13 Sep 2016

Lubuntu 16.04 - good operating system with a bit of disappointment

It is difficult to believe, but Linux notes from DarkDuck blog has never published a review of Lubuntu.

The Lubuntu distribution is an LXDE-based reincarnation of Ubuntu that is officially created and supported by Canonical.

Yes, there were articles where Lubuntu was used as a showcase for creating your own distribution and for LXDE keyboard configuration.

Yes, there were reviews of other Ubuntu family members: Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Kubuntu and even Ubuntu MATE.

Yes, there were reviews of other LXDE-based distributions like Debian LXDE, ROSA Marathon, Zorin OS Lite and Knoppix.

But there has never been a separate review of Lubuntu.

The reason? I am not so fond of an LXDE desktop environment that isn't an integrated desktop environment per se, but rather a collection of different small tools under the same roof.

But anyway I thought there should be a review for this distribution, especially because it is in the Top-20 of Distrowatch rating.

As happened multiple times before, the trigger was a request from my customers. One of them ordered a disk with Lubuntu 16.04 operating system. You can order your personal copy of Lubuntu operating system too!

Bingo, I thought! Let's do a review!

I downloaded the ISO image of Lubuntu 16.04.1 64-bit from the official site using torrent. Of course, there are direct download links available too. The size of the ISO image is just under 900 Mb, however it is still called a CD on the site. You cannot burn 900 Mb on a CD, can you?

So, I burnt the ISO image onto a DVD-R. The disk is in the DVD-ROM of my Toshiba Satellite laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from DVD. Let's go!

Booting up

All Ubuntu family members now use a bootloader that does not ask you many questions apart from a selection between Live Run and Install modes. However, Lubuntu 16.04 still uses the old boot menu where you can choose language, keyboard layout, screen resolution and specify your own parameters. It is a bit old-fashioned, but still a legitimate and working method.

I switched the keyboard layout from default English US to UK in the corresponding menu section, and then proceeded to the Live Run.

The boot process took about 2 minutes to finish, and eventually I ended up on the default desktop.

First impressions

Lubuntu 16.04.1 lands you on the default desktop with wallpaper in deep-blue and purple colours. There are only 2 icons on the desktop: Trash and Install Lubuntu. If you don't like the default wallpaper, you can use your own image. Lubuntu does not provide you with any other images apart from the default one.
Lubuntu 16.04 welcome screen

The panel in light-grey colour is at the bottom of the screen.

The left part of the panel is taken by the menu button, quick launch shortcuts for file manager, browser and show desktop and a switch between two virtual desktops.

The right part of the panel is the notification area where you can find a session management button (shut down, reboot etc), clocks, network, power and volume indicators. There is at least one missing element from Lubuntu as I saw it at the end of 2013, but we'll speak about this later.

The freshly booted system took about 235 Mb of memory, which is not too much compared to other Ubuntu family members and modern distributions. But it is still comparable with gNewSense 4.0 GNOME that uses a much more resource-hungry desktop environment GNOME 3.
Lubuntu 16.04 resources

Network connection

I had no issues with connecting to my home wireless network. The Realtek 8191 SEvB wireless network card was automatically recognized and configured by the operating system. I only had to select my network and enter the password. Soon after that my Live run of Lubuntu 16.04 was connected to the Internet.

Network drive

There is an option to browse the local network in the Lubuntu's default file manager PCManFM 1.2.4. although it is not visible in the left-hand panel, but available through the menu Go.
I used that function to navigate to my shared network drive and browse it. All worked fine here.

Keyboard layout

Do you remember I mentioned that something was missing from the notification area. Can you guess what? Keyboard layout indicator! It means that my how-to guide for keyboard layout configuration in LXDE is no longer valid.

Update: after checking the recommendation from the comment, I updated the guide, and it is still valid.

I will try to play with Lubuntu 16.04 operating system later and publish an updated how-to guide for keyboard layout change if I find a suitable way for this. So far, I was only able to type in English. Small good news though is that I used English UK layout that was requested at the system boot.


Lubuntu 16.04 does not come with many applications. I would even say that the choice of applications is very small.

Firefox 47.0 is the default and the only Internet browser. There are also Pidgin internet messenger, Transmission torrent client and Sylpheed email client in the Internet section of the menu.

Office applications are only represented by Abiword and Gnumeric tools. Although you can call Document Viewer an office application too, it is listed elsewhere.

The graphic tools are Simple Scan, mtPaint and Document Viewer. Image viewer is also present in the system, but it is in the Accessories menu section. There is no screenshot utility or GIMP. However, the PrintScreen button still works - it puts screenshots of the whole screen in the Home directory. These screenshots are taken by the command line utility scrot. Still a workable solution, although a bit outdated and not user-friendly.

The largest menu section, apart from Accessories and System tools is for Sound & Video. You can find Alsa Mixer, GNOME MPlayer, Audacious player, Xfburn burner and guvcview utility there. The latter crashed when I tried to use it.

Of course, there are the usual suspects in the Accessories and System tool sections: Leafpad editor, GParted partition manager, calculator, archive manager, Terminal and so on.

You can add or remove packages using Synaptic package manager, which is also included. All the Ubuntu standard and user repositories are at your fingertips.


When I navigated to my network shared drive, I was able to play MP3 files from there using MPlayer. It means that Lubuntu 16.04.1 comes with necessary codecs already preinstalled.
Lubuntu 16.04 multimedia
YouTube and CNN.com videos also played well in the Firefox browser. However 1tv.ru failed to play the live stream due to missing Adobe Flash installation in the browser. It may be just a missing plugin in the Firefox, but that plugin isn't there by default.


The general impression of Lubuntu 16.04 Live run was quite positive. Yes, it was snappy and fast for me. But there were some disappointments too.

There were some things that are still unexplainable for me:

  • Crash of the guvcview utility. I still struggle to understand its purpose.
  • Missing ability to configure keyboard layout that was present in previous versions
  • Slim choice of applications. Since the ISO image is well above the CD size, what is the purpose of cutting the useful tools like GIMP, screenshot or remote desktop connection utility?
  • Lack of wallpaper choices, though it is a bit of a niggle.

What is your opinion about Lubuntu 16.04?

Video used on the screenshot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShlW5plD_40


  1. Log in Openbox and everything goes well.

    1. Sorry, could you please elaborate your idea?

    2. LXDE uses Openbox at its core. You can start a pure Openbox session instead of LXDE one. Some people prefer it to LXDE.

  2. You might mention that Lubuntu includes the Lubuntu Software Center, which is a rather simplistic but fairly easy to use software installer that requires much less knowledge of how packages work than Synaptic does.

    1. Really? I have not noticed that tool. Where is it in the menu?

    2. Yes, I found it. You're right, it is simple.
      My personal choice is still Synaptic, but then I'm not the Linux beginner. :)

  3. Seriously not containing enough wallpapers is a big issue here. I own a netbook and this distribution is what is making it useable these days. And could you please publish your workstation specifications.

  4. The newer CD's are 700 megabytes total.
    I prefer DVD-RW now. Great for updating those old Linux ISO's.

  5. You are comparing a LiveCD session and not a fully installed session. Apples and oranges really. Do a full installation and fix your article/opinion. The point of a LiveCD session is to get a general idea of what the system is like. They rarely contain all the bells and whistles of their fully installed counterpart.

    1. Those are pretty terrible reasons for judging LiveCD sessions of distros the way you do. With that reasoning alone, I feel that I can no longer take your reviews seriously. Ever hear of VirtualBox or VMware? While I don't agree with people who use VMs for review purposes, but at least they are getting the full installation and have everything the distro is meant to come with. USB drives are a dime a dozen now. I personally use a SDcard to USB adapter for ISO images. A cheap USB hard drive enclosure works just as well for installation/testing purposes without hurting the installed system on the main hard drive.

    2. I write these reviews for almost 6 years now, and there are readers. If you want to write it differently, that's you right. If you don't like my reviews, that's your right. If you don't want to read them any more, that's your right.
      Sorry for being rude.

  6. LOL

    Right click on the panel -> Add.. -> Keyboard Layout Handler

    1. Yes, that's fairly simple.
      Why have they removed the indicator from the default system?

    2. Maybe because those who use only English layout just don't need it. It makes more sense to add feature you need, than to remove one you don't. I use Russian localization and after installation I have the indicator with both US and Russian layouts. So it's not a problem at all :)

  7. I like Lubuntu. Is lack of wallpapers real issue??

    What is wrong is default audio mixer. In the case you want to connect external USB speakers or Bluetooth headphones, you have to install Pulse audio that has much better mixer (package pavucontrol).

    I install Chromium browser, it is faster than default Firefox.

    It surprise me that I cannot create my own shortcuts to start application/script (I can only move items from menu to quick launch panel). I failed to find an easy way how to add "custom" application to quick launch panel :-( This is from my point of view issue more serious issue than lack of wallpapers.


  8. errata: Lubuntu is a distribution, not an operating system

  9. about wallpapers, i think that most distributions, perhaps all of them, seriously lacks a good collection of wallpapers (and worse, lacks a good range of proportions, like 5x4, 4x5, 4x3, 3x4, 8x5, 5x8, 16x9, 9x16, 64x27, 27x64, etc.) - a crop from a good poster (like Polish or Japanese), or a good illustration (like from Shigeru Tamura, Otomo, etc.), etc., sometimes helps a bit - perhaps a good thing to do is to create our own collection of wallpapers, have a startup script that randoms the wallpaper when booting, and so on...

  10. one of the very first things i do on lxde is to replace pcmanfm with caja