Lubuntu: Light(er)weight Ubuntu-based Distro

Lubuntu 10.10 mates the standard Ubuntu 10.10 base system with LXDE, a lightweight desktop environment. Lubuntu isn't a super light distribution like Puppy Linux, but the target is older computers and other resource constrained hardware such as netbooks. If you’ve ever wished that you could use Ubuntu in situations where you didn’t quite have the horsepower, Lubuntu could be for you.

Note that, although based on Ubuntu, Lubuntu isn't yet an official member of the Ubuntu family, although full acceptance is an aim of the development team.

Like its big brother Ubuntu, part of the appeal of a distribution like Lubuntu comes from its ease of installation. To this end, Lubuntu installs a complete set of tools and applications with only an essential set of install time configuration options. Basically, if you've installed any other *buntu, you have a good idea of what to expect: the disk boots into a live CD with an option to install the operating system to a HD.

So, what does Lubuntu actually offer? LXDE is a lightweight desktop environment, itself based on the extremely efficient Openbox window manager. As well as responsiveness on less powerful machines, it has has comparatively low power requirements, increasing battery life and saving money. In terms of the default visual layout, Lubuntu has an application launcher that sits on the left hand side of the taskbar which runs along the bottom of the screen. In other words, no real surprises for the average computer user.

LXDE is more than a mere window manager, and it comes with components such as a file manager, an archive manager, a configuration tool, a media player, a terminal, and some other small utilities. The file manager, PCManFM is functional, but suffers from a few compromises. For example, like most of the smaller file managers, it doesn't feature a SAMBA browser.

Lubuntu makes use of, in keeping with the speedy theme, the Chromium web browser. For productivity applications, the developers have borrowed from the unofficial Gnome “office suite”. These applications include spreadsheet Gnumeric and word processor Abiword, two applications that I consider to be highly capable and chronically underrated.


If you don’t need a standardised, easy to install solution, you could build something similar to what Lubuntu offers, and lighter still, by beginning with a Debian netinstall and then adding LXDE and any other components that you need.

In many ways, Lubuntu is a example of what’s so great about Linux as it offers yet another balance of options and compromises by positioning itself between the genuinely light weight distributions and the full, mainstream solutions based on KDE and Gnome.

If you've ever wanted to install Ubuntu but wished that it was a bit less resource heavy, Lubuntu might be for you. Although the website claims that it is usable on machines with 256MB and sub 1 GHz  processors, it’s clearly going to work best on machines with a CPU that’s a little bit above that level and closer to 512MB of RAM. However, this is an important niche as there are many machines of that speed lying around and in need of a well featured, secure operating system.

The other target is netbooks. Here too, Lubuntu may well be a valid choice for people who could just about run a more standard distribution but want to get out from underneath the escalating memory footprint and CPU drag of KDE and Gnome and enjoy some extra speed and battery life.

In both usage cases, Lubuntu could well see some of these machines saying a final farewell to Windows XP.

The Lubuntu website


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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good review but will stick with puppy

tgerhard60's picture

I've been using puppy for a few years and have reverted back to the solid 4.3.1 release over the latest 5.x ones specifically because they became "u-bloated". Hopefully this won't happen with Lubuntu.

If someone is looking for a lightweight distro for older hardware, ones that have been doing it for a while (puppy and dsl, for example) should be your first choice and perhaps see how Lubuntu shakes out.

By the way, puppy is really not hard to install (either frugal or full), and if you get stuck, the community is always willing to help.

Anyone try...

JShuford's picture

Comparatively I found that I liked Tiny Core over Lubuntu much better... To each their own I guess.

...I'm not just a "troll", but also a subscriber!

Lubuntu 10.4 on Asus eeePC901

highlandham's picture

Just for info; I am happily using Lubuntu 10.4 on the 8GB SSD of an Asus eeePC901
With an 1.6 GHz processor and 1GB RAM is is obviously not an 'old machine '
Wifi connection is excellent (instant)

I now consider installing Lubuntu 10.10 on a veeeery old (AD2001) laptop with 866MHz processor and only 256MB of RAM (this is unfortunately the max this machine will take).

Yes, I like Lubuntu

Frank (highlandham) in northern Scotland

I have been using Linux

ejbprofbib's picture

I have been using Linux almost exclusively for about 5-6 years now, with most of that time spent on Ubuntu or one of its variants. My first encounter with Lubuntu was just a week or so ago when I decided to give it a try on an old Dell desktop machine that I had in my office. Not only did the install go smoothly, but I also have had very good luck getting things (video, audio, wireless) working without any 'heavy lifting' at all. I also would like to note that, with the installation of just a few packages from within Synaptic, one is able to browse Samba shares: I do so every day to work with documents at the university.

As for the benefits of this distro to netbook users, I am not able to add much, since I have only tried it out usin a USB key boot. However, its simple, clean appearance and speed may make it the replacement for Ubuntu NR on my little Dell Latitude 2100.

Defintely one to watch, and I sincerely hope Canonical will grant it official derivative status.

didnt like it

markh's picture

I didnt like it.....I am running xubuntu now on everything and really like XFCE.

IMO if your pc is so old that XFCE vs LXDE is going to make a world of difference then you need to either throw it in the dumpster and get a $200 emachine OR put slitaz on it.

I was far more impressed with slitaz as a lightweight os than lubuntu and I am an avid *buntu user.

MintPPC as an alternative to Lubuntu on PPC

Linuxopjemac's picture

I have tested Lubuntu on PowerPC based computers and I was pretty impressed. PPC users know that support for their architecture is non-existent with Ubuntu. I decided to create my own spin of a good looking OS based on LXDE but with the good underlying support of Debian Linux. I ported Linux Mint LXDE to Debian Squeeze and called it MintPPC. Lots of people told me they really liked the responsiveness and the slick GUI. Some people even installed it on pre 2000 OldWorld Macs. They still run fast! With as little as 320 Mb!

Lubuntu wireless

CMD's picture

The problem i found with Lubuntu is I couldn't get wireless working with Lubuntu unless I installed Ubuntu first then installed the Lubuntu desktop so that Gnomes network manager was running

Nice Lubuntu review

Wine Curmudgeon's picture

The only problem I've found with Lubuntu is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get the video to work if you are installing it on an older laptop, something you can do easily with Puppy. This is frustrating because the distro is easier to install and use than Puppy, which makes a huge difference when you're setting up the computer for someone who wants it to work like Windows.