So you have a shiny new fresh installation of the recently released FreeBSD11 and you want to try out an alternative OS desktop. Installing one of the many Linux distributions would be easy but boring. Why not install your own desktop OS from scratch?

This guide assumes you have a fresh up to date installation of FreeBSD with at least one configured user. Getting the basics set up and running is pretty easy. I like XFCE because it’s lightweight and easy on older hardware. Slim is a nice simple login manager that’s customizable with different skins.

First you need a window manager.
pkg install xorg

Next up a desktop envorinment
pkg install xfce

And since XFCE doesn’t come with a login manager you’ll need to install one.
pkg install slim slim-themes

edit /etc/rc.conf and add the following:
dbus_enable="YES"
hald_enable="YES"
slim_enable="YES"

edit ./xinitrc and add the following:
exec startxfce4

edit /usr/home/youruser/.xinitrc and add the following:
exec startxfce4

Next up you can install optional software. I like to add Firefox and VLC so I have a browser available at first boot and something to play audio and video files with.
pkg install firefox vlc

A couple others you may like or want on a fresh install would be
Gimp – A photo editor
Libre Office – open source office suite
Plex Home Theater – my favorite Plex client app

If you haven’t commited to installing on bare metal and are still playing around in Virtualbox you’re going to want to install the guest additions.
pkg install virtualbox-ose-additions

Once that’s installed enable vbox guest additions at boot time by editing /etc/rc.conf and add the following:
vboxguest_enable="YES"
vboxservice_enable="YES"

Once you’ve got all that installed you can reboot and you’ll be greeted by the Slim log in screen and you can log into your desktop environment using the User credentials you created when you installed FreeBSD.