4 Ways To Make Lubuntu 16.04 Look Good

Introduction

By default, Lubuntu is made to look functional and provide the bare bones basics that a user may need.

It uses the LXDE desktop environment which is lightweight and therefore it performs well on older hardware.  

This guide shows you how to pimp Lubuntu to make it a little more cosmetically pleasing and more essentially easier to use.

01
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Change That Desktop Wallpaper

Change Lubuntu Wallpaper
Change Lubuntu Wallpaper.

The desktop wallpaper is very plain looking.

This part of the guide isn't going to improve your experience any but it will make your screen more attractive which will brighten your mood and hopefully make you more creative.

I was watching a Linux Help Guy video last week and he came up with a clever but simple trick when searching for wallpapers and if you are using Lubuntu then you may well be using older hardware so it is more than likely going to be of benefit.

Use Google Images to search for an image but specify the image width to be the same size as your screen resolution. This saves software spending time resizing the image to make it fit the screen which potentially saves resources.

To find your screen resolution in Lubuntu press the menu button in the bottom left corner, select preferences and monitor. Your screen resolution will be displayed.

Open Firefox by clicking the menu button, choose internet and then Firefox.

Go to Google Images and search for something you are interested in and the screen resolution. For example:

"Fast Cars 1366x768"

Find the image you like and then click on it and then choose view image.

Right click on the full image and choose "Save As".

The default folder to save to is the downloads folder. It is better to put images in the Pictures folder. Simply click the "Pictures" folder option and choose to save.

To change the wallpaper right click on the desktop and choose "Desktop Preferences".

Click on the little folder icon next to wallpaper and navigate to the pictures folder. Now click on the image you downloaded.

Press close and your wallpaper will have changed to something more pleasing to the eye.

02
of 04

Change The Panel Appearance

Customise Lubuntu Panels
Customise Lubuntu Panels.

By default, the panel for Lubuntu is at the bottom which for desktops like Cinnamon and Xubuntu is fine because the menus are more powerful.

The LXDE menu is a bit archaic and so you will definitely need a dock for your favorite applications.Therefore moving the LXDE panel to the top is a good idea.

Right-click on the panel and choose "panel settings".

There are four tabs:

  • Geometry
  • Appearance
  • Panel Applets
  • Advanced

The geometry tab has the options for choosing where the panel is located. By default, it is at the bottom. You can place it on the left, right, top or bottom.

You can also change the width of the panel so that it only takes up a small portion of the screen but for the main panel I never do this. To change the width simply change the width percentage option.

You can also change the height of the panel and the size of the icons. It is a good idea to keep these at the same size. So if you set the panel height to 16, also change the icon height to 16.

The appearance tab lets you change the color of the panel. You can either stick to the system theme, choose a background color and make it transparent or choose an image.

I like a darker panel so to do this click on the background color and choose the color you wish from the color triangle or enter a hex code. The opacity option lets you determine how transparent the system is.

If you are changing the panel color you might also want to change the font color. You can also change the font size.

The panel applets tab shows you the items you have included on the panel.

You can rearrange the order by selecting the item you wish to move and then by pressing the up or down arrow.

To add more click on the add button and browse the list for the ones you think you will need. 

You can remove an item from the panel by selecting it and clicking remove.

There is also a preferences button. If you click an item and choose this button you can customize the item on the panel. For instance, you can customize the items on the quick launch bar.

The advanced tab lets you choose the default file manager and terminal. You can also choose to hide the panel.

03
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Install A Dock

Cairo Dock
Cairo Dock.

 A dock provides a simple interface for launching all of your favorite applications.

There are loads of them out there such as plank and docky which are great for performance.

If you are looking for something really stylish then go for Cairo Dock.

To install cairo-dock open the terminal by clicking the menu and then selecting system tools and then "lx terminal".

Type the following to install Cairo.

sudo apt-get install cairo-dock

You will also need xcompmgr so type the following command:

sudo apt-get install xcompmgr

Click on the menu icon and choose preferences and then default applications for lxsession.

Click on the autostart tab.

Now enter the following into the box and click add:

@xcompmgr -n

Reboot your computer.

After the software has installed close the terminal and start Cairo by clicking on the menu, then system tools and finally "Cairo Dock".

A message may appear asking whether you want to enable OpenGL to save on CPU performance. I chose yes to this. If it causes issues you can always turn it off again. Make sure you click on remember this choice.

You might like the default theme but you can configure Cairo by right clicking on the dock and choose "Cairo dock" and "configure".

Click on the themes tab and try out a few of the themes available until you find the one you like. Alternatively, you can create one of your own. 

To make Cairo run at startup right click on the dock and choose cairo dock and then "Launch Cairo Dock On Startup".

Cairo dock doesn't just make your desktop look good. It provides quick fire launchers for all of your applications and it provides an on-screen terminal for entering commands.

04
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Install Conky

Conky
Conky.

Conky is a useful but lightweight tool for displaying system information on your desktop.

To install Conky open a terminal window and enter the following command.

sudo apt-get install conky

Once the software is installed you can simply type the following command to start it

conky &

The ampersand runs Linux applications in background mode.

By default, Conky shows information such as uptime, ram usage, cpu usage, top running processes etc.

You can make Conky run at startup.

Open the menu and choose "default applications for LX Session". Click on the autostart tab.

In the box next to the add button enter the following command:

conky --pause=10

Click the add button.

This starts conky 10 seconds after startup. 

Conky can be customized to have different information displayed. A future guide will show how to do this.

Summary

LXDE is highly customisable and Lubuntu is good because it is virtually a blank canvas with very few applications installed by default. Lubuntu is built on top of Ubuntu so it is very stable. It is the distribution of choice for older computers and machines with low specifications.