Lubuntu (20.10) Review: A Modern Take on the Classic Desktop

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Featured

After a sub-par 20.04 version, Lubuntu returns updated, upgraded, and all-around improved. What should you expect from it compared to other distributions or the other members of the Ubuntu family? Read on to find out.

Installation

Like many modern Linux distributions, Lubuntu boots into a live environmen, where you can both test it and start its actual installation on your computer.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Live Environment

Unlike vanilla Ubuntu, Lubuntu uses the Calamares installer. It’s somewhat different but not more complicated or hard to go through in any way. Still, it wasn’t all smooth sailing during testing, for we met a bug during the partitioning step.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Manual Partitioning

We initially chose the “Erase disk” option, then switched to Manual partitioning. The installation crashed at the next step – not the most inspiring start. The next time we didn’t change options and went straight for the Erase disk choice. Everything after that went without a hitch.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Erase Disk

The rest of the steps take the user through configuring the bare essentials:

  • Location choice
  • Keyboard language/setup
  • User account setup
Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Install Now

After everything is set up, Calamares presents a summary of your choices. If they’re good, two more clicks begin the installation.

First Contact

Immediately after entering Lubuntu’s desktop, its Update Notifier greeted us with a list of available updates. They were important enough to be marked as an upgrade, but the process was painless. One single click (and root password entry) later, and we were all set.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Update Notifier

The right-click menu offers access to the options expected in such a case from most modern desktops and a shortcut to Desktop Preferences. There you can change the desktop’s icon size, font, and spacing. Most will probably be more interested in changing their wallpaper from the same spot or tweaking how it appears on-screen.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Desktop Preferences

Lubuntu comes with a default bottom panel working as its taskbar. Although it’s configurable, there’s not much to write about it. It works as every panel has since Windows 95’s taskbar became the norm. The closest equivalent as far as features and appearance go are XFCE’s panels. Still, Lubuntu’s take is even more restrained and closer to a classic taskbar. If it didn’t include a virtual desktop selector, you could mistake it for a skinned version of Windows XP’s taskbar.

Setting It Up

Despite forgoing the useless fluff, Lubuntu’s LXQt remains very customizable. By choosing “Preferences -> LXQt settings -> LXQt Configuration Center,” you can customize the system to look and work as you want.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Lxqt Configuration Center

You can change themes for the LXQt desktop, separately for Qt, GTK 2, and GTK 3, and choose between icon themes, fonts, and cursors. Lubuntu also relies on Openbox for window management, which comes with different themes of its own.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Widget Style

More mundane options, but more important for usability, allow you to:

  • Set the Date and Time
  • Change Timezone, choose the position and duration of desktop notifications
  • Reassign File Associations
  • Change how your mouse, touchpad, and keyboard work, and change keyboard layouts
Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Configure Cursor
  • Swap the system’s Locale
  • Change the screen’s resolution and set your primary display in multi-screen setups
  • Choose what happens when your PC idles, is connected to a plug, runs on battery, or you close the lid
Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Power Management
  • Change LXQt Session Settings, like which apps will auto-start, the default terminal emulator and web browser, or the user’s directories.
  • Assign shortcuts to launch apps or run commands
  • Modify, create, or delete user and group accounts
  • Configure a basic set of desktop effects (Shadow, Opacity, Fade) and choose the rendering backend (between X-Render and GLX)
Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Special Effects
  • Install additional drivers (especially closed-source ones that weren’t auto-installed during the initial setup)
  • Apply a full system upgrade (if available)
  • Configure your printer (if available)
  • Manage your software sources

Openbox Settings

We mention the Openbox Settings option separately because it has even more of an impact on the way the desktop behaves in daily use.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Openbox Preferences

With Openbox being the actual window manager, that’s the spot from where, apart from choosing even more themes that affect the desktop’s looks, you can also:

  • Configure borders, animations, and the order of buttons in Window Titles
  • Change the fonts of windows, menus, and on-screen messages
  • Define window placement
Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Openbox Preferences Moving Resizing Windows
  • Tweak how windows are moved and resized
  • Configure how Windows Focusing (selection/activation) works
  • Change the dock’s position.

Included Software

Lubuntu comes with a little bit of everything for everyone as far as software goes.

Accessories

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software Accessories
  • Ark
  • FeatherPad
  • KCalc
  • PCManFM-Qt File Manager
  • Qlipper
  • QtPass
  • TeXInfo
  • Vim
  • compton
  • nobleNote

Games

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software Games
  • 2048-Qt – although we never spend time with them, we’d appreciate the inclusion of one or two more casual titles.

Graphics

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software Graphics
  • LXImage
  • LibreOffice Draw
  • ScreenGrab – is adequate for simple screenshots, but there are more feature-rich alternatives available
  • Skanlite

Internet

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software Internet
  • BlueDevil Send File & Wizard – for Bluetooth device pairing and control
  • Firefox Web Browser
  • Quassel IRC
  • Transmission (Qt)
  • Trojita

Office

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software Office
  • LibreOffice
  • qpdfview
  • A second entry of Trojita and LibreOffice Draw

Sound & Video

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software Sound Video
  • K3b
  • PulseAudio Volume Control
  • VLC media player

System Tools

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software System Tools
  • BlueDevil Send File & Wizard – repeat entry
  • Discover
  • Fcitx
  • Htop
  • KDE Partition Manager
  • Muon Package Manager
  • QTerminal
  • QTerminal drop-down
  • Startup Disk Creator
  • qps

The Muon Package Manager is quick and easy to use but not as user-friendly as other alternatives. It prioritizes information and control over aesthetics, and this hurts its role as an essential desktop app. The alternatives on other distributions are admittedly a bit clunkier and slower. However, they can also turn searching for new software to install into a fun pastime. Muon performs excellently, but we believe that its design may scare Linux newcomers into learning how to use apt in the terminal.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software Libreoffice

Strangely, we didn’t need to install much more to work comfortably with Lubuntu. Its approach with its desktop and configurability extended to its app selection: it looks basic but proves to be more than enough.

Simple is Good

Overall, Lubuntu looks and feels very basic. While it is a fully working desktop, it gives you a very barebones feel. This is not the desktop for people who want pixel-perfect control of every window’s position, impressive 3D effects, or panels filled with dozens of widgets.

Lubuntu 20 10 Mte Review Software Firefox Mte Site

Still, not everything needs to be rocket science, and not everyone needs to micro-manage how each app’s windows will pop on the screen. When the thousands of people who are still clinging to the old and unsupported Windows 7 and Windows XP decide that enough is enough, Lubuntu will be there for them, as it is today for Linux fans who want a light, simple, and fun-to-use desktop – even if it occasionally falters here or there.

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Odysseas Kourafalos Odysseas Kourafalos

OK's real life started at around 10, when he got his first computer - a Commodore 128. Since then, he's been melting keycaps by typing 24/7, trying to spread The Word Of Tech to anyone interested enough to listen. Or, rather, read.

2 comments

  1. OK – So, just another Linux distro; and that’s the problem there are just far too many of them. That and it is still a pain installing anything but the software included in the distro’s “easy to load” bit. Everything else is a whole load of hoops to jump through with obscure and arcane steps. Win XP and Win 7 users who are used to visiting a web site, download an .exe file and run it to install it, will not, I expect, come running to Linux. I tried it and really wanted to leave Windows behind but it is just not realistic if you want to do anything more than send emails, browse the web or use the programs loaded at install time.

    1. Can’t agree at all. I have been using Linux for a few years now and download (to test) all kinds of apps/programs from various sites with the same ease as I used to with Windows. It’s a slightly different procedure but just as simple. I also do a lot of coding and graphics work, again with the same ease as on Windows – when Windows decided to actually work. (I switched because Windows 10 is quite broken.) My distro of choice is Linux Mint/Cinnamon – very stable, no surprises in four years. The Wife has also switched to Mint/Cinnamon with the same results. I HAVE tried Lubuntu, though. No really my cup of tea. I like the Cinnamon DE.

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