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Say I installed debian without a desktop enviroment. Say I next used aptitude to download and install openbox, ice, enlightenment, or some other window manager/ desktop enviroment. On the next boot up, would I get the command line or a login screen??
In general if you install a desktop manager, gdm, kdm, xdm, etc. then it should be configured automatically to start up X and give you the login screen. Installing gnome or kde usually means also getting gdm/kdm, but I'm not sure about other window managers.
In Debian, Windows managers do not depend on xorg-server as they can be used with a standalone headless vncserver instead. So installing a window manager alone, is not enough if you want a desktop on a local monitor.