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Lubuntu, A Once Great Distro, Is Falling Behind

Lubuntu 19.04 Review
  • Available software
  • Creativity & Inventing
  • Daily Use Purposes
  • Stability & Bugs
  • Customizability
2.4

Summary

Lubuntu used to be a great Linux distribution, but after it switched into LXQt, it became a horrible one for end users. The distribution is unpolished, and contains many issues and bugs.

Lubuntu used to be that Linux distribution that you referred a friend to in case he wanted a very lightweight, newbie-friendly yet elegant alternative for Windows. Up to its 18.04LTS release, it indeed worked as expected, but starting with 18.10 where the development team switched to using the Qt-based desktop LXQt instead of traditional LXDE, things started to break.

As a short background, you should know that there was a desktop environment called “Razor-Qt”, which was a newly developed desktop based on the Qt toolkit that aimed to be lightweight and modern in the same time. There was also another team working on a Qt branch of LXDE (which is GTK-based) called LXDE-Qt. After a lot of discussions, both teams combined efforts and started to work on one project called LXQt.

LXDE desktop is still working today, and is considered to be feature complete. But it was not even ported to GTK 3 like other desktops such as MATE and XFCE, instead, it’s still using the legacy GTK 2.

Today, we’ve put our hands on the latest Lubuntu 19.04 version and reviewed it. This is how the review went.

Lubuntu 19.04 Review

Installer

Lubuntu 19.04 is not using the default Ubiquity Ubuntu installer. Instead, it’s using another one called Calamares, which is a universal installer that many other Linux distributions use too. Calamares is a good installer with a lot of options.

You’ll be welcomed when you started the installer:

Lubuntu Installer

The first step would be to select your timezone:

Followed by selecting your keyboard layout:

The 3rd step is choosing the partition where you are going to install Lubuntu on. Calamares allows you to directly replace a specific partition you have, so you can just click the partition where you want to install Lubuntu and proceed:

If you want to have a different arrangement, then there’s a full manual partitioning option integrated that allows you to change your disk setup however you like:

Finally, you enter your username and password:

And the installer will start installing Lubuntu 19.04:

Desktop Environment

The default LXQt desktop on Lubuntu 19.04 looks like this:

Lubuntu 19.04 Desktop

As you can see, it’s a traditional layout just like Cinnamon, XFCE and other desktop environments; A panel on bottom and a desktop with icons. However, this is where the limitations and issues start.

The first issue is that there’s no way for you to control the brightness of the screen from the panel. The battery icon (the green circle) on the panel does not have the functionality of changing the brightness, it just shows you the battery percentage. What’s more frustrating is that if you try to change the brightness using keyboard shortcuts (Fn + Brightness up/down), then it will be changed by 2 levels up or down, not just one, so you can’t reach the level you may desire.

It sounds like the developers’ fix for this issue was to create a separate complete window to control the brightness, that you must launch from the applications window each time you want to change the brightness:

Another issue exists in keyboard shortcuts. Normally, when you add a new shortcut that utilizes the same key button as another shortcut, the older one would be removed or a notification message would be sent. This is not the case in LXQt, you may add a shortcut only to discover that it doesn’t work because there’s another thing holding that key, and it wasn’t replaced automatically. There’s even an option to choose whether you want the desktop to apply the first one or last one. But why would I as a user keep both shortcuts if only one of them is going to be used anyway? Such a horrible user experience:

Moreover, shortcuts don’t work if menus or popup windows (like file chooser) are open. For example the file manager’s menus or the desktop’s application menu, if any menu is open, you can’t use a keyboard shortcut.

It’s very hard to add apps icons to the quick launch widget on the panel. You can’t right-click it for example in order to choose the option to add it there. Instead, you have to drag and drop the icon to exact position of the border of the quick launch widget, or it won’t show up there:

If you try to change the background image for example, or run any action that require you to choose an image using the file chooser, then one of the limitations you would notice is that there’s no preview option in the file chooser; You can’t know which image you are looking for unless you know it by name:

If you try to take a screenshot using the default screenshot tool, then after taking the shot, it will be opened in the image viewer instead of just asking you where to save the image:

Also, those buttons in the toolbar like the arrow/rectangular/circle.. etc that are meant to edit the image, they do not work. To be precise: They do draw lines and rectangular on the image, but you can not see them when you draw them (nor after you finish), you are blindly drawing things in hope they are in the way you hope for!

While Lubuntu comes with many themes for window borders, icon themes and panel themes (LXQt themes), very few options exist to change the Qt theme, which is the main thing a user may want to immediately replace:

A possible area of confusion can be in font management. There are options to change the font type using the Openbox settings, and also using the LXQt settings and also in desktop settings, but the LXQt one says “interface font”, so it should’ve been comprehensive change:

The user management window shows some users that shouldn’t have been displayed:

There’s no apparent “New Tab” button in the terminal emulator, nor in the right-click menu. You have to go to File --> New Tab if you want to have multiple tabs:

There’s an option in LXQt to enable desktop effects using X server render. While it works in principle, the default values of the opacity of inactive windows/popups are very bad. Inactive windows/popups will be so transparent and hard to realize if this is activated:

Touchpad clicking is not enabled by default in Lubuntu 19.04. But you can change this behaviour yourself from the control center after installation if you wish.

The final issue we ran into was that you can not resize maximized windows without hitting the “unmaximize” button first. E.g If you have the file manager window open and maximized, then normally on other desktops you can simply drag the title bar down and it will be automatically unmaximized and windowed for you. But this is not the case in LXQt, you have to hit the button by yourself.

Software Management

There are two applications for software management on Lubuntu 19.04. The first of these is the Muon Package Manager, which can be considered the Qt version of Synaptic (though it’s not):

The second one is the KDE Discover program, which is meant to be used as a software center. In other words, it doesn’t directly deal with the concept of “packages”, but only shows you the possible desktop applications to use:

Both options are fairly good and do the purpose of software management on Lubuntu 19.04.

Resources

After a fresh boot into Lubuntu 19.04, the system uses 513MB of RAM, which is the double of the RAM usage in Ubuntu 18.04LTS (Which uses LXDE):

mhsabbagh@mhsabbagh-pc:~$ free -m
              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           5914         513        4664          14         736        5132
Swap:             0           0           0

It is also worthy to note that Lubuntu comes with a system monitoring application called “qps“, but its user interface is very messy and hard to understand:

We didn’t run into CPU hangs or other similar issues on Lubuntu. The LXQt desktop seems to be OK in that corner.

Conclusion

Most of the criticism you have seen in this article is coming from the LXQt desktop environment. It’s understandable that any new piece of software will have bugs/issues in the first few years of its life cycle, but the LXQt desktop still needs a long round of polished updated to make it match the other desktops such as GNOME, Cinnamon, XFCE and MATE.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in trying Lubuntu, we recommend that you stick to the 18.04LTS version, which comes with LXDE.

Lubuntu 19.04 Review
  • Available software
  • Creativity & Inventing
  • Daily Use Purposes
  • Stability & Bugs
  • Customizability
2.4

Summary

Lubuntu used to be a great Linux distribution, but after it switched into LXQt, it became a horrible one for end users. The distribution is unpolished, and contains many issues and bugs.

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Jim

I’ve used & loved Lubuntu ever since first trying the brand new 12.04. The GUI is simple, clean, things are relatively easy to do, and light on the system. Installed 20.04 on a machine at work & thought I was losing my mind… I could not for the life of me figure out how to simply add a shortcut to the quick launch area! Spent over an hour on it, then figured I’m remembering wrong. Checked my home laptop running 16.04 and sure enough – there it was. After much searching, I found this page and am glad I did… Read more »

Nonya

None of the *buntus have ever been great, or even good! One of the many reasons is that KDE is not the default desktop. All of the *buntus have been riddled with bugs, and the bugs are not fixed in a timely fashion. In addition, the *buntus are based on Debian, but contribute little if anything back to Debian. On reflection, considering how buggy the *buntus are, that probably a good thing!!

Mas Grande

[@Nonya says KDE should be the default desktop.]. I used Kubuntu 19.10. It was the worst distro I have ever used. Maybe I need to try a different one, like Neon. But, my experience with Kubuntu was not good. Slow, buggy, tedious.

Yami

They contribute heavily back to Debian. They even publicly state it because improvements on Debian = improvements to Ubuntu. In fact, they hate it if people create an Ubuntu derivative, but not contribute back upstream.

Fabio

Nonsense. The fact that one doesn’t like Ubuntu does not mean it sucks.
The buggys releases are the non-stable not LTS versions and this information is well documented for all to see.
Ubuntu is not for the heavy command line old fashioned user. Those may be more confortable with Gentoo, Slackware, Arch or Debian (the stable, of course, anything different is very messy – just like they are meant to be!).
And to tell Ubuntu is bad because it doesn’t use KDE is a completely rubbish.

Steve Smith

The LTS versions are horribly buggy until the X.01 version releases. I last tried 18.04, and the sleep function was broken for months.

Carl Draper

You’re talking nonsense. Ubuntu may have a few more bugs because it is based on Debian Testing, not Stable. If you tried Debian Testing you would know this.

Patrick Wilder

I am sad to see that lxde moved to lxqt. I have used LXDE on several computers over the last 10 years and the only issue I had was that it was not moved to gtk3. I tried to use lxqt several times. It looks beautiful but like the issues raised in this article, I find myself frustrated with the changes and quarks that lxqt has. This has forced me to move to Cinnamon desktop. I find that it works better than lxqt. Once lxqt works out the bugs I may come back.

patrickw99

Aurélie

I disagree, Nonya. Ubuntu isn’t bad, under the hood, nor are all other *buntus bad. The problem is that vain fiddling of dozens and hundreds of developers with all those interfaces. Most of these people improve things for the worse, deliver half-baked stuff, and evidently do not give a smeg about user-friendliness. M. Hanny Sabbagh’s article illustrates my perception. However, use that standard good-under-the-hood-Ubuntu with Cinnamon, and you get a fantastic OS that never ticks you off. The only thing you ‘loose’ is the name Ubuntu. But, in all honesty, Mint sounds good in my ears, too. Thank you for… Read more »

Alwan Rosyidi

I’m currently using Lubuntu 19.10 daily build and I’m happy with it. Yes it lacks some of basic feature like brightness control, alt+f2 not working, etc.

But it seems far more easier to customize the desktop, and with breeze icon theme, it would be, i call it, the lite version of KDE Plasma.

Vince Pinto

These snowflake millenials are so delicate, It is a work in progress, they developed a full desktop environment from the ground up in a couple of years, you have to expect some bugs, this is something that not even Ubuntu could do with Unity, even gnome had and still has issues after decades. This is the kind of critics open-source community does not need.

Chris Wyatt

In fairness, many of these are minor niggles that can be worked around; however inexperienced users may have difficulty finding these workarounds. I’ve been using the new environment since 18.10, and, I really like it. I’ve decided to stick with LXQt, having not enjoyed the experience of the newer GNOME (after the classic one), or Unity. And KDE I always found rather clunky, but granted, I have not tried KDE out in a very long time, so it may have come in leaps and bounds by now. Having tried all these environments, I eventually settled for LXDE. I did notice… Read more »

John Philiph

I have the latest Lubuntu installed and yes. Full of bugs. Looking for a lightweight alternative that just works.

Any recommendations?

John Philiph

Thank you Hanny. I will try them out: ) My laptop is not very powerful, I hope they run well.

Chris G

You mention “If you try to take a screenshot using the default screenshot tool, then after taking the shot, it will be opened in the image viewer instead of just asking you where to save the image:” The default screenshot tool is `lximage-qt` , but you seem to want that tool to hide itself from you & only ask for a ‘save’ name? That doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the same program that takes the screenshot (with a -s option) that also displays the image. You mention the drawing tools not working, that’s a known issue (https://bugs.launchpad.net/lxqt/+bug/1831847) and is… Read more »

Irudayam

What Lubuntu lacks in the bells and whistles it makes up for in being snappy and lightweight even on old hardware. Makes an excellent Plex Media server serving up 1080p files to an Apple TV. Time and time again it has helped me resurrect an old ailing desktop or laptop. Though I have to agree that it does have much room to grow.

Neb

I just upgraded to Lubuntu 19.10. After using it for a couple of weeks I googled to see if other people have problems with it. This is how I came to this site. I love Lubuntu and have been using it for a while, but I must say with sadness that I will discontinue this practice. It no longer feels like they have control over the distribution. It contains so many bugs that it entirely impacts your experience. It feels like a beta. Completely disappointing.

Simon

This is true, I have experienced those bugs myself.

Marek

I have been using Ubuntu for few years. Now I tried Lubuntu on a new computer and was pleasantly surprised by how light and quick lxqt is. First impression was amazing but then I started to customize. That got me. Thing this buggy after several years of development? You have to google even minor setting and when you reboot you will find out that your changes were not even saved. It is more like a joke than environment.

Andrei

I recently upgraded to 19.10 after using Lubuntu for several years and I love it. I had revived my 13-years old Dell desktop at home, upgraded it with modern graphics card and Lubuntu provides comparable performance as my high-top office desktops. Transition to LXQt is very useful, as I am doing some development using Qt. It is much lighter than GTK or KDE. The featherpad editor is good enough for python development, in combination with ipython it is better than the behemoths like VSCODE, PyCharm, Spyder etc.

Marco Murillo

I installed Lubuntu on my pc because it is old and it got slow with Ubuntu update. I regret. For what is mentioned in this article and more bugs. As when opening the discovery, the computer slows down too much and I cannot move besides that the results do not have to do with the program that I was looking for.

Mas Grande

I believe much of Lubuntu’s problem is the forced version-timeframe Canonical imposes on all the flavors. Lubuntu 20.04 was clearly not ready for primetime. But, everyone has to have their distro ready by a certain date. It’s like a death march. Feast/famine. People just going through the motions because “that’s how the corporate culture is here.” I’m sure it makes things more understandable (everyone has the same version number. LTS means the same thing for every flavor.). But, it also leads to mediocrity. Lubuntu 20.04 should not have been released. It wasn’t ready. And, it certainly wasn’t LTS-quality. Lubuntu is… Read more »

Angela

\”Lubuntu used to be a great Linux distribution, but after it switched into LXQt, it became a horrible one for end users. The distribution is unpolished, and contains many issues and bugs.\” You hardly found any. Most things are quality of life issues or just different to your existing expectations from whatever other distro it is you seem to prefer. The screen brightness thing is annoying but not a bug. The keyboard shortcuts thing might be annoying for you but it is definitely not a bug. What if I want the same key to do two things at once? In… Read more »

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