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desktop-installer(1) FreeBSD General Commands Manual desktop-installer(1)

desktop-installer - Quickly configure a FreeBSD desktop system


The desktop-installer script automates the process of configuring a FreeBSD machine as a desktop system running any desktop environemnt or simple window manager in the FreeBSD ports tree. More than a dozen of the most popular desktops are explicitly supported and any other can be configured using the "Custom" option.

To use "Custom", you need only know the category/portname of the desktop you want, and the command for starting the desktop from xinit or xsession, e.g. start-lumina-desktop for the Lumina desktop. This command can be found in category/portname/pkg-plist. The only other advantage to explicitly supported desktops is automatic installation of a few common utilities, such as qpdfview and qterminal for Lumina. You can easily install the utilities you want using "pkg install" or "auto-admin" after a Custom desktop install.

This is a post-install script, i.e. one that you run AFTER doing a standard operating system installation via install media such as a USB stick, DVD, or PXE. ( See details below. )

The FreeBSD desktop configuration process requires installing many ports/packages and configuring many different subsystems, which can be a daunting task for all but the most seasoned users.

Desktop-installer installs all the software necessary for the chosen desktop as well as common desktop-independent packages such as CUPS, Firefox,, etc.

It also configures system services and settings to facilitate convenient use of CD/DVD drives, USB ports, etc.

This script is meant to provide a middle-ground between totally manual configuration and complete distributions such as GhostBSD or Ubuntu Linux.

The post-install script approach has some advantages over complete distributions. The post-install script itself is far easier to maintain and unlike separate distributions, the resulting desktop system is a nearly pristine FreeBSD system with minimal differences from the default install. The system can therefore be maintained and upgraded using traditional FreeBSD command-line tools (pkg install, adduser, freebsd-update, etc.), or stock tools of the chosen desktop suite.

For easy management of common system settings, try the auto-admin menu.

Desktop-installer supports all CPU architectures that run FreeBSD and all supported FreeBSD versions, whereas distributions are generally limited to one version on AMD64.

To use desktop-installer:

1. Install a basic FreeBSD system.

The recommended install options are a basic user system including:

All binaries
Docs in your preferred language(s)
Source code

Installing the ports tree from the installation media is a waste of time. It would only be replaced with a git clone by desktop installer.

If you neglect to install the source tree, desktop-installer will install it for you.

It is best to use desktop-installer on a pristine FreeBSD installation.

Desktop-installer can also be used to upgrade all the software on an existing system, but there are too many possibilities for failure to support here since it is impossible to predict what kinds of system hacks it might encounter. Also, it's generally a good idea to back up your data, wipe your disk clean, and reinstall everything every few years, since data on magnetic disks can fade over time and read errors will eventually occur.

Desktop-installer can install software from source or from binary packages (pkg install). Binary packages install much faster (seconds per package, vs minutes per port built from source). However, installing from ports allows you to install on systems for which binary packages are not maintained.

If you enjoy a simple life, install a -RELEASE or -STABLE version rather than -CURRENT. If you would like to help the project move forward by testing the latest changes, run -CURRENT.

If you do not choose to install software from source, desktop-installer installs most packages over the network using "pkg install", but falling back on build-from-source where necessary. (e.g. some software cannot be distributed as a binary package for licensing reasons.)

2. Install desktop-installer:

pkg install desktop-installer

or (if you have a ports tree installed)

cd /usr/ports/sysutils/desktop-installer make install

or if you want the latest development version of desktop-installer, get the latest jb-ports from MASTER_SITES and run

pkg install auto-admin auto-freebsd-wip-checkout wip-reinstall-port auto-admin wip-reinstall-port desktop-installer

3. Run desktop-installer:

rehash # If using tcsh and just installed desktop-installer desktop-installer


J. Bacon
Acadix Consulting, LLC

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