When comparing XMonad vs Openbox, the Slant community recommends XMonad for most people. In the question“What are the best window managers for Linux?” XMonad is ranked 3rd while Openbox is ranked 4th. The most important reason people chose XMonad is:
XMonad is written, configured, and fully extensible in Haskell. This means that users aren't limited to a small set of pre-programmed layouts and actions: anything can be programmed into the configuration. It's simple to modify basic settings, and the example config has lots of comments to get you started. Haskell keeps this code clean, concise, and readable, and its type system keeps you safe from any serious mistakes. This makes it fast and light, even on very small and slow systems.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Fully extensible with Haskell
XMonad is written, configured, and fully extensible in Haskell. This means that users aren't limited to a small set of pre-programmed layouts and actions: anything can be programmed into the configuration.
It's simple to modify basic settings, and the example config has lots of comments to get you started. Haskell keeps this code clean, concise, and readable, and its type system keeps you safe from any serious mistakes. This makes it fast and light, even on very small and slow systems.
Pro Efficient to use
XMonad is a very minimal and efficient window manager, especially if the user is familiar with Haskell.
Pro Absolutely minimal
The entire window manager is extremely small, and includes nothing beyond basic window manipulation and tiling. Out of the box, there are no window decorations, status bar nor icon dock; just clean lines and efficiency.
Pro Very stable
Use of Haskell, in conjunction with smart programming practices, guarantees a crash-free experience.
Pro Edit configuration and reload on-the-fly
Configuration is compiled into the WM, and it can be changed/updated on-the-fly, without requiring a full reload.
Pro Handles multiple monitors well
XMonad can handle multi-monitor setups by default.
Pro Highly configurable
If you enjoy programming, you can even add features to XMonad to make it your perfect desktop environment, and the Contrib modules give you most of what you need to do exactly that.
Pro Great availability of libraries
The use of Haskell as an extension language means that popular pieces of functionality are easily shared and widely available as Haskell Libraries. Many default layouts, and tools for quickly and easily building your own, are available through XMonad-contrib, and highly re-usable configurations are commonly shared through blog articles and the Xmonad Wiki. The documentation in XMonad-contrib is very clear and easy to read.
Pro Xinerama support
XMonad has full support for Xinerama: windows can be tiled and managed across multiple physical screens.
Pro Dynamic Tiling
XMonad uses dynamic tiling which means that it automatically handles arranging your windows into various layouts which the user can cycle through.
Pro Intuitive model which separates "screens" and "workspaces"
XMonad separates screens and workspaces. A screen "projects" a workspace. You can put a window to a specific screen, regardless of which workspace is currently projected onto that screen. This is more intuitive than other WMs e.g. i3, which only has the notion of workspace but not "screen" and requires you to remember workspace numbering. It is especially beneficial for multi-monitor setups.
Pro Extremely lightweight
Openbox is a lightweight window manager that uses a little over 100MB RAM upon boot.
Openbox is used as a default window manager in few desktop environments so it offers more testing, more bugfixes, and more stable behavior.
Pro Highly configurable with a moderate learning curve
Configuring Openbox is very easy to carry out, simply by editing its few config files. There are programs that allow for an even easier means of editing these files by doing so in a UI.
Openbox does away with many traditional desktop elements, like menu buttons, bars, etc. and places everything in the (insanely customizable) context menu. If any of the missing pieces are desired, they can be added through others apps (e.g. tint2 for taskbar).
Pro Defaults easy to quickstart
Openbox's set of defaults are easily editable to the user's liking.
Pro Very well documented
Due to wide use and a long history, there is a lot of documentation available on the use and customization of Openbox.
Con Steep learning curve for uninitiated users
Like a lot of tiling window managers, the learning curve for XMonad is quite steep.
Con Requires knowledge of Haskell for configuration
Understanding of Haskell is required in order to configure XMonad.
Con Requires a lot of Haskell dependencies
XMonad depends on GHC (the Glasgow Haskell Compiler) which can take up about 700 MB or disk space.
Con Default configuration is lacking basic features
When booting Openbox for the first time, the user won't even know they have actually booted into a window manager as there will be nothing of note on the screen other than a right mouse action.
Con No support for HiDPI
There's no support for HiDPI, and requests have been rejected. Current workaround is use some of few HiDPI themes.
Con Unfamiliar configuration method
Beginners can be daunted by the configuration as it is just a couple of text files, which is unlike the graphical methods to customize environments they have experienced.