Review: Lightweight Desktop environment LXQT 0.9: After 1 year, Is it ready?

Our desktop OS is always meant to be running the latest stable software where possible, but this has to take account experimental, unstable and sometimes old software which have been discontinued but no competitors to follow (yet).

 Screenshot from 2015-05-31 21:03:00

Most people talk about LXDE and XFCE when deciding between which lightweight desktop environment to use with some form of customisable GUI out of the box. Even if you have a powerful computer, using a lightweight desktop will benefit you in some way, for example using Compiz on LXDE will produce beautiful effects with better optimisation of resources.

The new kid on the block is LXQT and version 0.9 has been released for over a year. LXQT is essentially the future form of LXDE, but unlike pokemon, the benefits of evolution is not immediately apparent; the new software is always unstable at first and gradually gets more popular as it becomes more usable and more practical to switch. This post gives general background information about the desktop describes the, experience after tinkering and potential bugs experienced with the desktop.

Why do we need a new desktop environment? LXDE is great!

GTK and QT are different open-source cross-platform UI toolkits  and development frameworks. These are the two most popular frameworks and are essential in GUI design.

LXDE is based on GTK 2, where as LXQT is a practical step forward of the merging between LXDE and Razor-QT. Eventually, the team also received help from KDE developers. As such there are more therefore more hands working on QT than on GTK.

GTK 3 was found to be too bloated and resource intensive which defeats the purpose of LXDE being a lightweight desktop. Moving to QT was not a matter of why but rather a matter of when.

Installation

LXQT is pretty light, much lighter than stock Ubuntu but slightly heavier than base LXDE. Despite this, the difference is pretty negligible.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lubuntu-dev/lubuntu-daily 
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lxqt-session
sudo apt-get install lxqt-metapackage

Note: When you install LXQT, you have to enable the daily repositories, which may be littered with bugs. I would exercise precaution for new users.

Installation was pretty straight-forward.

Settings Menu

It was not too difficult to customise the desktop settings. I noted that there is a very neat section in the main menu under ‘Preferences’ -> LXQT Settings. It was very accessible and it is good design in that all the setting menus are all placed in one location, reducing a lot of clutter.

Settings

You can even access synapse package manager from the menu.

Managing windows and minor quirks

Immediately, after changing the wallpaper, icons and a few settings, I reverted back to the desktop and loaded compiz, which automatically restored my own settings. It was good. I always find compiz to be reliable in handling my windows. Features from compiz appears uninterrupted.

LXQT also has its very own lightweight launcher (first image), which is accessible from Alt-f2, but for personal reasons, I replaced it with synapse instead and it worked well. Use this version if you have problems with synapse.

Synapse

I always find synapse to be more reliable as a launcher due to the Zeitgeist search system

LXQT also uses PCMAN file manager which is pretty neat and familiar. Unfortunately, there are a few quirks with the desktop. Firstly there were issues dragging and dropping files but these was fixed in a later release of PCMAN FM, likely due to the newer QT version.

Icons stuck behind the panel

Icons stuck behind the panel

The desktop interaction was however disappointing. Right clicking the desktop, I was unable to control how files were arranged and icons were automatically repositioned to the (0,0) position. The first icon is slightly under the LXQT Panel. The icons were unable to be moved but  this was also subsequently fixed (I have not tested the fix).

Eye Candy

The Q terminal was somewhat less customisable than the LXterminal. Transparency affects the whole window rather than the text box. Personally I reverted back to LXterminal.

Demonstrating transparency settings between the two terminals

Demonstrating transparency settings between the two terminals

The default wallpaper is cool and I particularly liked the Frost theme. The default icon settings were okay. There is significant difference in how the windows appear.

vlc

Take VLC for example, it is ugly as hell, menu bar appeared to be separate from the window, I had to download a theme to escape the horror. GTK software usually look slightly out of place but VLC is based on QT.

The Ugly

In the file manager, the same appearance is seen, which is extremely ugly but this is mitigated by changing the widget appearance to ‘Windows’ or ‘Fusion’

Not too shabby now…

Running resource intensive programs

Steam games and other resource intensive programs do not seem to cause issues with the desktop environment.

Conclusion 

LXQT is a light and usable desktop environment. It is almost ready and I believe by Lubuntu 16.04 will be the default selection for DE choice for our OS. It is essential to look forward into the future and thats what made me choose LXDE with a potential to transition to LXQT in the first place rather than XFCE. The few crucial bugs that I had encountered were fixed shortly.

GTK program libre-office on the left vs Chrome with theme on the right

GTK program libre-office on the left vs Chrome with theme on the right

There are a few quirks as stated before and some software look somewhat old-age, consider VLC being based on QT, look at its mac comparison and the linux comparison. GTK software like libre-office look out of place but we can’t do much about it. Theming seems to help a little.

Also, right clicking on the desktop is a basic feature that is needed and requested by many users. I hope it is implemented in the next release.

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