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 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:
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:
The default LXQt desktop on Lubuntu 19.04 looks like this:
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.
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.
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.
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.