Ubuntu vs. Xubuntu

Which Linux flavor is better?

Ubuntu and Xubuntu are both popular Linux distributions. Ubuntu is a free and open-source Linux distribution based on Debian, while Xubuntu is a Canonical-recognized, community-maintained derivative of the Ubuntu operating system. We looked at both so you can determine if one is a better fit for your needs.

Ubuntu vs Xubuntu

Overall Findings

Ubuntu
  • Means "humanity toward others."

  • Easy to install and use.

  • Canonical employs the core Ubuntu developers.

  • Desktop environment is Unity.

Xubuntu
  • Name is a combination of XFCE and Ubuntu.

  • Uses the XFCE desktop environment.

  • Desktop environment intended to minimize system resources.

The main difference between Ubuntu and Xubuntu is the desktop environment. Ubuntu uses the Canonical Unity desktop environment, while Xubuntu uses XFCE, which is lighter, more customizable, and easier on system resources than other desktop environments.

Desktop Environments: XFCE Is More Customizable

Ubuntu
  • Default desktop environment is Unity.

  • Unity offers a powerful search tool.


  • Integrates well with common applications.

Xubuntu
  • Comes with the XFCE desktop environment.

  • XFCE is stable, light, and configurable.

  • Works well on older hardware.

  • Modern look and lots of features.

Ubuntu ships with the Unity desktop, which, while intuitive and easy to use, is not very customizable, although you can now move the launcher to the bottom of the screen, which previously wasn't an option.

Xubuntu utilizes the XFCE desktop environment. XFCE is more basic looking than Unity, but it is highly customizable, making it easier to set up menus and panels the way you want. The XFCE desktop environment is also lighter on system resources, so it may work better on older or low-end hardware.

Applications: More Similarities Than Differences

Ubuntu
  • Pre-installed applications, such as the installer and package manager, are similar.

  • Software applications are similar.

  • No real differences in support.

Xubuntu
  • Pre-installed applications, such as the installer and package manager, are similar.

  • Software applications are similar.

  • No real differences in support.

With the Unbuntu and Xubuntu pre-installed applications, there are more similarities than differences. The installer is virtually the same, the package managers are similar, the updates come from the same place, and the support community is the same. Again, the desktop environment is the only difference.

In the past, Xubuntu used to be pre-loaded with lighter software packages such as Abiword and Gnumeric for word processing and the creation of spreadsheets. Now, though, most of the major packages are the same and there is nothing particularly different between the desktop environments that would make you switch your entire distribution.

Final Verdict

If you installed Ubuntu and you don't like the Unity desktop, you might be tempted to try Xubuntu instead. Also, if you find your computer is lagging under the strain of Ubuntu, Xubuntu is something to consider.

If you aren't that bothered about making your desktop prettier or using customization options, and you find that Ubuntu does everything you want it to do, then there is no need to switch to Xubuntu.

Option: Use the XFCE Desktop With Ubuntu

Generally speaking, you don't gain anything by switching from Ubuntu to Xubuntu except for the XFCE desktop. If you're thinking of switching from Ubuntu to Xubuntu, consider installing the XFCE desktop environment instead.

To do this from within Ubuntu:

  1. Open a terminal window and type the following command:

    sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop
  2. Enter your sudo password and press Enter.

  3. Accept any dependencies and allow the installation to complete.

  4. Log out and log back in, then choose the new XFCE desktop.