I saw a post on Twitter comparing different mainstream Ubuntu Linux derivatives, one of which was Xubuntu Linux. You can see that article here: https://dekisoft.com/which-ubuntu-version-is-best/
Unfortunately the article only dedicates 5 sentences to Xubuntu. Those sentences boil down to:
- It uses the XFCE environment, it’s “old” with “basic” desktop customization features
- It may not be quite as good looking as other desktop environments but is lightweight
- If you have 1GB of RAM it works fine
The last point might be a bit of a stretch if you plan on doing anything that requires switching between a couple of windows or tabs, but this post addresses the first couple of points.
The first point about the XFCE environment being old is true. At the time of this article XFCE is roughly 26 years old. However, if we’re talking strictly age of the desktop environment then KDE, which the author describes as “modern and sleek looking” is almost just as old as XFCE at 25 years old.
Just because something is old doesn’t mean it cannot be made to look amazing. I would agree that out of the box Xubuntu’s implementation of XFCE might not be as modern and sleek. EndeavourOS and Linux Mint XFCE look better than Xubuntu, which shows that XFCE can be made to look good, it just takes a bit of customization.
I have to disagree with the author that XFCE includes “basic” desktop customization features. While the following screenshot is a bit ugly, the window decoration at the top is a custom decoration, it goes beyond the flat rectangular shape most desktop environments display.
Xubuntu’s 20.04/21.04 default is a slim panel at the top. I moved the panel to the bottom and expanded it to look a bit more like the Windows 7/10 panel. I was also able to find a theme with window decorations that look like something out of a Tron movie.
The first screenshot involved changing several different aspects of XFCE: window manager style, the panel, appearance style, and of course the background image. The second screenshot above is a lot closer to the default look, but includes some MacOS-like window decorations, a new background, and a “launcher” at the bottom called plank. Plank is not in the Xubuntu software centre, but can be installed from the command line by typing:
sudo apt install plank
Plank can be customized to look more like a Xubuntu panel, but I like the default look of plank, a thin bar with icons on top. The window decoration also has a slight curved look to each window, making it look a bit more sleek.
This third screenshot shows how the default panel can be arranged on the side, rather than the top or bottom. To get the panel on the side I:
- type the word panel into the whisker menu and click on the panel program to open the panel preferences
- un-check the Lock panel option under the display tab for panel 0
- under Display > General > Mode change Horizontal to Deskbar
Selecting vertical will also make the panel move to one of the sides of the screen, however I prefer using the Deskbar option, which arranges things a bit more like the Unity bar. In the screenshot above I kept the panel at the default size, but it can be made larger or smaller by adjusting the Measurements > Row Size.
Right click on the Panel > select Panel > Panel Preferences
Under the Measurements section adjust the Row Size
Lots of themes are available on xfce-look under the XFCE/XFCE4 themes section. GTK3/4 themes can also be used in Xubuntu. It takes a bit of getting used to the tools to change different aspects of XFCE, but the tools are there, and it’s certainly more customizable out of the box than Microsoft Windows. Incidentally, if you do want to customize Windows 10 I recommend checking out Stardock’s Object Desktop. I haven’t used it, however I did buy a license for it back in the days of OS/2 and I really liked it back then.