With Ubuntu 14.04 closing in to the release date, which is set for April 17th, I took Lubuntu for a spin from the daily live ISO image. Lubuntu is the most lightweight distribution in the Ubuntu family (the other one being Xubuntu which uses Xfce), using LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment), as well as a set of applications intended to be low on resources.
Although light, Lubuntu bundles all the necessary applications needed to surf the web, edit documents, listen to music and watch movies, or chat. Well, LXDE is not exactly MATE, however to a certain degree it resembles the old GNOME 2.
It has been announced earlier in Ubuntu development that except for Ubuntu itself, all the flavors based on it will be Long-Term Support releases. This includes Lubuntu as well, which will benefit of three year-support.
So, let’s take a look at what this Lubuntu release brings.
The new default wallpaper was chosen after the Lubuntu Wallpaper Contest finished. Here is the default desktop as of April 11, 2014:
And below are the wallpapers which won the wallpaper contest, and which are included in Lubuntu 14.04:
The main focus of Lubuntu is to remain fast and easy to use, which it accomplishes pretty well. It comes with a bottom panel with several items by default: a classic menu to access your applications, a quick launch area, the taskbar, system tray, the clock and the logout entry.
The default applications include the Firefox web browser, Gnumeric spreadsheet application, Abiword rich-text processing tool, GNOME MPlayer video player, mtPaint painting program, Xfburn for burning CDs/DVDs and Audacious for playing music.
Firefox 28 – other choices could have included Midori or Chromium:
As an alternative to the more complex LibreOffice suite, Lubuntu ships with Abiword for rich-text processing and Gnumeric as a spreadsheet application. Both bundle enough features to get going, Abiword being less bloated and Gnumeric being quite powerful.
Abiword is fast on start-up and lighter than LibreOffice. If you need a fast word processor which still provides decent formatting tools, it is the perfect choice:
Lubuntu provides GNOME MPlayer for playing movies and other videos, which is based on the powerful MPlayer and has plenty configuration options:
As for the terminal emulator, Lubuntu bundles two of them, namely LXTerm and LXTerminal, which are both lightweight:
The window manager doesn’t have compositing support, so transparency effects are not available, but you can install and use another window manager instead. For example, you could install metacity or kwin and use their compositing features by typing kwin –replace in a terminal.
The classic menu style may fit just perfectly old-school users who prefer a simple menu organized in categories. You can access installed applications, run a program by name or configure Lubuntu from here:
The default panel also comes with a workspace switcher, while the system tray, the clock and the logout entry are location on the bottom-right side:
Adding panel applets – you can also set panel opacity here:
Customizing the look and feel of Lubuntu is pretty straightforward, and the wealth of options gives you more than enough:
You can change the theme (widget appearance like Clearlooks or Crux), colors, icon theme, window border, mouse cursors, and fonts. Here’s how Clearlooks with Humanity icons theme looks like:
PCManFM is the default file manager in Lubuntu. It has an interface similar to the one of Nautilus, support for tabs, editable location bar, dual pane mode, sorting by various factors, bookmarks, image thumbnail previews (can only be zoomed in by small factor).
For installing packages graphically, there is the powerful yet easy to use Synaptic Package Manager, which may be familiar to most of the users from the days before the Ubuntu Software Center:
To sum it up, Lubuntu is perfect for those who want a fast desktop with a classic behavior, the only major disadvantage maybe being the lack of a compositor manager, otherwise pretty rich in options. Both Xfce and LXDE fit very well their niche, so it’s a matter of taste after all in choosing either Lubuntu or Xubuntu if you prefer a lightweight Ubuntu desktop.