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:

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Lubuntu Installer

The first step would be to select your timezone:

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Followed by selecting your keyboard layout:

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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:

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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:

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Finally, you enter your username and password:

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And the installer will start installing Lubuntu 19.04:

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Desktop Environment

The default LXQt desktop on Lubuntu 19.04 looks like this:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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):

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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:

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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:

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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.

15 Comments

  1. Nonya

    September 24, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    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!!

    Reply

    • M.Hanny Sabbagh

      September 24, 2019 at 8:41 pm

      I seem to be happy with a lot of *buntus, though, such as Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu MATE and Ubuntu Budgie.

      Reply

    • Carl Draper

      September 24, 2019 at 9:07 pm

      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.

      Reply

    • Fabio

      September 24, 2019 at 10:16 pm

      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.

      Reply

    • Yami

      September 29, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      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.

      Reply

  2. Patrick Wilder

    September 24, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    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

    Reply

  3. Aurélie

    September 24, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    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 your detailed article, M.Hanny. đŸ™‚

    Reply

  4. Alwan Rosyidi

    September 25, 2019 at 6:22 am

    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.

    Reply

  5. Vince Pinto

    September 25, 2019 at 8:33 am

    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.

    Reply

  6. Chris Wyatt

    September 25, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    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 that Image Viewer bug too! It’s a bit disappointing that this hasn’t been noticed in either 18.10 or 19.04. Fingers crossed for 19.10. I didn’t file a bug report for it, because I can just use GIMP instead; however I can imagine that could be a useful feature (if it worked!)

    I’m surprised you did not mention the lack of a good network manager GUI, as that, to me, is the biggest omission. The other thing was the compression utility being poorly integrated, but that’s about to be fixed with the new LXQT Archiver. Once both of those features are improved, personally I think it will be on par with the old LXDE version.

    A few bugs with the built-in apps aren’t too much of a problem with me, as I can just replace them with some better alternative anyway. As long as the windoe manager itself is stable and lets me do what I want, I’m happy, but, I’m a developer who is happy to poke about in a terminal, so I do agree that Lubuntu is not the best recommendation for a casual/inexperienced user.

    Reply

  7. John Philiph

    September 25, 2019 at 5:27 pm

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

    Any recommendations?

    Reply

  8. John Philiph

    September 25, 2019 at 11:45 pm

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

    Reply

  9. Chris G

    October 1, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    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 reported upstream (https://github.com/lxqt/lxqt/issues/1720), this applies to a number of items you mention. Those buttons weren’t supposed to be visible yet (beta), but I think they’re better being visible even with the bugs, than being hidden until they’re fully debugged myself.

    The keyboard shortcuts is a messy one, Lubuntu has always used `openbox` which is not LXQt’s default window manager, in fact LXQt does not have one, thus shortcuts will remain an issue for awhile, but I’d suggest you just follow the Lubuntu manual which I think is clear – https://manual.lubuntu.me/F/keyboard_shortcuts.html

    I could go on, but the article reads like you didn’t do much homework before writing the review – preferring to ‘sling insults’ from the cheap seats instead, with a quick acknowledgement in the conclusion that most your issues are with LXQt. The review to me was superficial.

    Reply

    • M.Hanny Sabbagh

      October 1, 2019 at 4:01 pm

      What’s very funny in your reply is that you are confirming all the bugs I saw, and then end up with “you didn’t do much homework”. LOL.

      There’s no need for me to even go more in details about the issues, as a huge number of people both in the comments to this article and social media who saw this post are also confirming the huge number of bugs they have with Lubuntu. I think it’s better for you to try to listen to what everyone is saying instead of denying the existence of the sun and think that anyone would believe you.

      It’a also very funny to hear that you prefer those buttons in the screenshot tool to be visible even if they are broken. It just shows that you have no idea about quality assurance or user experience at all.

      Oh, and by the way, the screenshot tool in Lubuntu is simply called “Screenshot” as a generic name in the applications menu. As a user, I don’t not need to investigate other ones exist under the hood of my system or try to fix the thing from the command line, all default applications should work flawlessly, or else, it is indeed then that it’s a buggy release full of issues that no one should install.

      Reply

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