directory will be added to the left or right side of the panel.
You can now click on Tutorial on the panel to open it quickly. Note that Tutorial is still inside your home directory. It has not moved to the panel; the panel is merely a quick way to get to it.
In fact, we can make it even quicker to access than that. Click Menu over the Tutorial icon on the panel and choose Edit Item. There is an area marked '(click to set)' in the keyboard shortcut section of the box. Click on it and press Control+F1 (hold down the Control key and tap F1, then release Control). The new shortcut appears in the button.

After clicking on OK to accept the change, you can open the tutorial directory at any time by pressing Control+F1.
You can drag any file, directory or application onto the panel, and you can use this method to set a shortcut to load or open each one. For example, you can now set shortcuts to open your home directory or see this guide.

Using CDs and floppy disks

To access any kind of removable media you need to 'mount' it, so that it appears in the filesystem. There are a number of preset mount points (set in the file /etc/fstab). ROX-Filer shows these directories with a small circle on them.
After inserting a disk in the drive, click on the mount point directory to mount the device. The circle will go bright green to indicate that something is mounted there.

Be sure to unmount the device before removing the disk! ROX-Filer will offer to unmount the device when you close the window, or you can choose Unmount from the menu.
You can drag any files into another directory to copy them. You may drag to directory windows, or into directories on the panel or onto applications. See the ROX-Filer manual for more information about handling files.

Running programs

Click on Apps on the panel to see all the ROX applications.

You can click on any of these programs to run them. See the Software Index for details of what each one does. To make applications quicker to get to, you can drag them onto your panel as you did with the Tutorial directory. To remove something from the panel, right-click on it and choose Remove Item from the menu.


Click on Edit on the panel (the pen and paper icon). A window appears showing a blank document, into which you can type some text.

Clicking Menu (the right mouse button) over the text will open Edit's main menu. You can choose Options... from here to change the current font or colours used to display files.

Saving from Edit

The window titlebar shows Untitled, since we haven't given the file a name yet. The * indicates that we have unsaved changes.

To save your sample file, click on the disk icon in the toolbar, or choose Save from the menu. A save box will appear, which looks rather like the New Directory box seen earlier. Choose a name for your new file and drag the icon to a filer window (just as if you were copying a file from a directory).
In this case, we'll save to the Tutorial directory created above. Press the shortcut you set then (eg, Control+F1) or click on the Tutorial directory to open it. Drag the picture of the text file into the directory. You could also have dragged directly to the Tutorial directory on the panel.

The titlebar changes to show the new name of the file, and the * disappears until you make more changes. You can now close the Edit window. Clicking on the saved file will open it with Edit by default. You can set a different program to edit text files by bringing up the menu over the saved file and choosing Set Run Action... from the menu.

Finding documentation

You can see the help files provided by any ROX application by bringing up a menu over its icon in a filer window (or panel) and choosing Help from the menu.
Try it now with Edit (Menu click on the pen icon on the panel). A filer window opens providing access to all the help files.

The Changes file lets you find out what features have been added in each new version, and the README provides more detailed information about Edit.
You can also open the help directory from within Edit, by clicking on the lifebelt icon (at the right end of the toolbar).
ROX-Filer also has a large amount of documentation. Click on the Help icon in the toolbar of any filer window to see it, or locate the ROX-Filer application in a filer window and use the menu as above.

Logging out

When you've finished using the computer for a while, click on ROX-Session (the exit logo at the far right of the panel). The dialog that appears allows you to return to the login screen or shutdown the computer. You can also put the computer into a low-power mode from here.

ROX-Session is running the whole time you are logged in.

Archives and packages

To save space, and to make transporting files easier, we can compress files into an archive, using the Archive application. Archive can later be used to extract the files from the archive. For example, find the text file you previously saved from Edit, and drag it onto Archive. To make Archive easy to get to, we can drag it onto the panel, as shown here.

Drag the compressed file from Archive's save box back into the filer window (or anywhere else you please, of course). In fact, if you just want to save the archive to the same directory that the file came from, you can just click on the Save button.

Getting more software

The easiest way to get more software is to use AddApp. Go to the list of Zero Install software and drag any links that interest you onto AddApp. After confirming which version you want to download (usually you will just accept the default) you will be shown a save box to let you put a launcher for the application somewhere:

Getting software with AddApp

You can just drag this to your Apps directory to save it.

Remember that any software you choose to run could be malicious, so only run software from sites you trust. When you run a program written by someone new, AddApp will ask you to confirm that you trust that person.

Non-ROX software (including games) is also available this way. See the list at

Installing software with Archive

Some software you use will be available via Zero Install (including most of the ROX programs). However, there is a lot of software that is not currently available this way, but is instead distributed as compressed archives that you download and unpack.
You can use Archive to extract these as described above. Download some more ROX applications, for example:

Drag the memo-<version>.tgz archive onto Archive to extract it. Save the extracted directory into Tutorial. Inside the directory you will find the Memo application, which you can click on to run it. You can move the Memo application anywhere you want using the filer (drag with Shift held down to move things).


The desktop background

Maybe you're getting bored with that plain grey background now? There are several things you can do with the desktop background.
First, you can use it just like a panel; drag things onto the background (called the 'pinboard') to create shortcuts to them.
Secondly, you can choose an image for the background. Click Menu (right button) over the pinboard and choose Backdrop... from the menu. Drag an image file from a filer window into the box that appears to set the image. You can choose Display->Show Thumbnails from the filer's popup menu to make it display a preview of each image file, as shown in this screenshot.

If you want more control over the backdrop (for example, you'd like to have a random image chosen each time you log in, or you want an animated image of the Earth there) you can use the Wallpaper application (in the Apps directory).


In fact, it's not just the background image you can change. You use themes to control all aspects of the desktop. Click on Apps and then on Configure, which is actually just a directory with an image set for it (you can give any directory an icon by opening the menu over it and choosing Set Icon...). The Appearance application can be used to control many aspects of the desktop, and the themes subdirectory contains themes for your window manager.

See the Theme Gallery for more information on themes.

Panel applets

There's one final trick to the panel. If you drag a special type of application, called a panel applet, onto the panel then the program will run directly inside the panel, instead of just being a shortcut. The Pager application in the Apps directory is one applet you can try.

You can find more applets in the software index applets section.