What Is Lubuntu?

Learn to use and customize Lubuntu on your PC

Ubuntu is a giant in the Linux world. Its massive popularity has led to loads of derivative distributions, flavors, and spin-offs, all of which still retain the core Ubuntu operating system as their base. By allowing all of these variants, Ubuntu is able to create a vast and thriving ecosystem, all interconnected and contributing back to and strengthening the main Ubuntu.

With so many variations and so many of them using part of the Ubuntu name, it's hard for newcomers to sort out exactly what's what and distinguish between them. They all are different, though, each with its own desktop environment and set of tools. Lubuntu fits perfectly into this picture.

What Is Lubuntu?

Lubuntu is one of the main official flavors of Ubuntu. Each of these flavors is essentially the same as the main Ubuntu release but paired with a different desktop environment. Kubuntu is Ubuntu with the KDE Plasma desktop. Xubuntu is Ubuntu with the XFCE desktop. Lubuntu, then, is Ubuntu with LXQt.

Lubuntu default desktop

LXQt is a lightweight desktop environment based around the Qt toolkit, similarly to KDE Plasma. It's a full-featured desktop environment with all the tools and utilities that you'd expect, but without a lot of the extras and visual effects that could weigh your computer down or make it feel bloated.

Lubuntu used to be based on the LXDE desktop, but LXDE merged with Raxor-qt to form the new LXQt desktop environment. Because both desktops were lightweight and concerned with resource efficiency, so is the result of their merger, LXQt.

Why Choose Lubuntu?

There are numerous reasons why you'd want to install Lubuntu on your PC. The first, and probably most obvious is Ubuntu itself. Ubuntu is easily the most popular Linux distribution in the world. It's based on the solid foundation of the Debian distribution, which is one of the oldest and most highly respected operating systems around. Ubuntu is usually the version of Linux targeted for support by software companies, including Valve with the first release of Steam for Linux. Ubuntu is also a favorite in the business world. It powers untold websites, and it's one of the most installed operating systems in the cloud.

So, you want Ubuntu. Why pick the Lubuntu variant? There's one main reason to pick Lubuntu over the other excellent flavors: resource usage. Lubuntu is ridiculously lightweight. Unlike many modern desktop environments, LXQt uses next to no system memory to run. That means you can do a lot more on your computer for less. It also makes Lubuntu ideal on computers with limited resources, like Chromebooks and older PCs.

LXQt, like other Linux desktops, can be customized to fit your needs and personal tastes. You can change the look, feel, and arrangement of your desktop without sacrificing LXQt's noteworthy efficiency.

Using the Lubuntu Desktop

When you first boot into Lubuntu and log in to your account, you'll be greeted by something that should be immediately familiar, even if you've never seen LXQt before.

Lubuntu application menu

LXQt uses a traditional desktop layout, similar to just about every version of Microsoft Windows ever. There's a menu button in the bottom left corner of the desktop that opens your applications menu. The apps themselves are broken down into categories, and you can easily navigate and select what you need based on the type of app you're looking for. If you'd rather search directly for an app LXQt offers that too in the same menu.

Next to your menu, you'll find the list of workspaces. If you're not familiar, Linux desktops generally offer a set of multiple desktops, called workspaces, that you can use to separate and organize your work. Selecting the numbers on the panel lets you switch between them.

After the workspaces, you'll find the quick launch menu with common application icons. The defaults are Firefox and Files, but you can drag icons out of your menu to add them. Right-clicking an icon gives you the option to remove it.

Lubuntu system tray

The opposite side of the panel is home to your system tray. This is yet another traditional desktop feature that should be immediately recognizable. The system tray holds common desktop information widgets, like your clock, notifications, info about mounted drives, internet connection, and volume.

Even though Linux users don't generally store things on their desktop or clutter it up with program launchers, Lubuntu does come with a few shortcut icons on its desktop. They're all basic folder locations, like your trash and home folder. If you find them convenient, great. Otherwise, you can customize Lubutnu to hide them.

As with most PC desktops, opening an application creates a tab in the panel for it. You can minimize windows to those tabs and re-open them to see their full contents.

Customizing Lubuntu

LXQt on Lubuntu may not be as infinitely customizable as the likes of XFCE, but you can still easily tailor it to fit your style and workflow. Like with other Linux desktops, most things can be done from a central settings application.

  1. Open the applications menu on your desktop.

  2. Hover over Preferences to reveal its sub-menus.

  3. Choose LXQt settings > LXQt Configuration Center to open up your desktop settings manager.

    Lubuntu menu open settings

With the LXQt Configuration Center open, you'll probably notice quickly that you can change, customize, and control just about everything on your system from this one interface. It might be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you see how simple and direct everything can be, it quickly becomes much less intimidating.

Change Your Desktop Background

Here's an easy first step to take. Change your desktop background. It's one of the first things that everyone likes to do on a new computer, and it's very simple to do.

  1. Select Desktop from the configuration center.

    Lubuntu configuration center
  2. A new window will open up. Towards the top, find the Wallpaper image file option, and press Browse.

    Lubuntu change desktop wallpaper
  3. A file browser window will open up. Navigate to and select the image that you want to set as your desktop wallpaper, and press Open.

  4. Your wallpaper won't change automatically. Press Apply to see your new wallpaper.

  5. The default Wallpaper mode is to stretch the image to fit your screen. If you'd like to do something different, use the Wallpaper mode to set it to behave the way you want.

Remove the Desktop Icons

With that window open, there's something else you may want to do, remove the desktop icons. This one's pure preference, but if you want to do it, here's how:

  1. Select the Advanced tab at the top of the Desktop Preferences window.

  2. The top section of the window, Visible Shortcuts, lets you enable or disable the desktop shortcut icons. Uncheck all the shortcuts you don't want on your desktop.

    Lubuntu disable desktop icons
  3. Press Apply to make the change permanent.

Change Your Screensaver

Screensavers are something of a throwback in an age where most monitors just go black to save power. Still, you can change the Lubuntu screensaver easily enough.

  1. This one is oddly not included in the configuration center, so press the applications menu on your desktop.

  2. Choose Preferences again.

  3. Select Screensaver.

    Lubuntu menu select screensaver
  4. A new window will open with a ton of controls for your screensaver. Turn your attention to the left side of the window. There, you'll find a list of available screensavers. Selecting one will display on the right. Leave it selected when you close the window to apply it.

    Lubuntu screensaver settings
  5. If you'd like the screensaver to behave differently, use the Mode drop-down above the list to select something different. Here, you can disable the screensaver as well.

Change the Lubuntu Theme

One of the changes with the largest impact that you can make on LXQt, or any desktop, is using a different theme. LXQt is a little different than most Linux desktops because it uses Qt instead of GTK. Don't get too hung up on the technical stuff, but that means it uses a different type of theme and actually allows you to apply two themes: one for Qt apps and one for GTK apps.

You can also change your icons, fonts, and mouse pointer. It's all under the same set of controls on LXQt, and there are a lot of available options.

  1. Before you try to change your theme, you'll probably want to download a new one. LXQt is kind of odd here. It doesn't just take one type of theme. Instead, there are different themes for different parts of LXQt, like the menu bar, windows, and the Openbox window manager. In all, you're going to need three or four themes, depending on which ones you pick.

    First, follow our GTK theme guide to install the theme for your GTK program windows. Actually, if you find a theme that Works for Openbox too, that's best because it will work on your window borders through the Openbox window manager.

    The guide covers icons too, so be sure to pick up an icon theme that you like as well.

    If you didn't find one that works for both, head back to Pling, and follow the same set of instructions to install an Openbox specific theme.

  2. Next, you'll probably want an LXQt theme for your menu bar. You can download LXQt themes from Pling too. Follow the same instructions as with the GTK and Openbox themes, but place the theme in:

    /usr/share/lxqt/themes/
  3. Like with the others, the process of installing Qt window themes is nearly the same, placing the files in yet another different folder. Grab a theme you like from Pling's KDE Plasma themes, and place it in:

    /usr/share/plasma/desktoptheme/
  4. Open the LXQt Configuration Center again. This time, select Appearance.

  5. When the window first opens, Widget Style will be selected. This is the area where you can change the look and feel of your windows. First, choose your Qt Style (the KDE Plasma one) from the drop-down at the top. This will change the body style of most of your windows, including system ones.

    Lubuntu appearance widget style
  6. Next, choose the GTK style that you installed for GTK 2 Theme and GTK 3 Theme using their respective dropdowns.

  7. Press Apply to make the changes stick.

  8. Now, choose Icons Theme from the menu on the left.

  9. Pick the icon theme that you installed from the list, and press Apply.

    Lubuntu set icon theme
  10. Choose LXQt Theme from the left menu.

  11. Now, select your freshly installed LXQt theme, and press Apply.

    Lubuntu set LXQt theme
  12. You can play around with fonts and the mouse pointer here too, but it's usually not a great idea for beginners. Changing the fonts, specifically, can really throw off the whole look and alignment of your desktop and applications.

  13. Close the appearance window.

  14. Back in the configuration center, choose Openbox Settings.

  15. The Theme option will already be selected. Choose your new Openbox theme, and it will be applied automatically.

    Lubuntu set Openbox theme
  16. Close the windows, when you're done.