The Lightest Linux Desktop Built Using LXQt

By | February 23, 2022

When you’re looking for a lightweight Linux desktop environment to speed up your PC, one name starts popping up more often. LXQt is the spiritual successor to LXDE, an interface that uses so few resources that the Raspberry Pi feels like a full-featured PC. What is LXQt, and what makes it different

What is LXQt

The desktop environment is what you see on your screen. This is the panel at the bottom. This is what organizes your apps into windows and lets you move them around.

Windows and macOS each come with a single desktop environment. On Linux, there are many. You can completely change how your desktop looks and feels while still using the same apps, the same background libraries, and the same Linux kernel underneath.

Most Linux-based operating systems choose a desktop environment to use by default (some let you pick your favorite, while others don’t come at all). There is a variant of Ubuntu, the most popular desktop Linux version, called Lubuntu which provides LXQt.

There is also an LXQt edition of Fedora. If you are using a different Linux based OS, you may have to install LXQt yourself. Instructions are available on the LXQt website.

History of LXQt

To understand the difference between LXDE and LXQt, we must first talk about the toolkit. The toolkit provides a way to consistently draw application interfaces. Without a toolkit, developers would have to design and program toolbar buttons and dropdown menus from scratch for each app. On Linux, two toolkits dominate the landscape: GTK+ and Qt.

LXDE uses GTK+2, which is very old code. GTK+ 3 has been around since 2011. LXDE maintainer Hong Jen Yee took issue with some changes in GTK+ 3, so he released a port based on Qt in 2013. Shortly thereafter, a Qt version of LXDE and a separate desktop interface known as GTK+ 3. Razor -qt combine to form LXQt. Hong Jen Yee plans to finally focus her efforts on LXQt going forward. Since then, LXQt has officially become a separate project.

How LXQt Works

LXQt defaults to a layout familiar to anyone who has used Windows. The app launcher is at the bottom left. The system tray is in the lower right. The open window appears in a row between the two.

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The app launcher contains the essentials and nothing more. Categories containing installed apps appear at the top, so you have system preferences, user session control, and a search bar.

The interface is highly configurable. You can change the desktop theme, applications and icons. The panels can go to either side of the screen, and you can rearrange the elements however you like. There’s no reason to keep a Windows-like layout if that’s not your cup of sea.

LXQt refers to each panel component as a widget. The default widget provides the ability to save your favorite apps to a panel, switch between multiple workspaces, and hide windows to show the desktop. Several additional widgets are included, such as a CPU monitor and color picker.

Part of LXQt’s appeal is the lack of dependencies (background services that must be installed to run the program) and the use of interchangeable components. For example, LXQt uses the Openbox window manager. You can use any Openbox compatible theme to change the appearance of your window titles. You can also change the order of the buttons in the titlebar and which buttons appear.

On the one hand, LXQt takes its role as a desktop environment very literally. It manages the desktop. It doesn’t try to control the whole experience from boot to death. Linux is modular, and LXQt covers this.

Disadvantages for LXQt

LXQt lacks some of the features you would expect from a modern desktop. By default, LXQt does not draw shadows around windows, nor is there any animation for opening or maximizing windows. The animation for minimizing the window is present but a bit choppy. You can change this by enabling or installing a separate compositor. Lubuntu provides it by default known as Compton X.

Remember the search bar in the app launcher? This is very basic. You should be looking for the exact name of the app, not what it does. Don’t expect to find files and folders unless you install additional software, as those features can slow down the desktop.

The LXQt also holds very little hands. You are expected to know the names of the apps and what they do. If not, you have to learn. The app launcher doesn’t tell you what a pre-installed text editor, image viewer or web browser is. You have to figure it out for yourself.

That’s not to say that LXQt is hard to use. I don’t think so. But I also have certain knowledge of how Linux desktops tend to work. If you know your way around Xfce or MATE, LXQt will only give you a few moments to figure it out. Most things are where you expect them to be. The implementation is just different.

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