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A Tour of the Lubuntu LXDE Desktop

 A Desktop Tour of Lubuntu Linux 12.04

The Lubuntu Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Lubuntu is a fork of the standard Ubuntu distribution which features an LXDE based GUI/desktop instead of the default Unity one. The Lubuntu aim is is to provide an Ubuntu O/S that is lighter on resources and more suited to older/low specification hardware.

Lubuntu is a fork of the standard Ubuntu distribution which features an LXDE based GUI/desktop instead of the default Unity one

One thing you notice with Lubuntu straight off is the speed: even running in live CD mode from a USB Stick, the speed to boot is less than 30 seconds - and the response time to commands is excellent compared to the standard distribution, running directly from a hard drive.

Note: the screenshots in this chapter were taken from the Lubuntu 12.04 Beta release

Default Applications

The applications that come pre-installed with Lubuntu naturally reflect the low-resource ethos of the distro; there is still the usual spread of applications - it's just that they have been chosen for their low-resource usage and integration with the LXDE libraries. Here is a taster of some of the applications that Lubuntu 12.04 is currently shipping with:

ApplicationPackage Used
Word Processor AbiWord
Image EditormtPaint
Email ClientSylpheed
Media PlayersGnome MPlayer
Video EditorN/A
Internet BrowserChromium
CD/DVD WriterXfburn
Web SupportN/A
Package ManagerSynaptic,Gdebi

In addition, it comes with all the system tools you would expect - as well as the ability to customize the look and feel should you so desire.

Note that even if an application is not in the default installation, it can be easily downloaded using the Synaptic Package Manager within minutes.

In summary, Lubuntu is aimed at Ubuntu users with older or low specification hardware that is unable to run the standard distribution. If you are an Ubuntu fan but find that Unity runs too slowly, then Lubuntu is for you!

The Lubuntu Desktop

Lubuntu uses the LXDE desktop - which is light on scare resources but delivers a perfectly usable desktop: it perhaps lacks the glitz/slickness and polish of Unity - but that is, after all, just eye-candy!

When you boot Lubuntu, the desktop will display:

The Lubuntu LXDE Desktop

As can be seen, the default desktop is a fairly spartan one - with a single icon shortcut in the top left (-to install the O/S) and the LXDE Panel along the bottom of the screen. The desktop background can be customized as desired, using the "Desktop Preferences" option in the Context Menu.

Open windows and applications display in the main desktop area.

Lubuntu allows files and shortcuts to be saved to the desktop, by simply click-dragging the desired file to the desktop from the File Manager window then releasing the mouse button. An icon will then appear on the desktop, which can be dragged around or renamed / deleted as desired.

The LXDE Panel

The bulk of your desktop interaction with Lubuntu will be through the LXDE Panel at the bottom of the desktop:

The Lubuntu LXDE Panel

This can be divided into four main parts:

  • Icon for the Lubuntu Main MenuClicking on the LXDE icon in the bottom left hand corner of the screen displays the Main Menu, which allows the user access to all the Lubuntu functions

  • Next, is a series of shortcuts:
    LubuntuFile Manager IconThe next icon is the File Manager icon. Click this and a PCManFM window will display
    LubuntuBrowser IconThe next icon is the Internet Browser icon. Click this and (by default) a Chromium browser window will display
    Lubuntu Show Desktop IconThe icon immediately to the right of the browser icon minimizes all open windows to reveal the desktop: this can be useful if, for example, you need to access an icon on the desktop that is obscured by an open window
    LXDE Workspace Switcher IconThe two icons immediately to the right of the iconify icon are the Workspace Switcher icon(s). Click one of these two rectangular icons to switch between the available workspaces
  • In the middle part of the panel, the thumbnails of all open applications are listed: click on these to jump directly to that window -or to restore it to it's former size if it was previously minimized (iconified)

    Lubuntu Application Minimized

  • On the right hand side of the panel is the system tray: this allows you to interact with any system program and processes (daemons) running in the background. What appears here depends on what you are doing and what it running on your system but, by default, the icons are as follows:

    Lubuntu Alert Icon

    The icon immediately to the right of the application area is the Volume icon. Click this to mute or alter the sound volume:

    The Lubuntu Volume Slider

    Lubuntu Package Mgr Icon

    The next icon (if you are running on a laptop) shows the state of the PC battery if you hover the mouse over it. Right-click the icon to display the power menu:

    The Lubuntu Calendar

    Lubuntu Network Icon

    Clicking on the network icon allows you to check and configure your network settings:

    The Lubuntu Calendar

    Lubuntu Calendar Icon

    The next icon is a display of the current system time. If you click this, a display of the current month pops up. Unlike the standard Ubuntu, clicking on the dates in this does not access the calendar application (Osmo):

    The Lubuntu Calendar

    Lubuntu Cut and Paste Icon

    Clicking this icon brings up the Shutdown menu

The Main Menu

  • The Main Menu allows users to access to all the Lubuntu functions. This can be likened to the "Start" menu in Windows:

    Icon for the Lubuntu Main Menu

    From here you can access functions such as:

    Menu OptionUsage
    AccessoriesVarious small tools for making the most of your system
    GamesA few basic games to keep you amused
    GraphicsLists programs for dealing with images
    InternetList programs for accessing the internet and the network
    OfficeList any applications commonly used for business purposes, usch as word processing and spreadsheets
    Sound & VideoList any applications for audio / video viewing
    System ToolsClick this icon to access various Linux system administration tools
    PreferencesUtilities for changing the setup / appearance of the desktop
    RunRun a script or application without dropping to the Command Line
    LogoutOptions to close the current session, power off, restart, etc

Note: most options will themselves have sub-menus off them

The PCManFM File Manager

Lubuntu uses the PCManFM File Manager, which is the LXDE standard. This works very much like that of it's Gnome counterpart with only superficial differences (-mainly the general LXDE look and feel).

The File Manager can be accessed directly from the icon in the LXDE Panel - or via the "System Tools" option on the Main Menu. Both will open up a window to your user home directory, similar to that below:

Lubuntu Thunar File Manager

Left-click any item to select it -or double-click a directory to navigate down into it. Double-click a file to either open it or run it (-depending on whether it is executable or not). Right click a file to access the context menu - which allows you to rename, delete, copy the file, etc.

The Context Menu

If you right-click on any blank area of the desktop, the Context Menu will display:

This allows you access to some basic options, such as to create a new file or customize the desktop (e.g. to alter the fonts used and set background wallpaper).

The Chromium Browser

If you select the "Chromium" option in the "Internet" category of the Main Menu or directly from the LXDE Panel, then a window to the Chromium internet browser will open up:

Lubuntu Chromium Browser

The Lubuntu Workspace Switcher

Workspaces in Lubuntu operate in a similar way to their Gnome equivalents. If you click on one of the Workspace icons in the LXDE Panel, the desktop view will flip to show all windows currently open in that workspace:

Lubuntu Workspace Switched

This allows you to neatly partition your desktop so that it does not get too cluttered - for example, by allowing you to keep personal and work applications in different workspaces.

Exiting Lubuntu

When you have finished with Lubuntu, select the "Logout" option in the Main Menu or click on the "Shutdown" icon in the LXDE Panel. A dialogue box will display from which you can select from a number of options:

Lubuntu Confirm Shutdown


  • Shutdown : power down the PC, losing everything in memory
  • Reboot : power the PC down, then back up
  • Suspend : save the current state in RAM and go into power-save mode
  • Switch User : log in as another user whilst retaining the current session
  • Logout : log out of the current user session
  • Cancel : quit the shutdown menu

Simply choose the desired option in order to carry it out. If you decide you wish to continue with the current session, simply select the "Cancel" option.

References and Further Reading:

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