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Five lightweight Linux desktop worlds for extreme open-sourcers

Need a slim-line work environment? We recommend the best

LXDE-based distros

Openbox is not for everyone. If you want something with a bit more hand holding and fewer config files, the LXQt project is worth a look. LXQt is the likely successor to the LXDE project. As the name hints, LXQt is LXDE rewritten in Qt. The project hasn't hit 1.0 yet, but in my testing it has been pretty stable.

LXQt and its predecessor offer a more graphical-based set of configuration tools, and for the most part there's no need to mess with startup scripts and file-based configuration tools. LXQt is also a full-fledged desktop, rather than a windows manager with some supplemental tools, which makes it a gentle intro to lightweight Linux.

There are quite a few LXQt/LXDE-based distros out there, though most have not made the leap to LXQt just yet. For a minimal LXDE setup I suggest starting with a Debian or Arch base, and then install LXDE from the command line once the base system is installed.


Lubuntu ... a good place for lightweight-novices to start

If you'd like something a little more pre-configured, Lubuntu, the LXDE-based variant of Ubuntu makes a good starting point (under the hood, Lubuntu uses Openbox as a window manager.) Lubuntu is making the switch to LXQt this year when Ubuntu 15.10 comes out, and beta versions will be available for download in the next couple of months if you'd like to try it.


There's an almost overwhelming variety of lightweight Linux distros and desktops out there, far more than I can cover here. And, of course, lightweight is relative. Even what stripped down versions of Xfce like Debian, or the recently announced Xubuntu-core, offer are slim jims next to the hardware-taxing requirements of desktops like GNOME 3 or Unity.

If it's your first time stepping out of the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink world of GNOME, KDE and Unity, you might want to start with LXQt. If you're not afraid of the little challenge, or if you have hardware that's really lagging, Crunchbang++ would be my top pick for lightweight Linux setups. ®

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