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 spinoffs, all of which retain the core Ubuntu operating system as their base. By allowing all these variants, Ubuntu is able to create a vast and thriving ecosystem, all interconnected and contributing 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, similar 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. Both desktops were lightweight and concerned with resource efficiency, and 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 are 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 the applications menu. The apps themselves are broken 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 capability in the same menu.

Next to the menu is a 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, such as a clock, notifications, information 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 reopen 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 submenus.

    The Lubuntu desktop showing the Preferences option
  3. Choose LXQt settings > LXQt Configuration Center to open the desktop settings manager.

    Lubuntu preferences menu with LXQt and LXQt Configuration Center selected

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 simple to do.

  1. Select Desktop in the configuration center.

    Lubuntu configuration center
  2. Toward the top of the Desktop Preferences window that opens, find the Wallpaper image file option and press Browse.

    Lubuntu Wallpaper image Browse button highlighted
  3. A file browser window opens. 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.

    Lubuntu Desktop Preferences screen with Apply highlighted
  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 in the Desktop Preferences screen to set it to behave the way you want.

Remove the Desktop Icons

With Desktop Preferences window open, you may want to do something else— 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.

    Lubuntu Desktop Preference with the Advanced tab highlighted
  2. In the Visible Shortcuts section, uncheck all the shortcuts you don't want on your desktop.

  3. Press Apply to make the change permanent.

    Visible Shortcuts section of Lubuntu Desktop Preferences

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.

  3. Select Screensaver.

    Lubuntu menu Screensaver selection
  4. The Screensaver Preferences window opens. On the left side of the window is a list of available screensavers. Selecting one displays a preview on the right side of the window. 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. You can also disable the screensaver here as well.

Change the Lubuntu Theme

One of the changes with the largest impact that you can make on LXQt or any desktop is to use 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 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 this 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 works 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 to Pling and follow the same set of instructions to install an Openbox-specific theme.

  2. You 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 this location:

    /usr/share/lxqt/themes/

  3. As 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 here:

    /usr/share/plasma/desktoptheme/

  4. Open the LXQt Configuration Center again. This time, select Appearance.

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

    LXQt Appearance Configuration window with Qt Style highlighted
  6. Next, choose the GTK style that you installed for GTK 2 Theme and GTK 3 Theme using their respective drop down menus.

    LXQt Appearance Configuration window with GTK 2 Theme and GTK 3 Theme highlighted
  7. Press Apply to make the changes stick.

  8. Choose Icons Theme from the menu on the left. Select the icon theme that you installed from the list and press Apply.

    LXQt Appearance Configuration window with Icons Theme selected
  9. Choose LXQt Theme from the left menu. Select the freshly installed LXQt theme, and press Apply.

    LXQt Appearance Configuration window with LXQt Theme selected
  10. You can play around with fonts and the mouse pointer here too, but it's usually not a great idea for beginners. Specifically, changing the fonts can throw off the whole look and alignment of your desktop and applications.

  11. Close the appearance window.

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

    Configuration Center with Openbox Settings highlighted
  13. The Theme option is already selected. Choose the new Openbox theme, and it is applied automatically.

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