An Alternative Desktop for Linux – LXDE (Revisited)

An Alternative Desktop for Linux – LXDE

Posted by V. T. Eric Layton on Apr 14, 2010

LXDE is lean and mean compared to Gnome or KDE, but it’s also FAST and uses resources efficiently.

I run LXDE in my Sidux installation. With Openbox as its windows manager, it is a great desktop environment. Fair warning though, as Juliet Kemp from Linux Planet* found out in her testing of it, LXDE is not graphically conducive to customization. Most customizations, as with Xfce, are going to require editing configuration files. This is something that doesn’t always appeal to GUI penguins (users who prefer graphical environments).

Ms. Kemp says:

Strictly speaking LXDE isn’t a window manager but a desktop environment, using Openbox as a window manager (alternatively you can swap in other window managers). Openbox allows you to show the LXDE desktop menu on right-click (right-click on the desktop to edit this option). Unfortunately, once I turned this on, I couldn’t find an option in the Openbox configuration editor to turn it back off! Still, it’s a useful enough menu. It would be more useful, though, if it were easier to add applications to the Applications sub-menu. It seems that the only way to do this is either to edit /usr/share/lxde/openbox/menu.xml, or to copy that file somewhere in your home directory, edit it there, and change the reference in ~/.config/openbox/lxde-rc.xml. This isn’t that hard for experienced Linux users, but it’s not exactly user-friendly, and still less so as I had to dig around to find that out.

As you can see from her last sentence in that paragraph, she gives folks pretty much the same warning as I did above. LXDE is not really for the new Linux Explorer. You might need a wee bit of Linux experience under your belt or you’ll find it a bit frustrating and too minimalistic for your comfort.

Checking out the default apps on the bottom bar, I found that the file browser, PCMan, started up fast, and has a useful left-hand pane showing the filesystem.

PCMan is actually a very cool file manager application. It’s similar to Thunar, but has some advantages that Thunar does not possess… tabs, for one.

LXDE is certainly extremely fast, and according to its own CPU monitor, uses very little CPU. However, its configurability is less convincing – some options don’t seem to work properly, and others require you to directly edit an XML file, which is not something I really expect from a modern graphical desktop environment. (Having said that, the fact that the config files are easily human-readable is definitely a plus point!).

Again, not really for folks with heavy preferences for graphical tweaking. LXDE does require some editing (text and XML) to achieve certain configurations and customizations. One annoyance that I found right off was that if you allow PCMan to manage the desktop, it will change and display your wallpaper as you want, but it will NOT let you remove the desktop icons. I don’t like icons on my desktop, so I had to forego allowing PCMan to manage my desktop in LXDE. Instead, I ended up using the image application Feh to do that chore.

Even with an odd inconvenience or two, LXDE is still a righteous desktop environment. Give it a shot when you get a chance.

Have fun while exploring your Linux world!

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

*Ms. Kemp’s entire article at Linux Planet can be read by clicking HERE.

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This article was originally published on my Nocturnal Slacker | Lockergnome blog. You can see it there by clicking HERE.

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