A lightweight powerhouse
Windows XP’s long run may have finally come to an end, but that doesn’t mean your XP-era hardware has to go too. No indeed: There are numerous options available in the Linux world, and one shining example is LXLE.
A brand-new LXLE 14.04 made its debut a few weeks ago, and it’s packed with new features while remaining lightweight and speedy. With an XP mode among several other desktop options, this zippy OS needs less than a minute to boot and get online. Don’t try that on your Windows machine.
Ready for a look? Read on, then, and see what your older PC hardware could be doing.
LXLE is based not just on Ubuntu Linux, but on Ubuntu Long-Term Support (LTS) versions in particular for maximal longevity. In the case of LXLE 14.04, the underlying Linux distribution is Ubuntu 14.04 “Trusty Tahr,” which was released in April and offers support through 2019.
More specifically, LXLE 14.04 is based on the Lubuntu variant of Ubuntu, which uses the LXDE desktop and is designed to be more lightweight than its parent in general. Both 32- and 64-bit versions of LXLE are available; the 64-bit .iso file weighs in at 1.49GB.
Windows XP Mode
As a variation on the Lubuntu Linux theme, LXLE uses an optimized LXDE user interface. It also offers several alternative desktop layout paradigms, however—all of them updated in version 14.04 and accessible at login using a drop-down menu.
Shown here is LXLE’s Windows XP paradigm, designed with refugees from Microsoft’s long-lived OS in mind. LXLE aims to provide users with “a complete drop-in-and-go replacement for XP, Vista and 7 Starter/Basic,” the project team says. Also available is a Netbook paradigm that’s essentially a variation on the XP theme.
A classic Linux option
For those with no particular allegiance to Windows XP, LXLE also offers another classic desktop paradigm, this time from the Linux world. It’s GNOME 2, specifically—the longstanding favorite of many Linux users, even as numerous more modern contenders such as Unity and GNOME 3 have arrived on the scene. Linux Mint is another distro that aims to preserve the best of GNOME 2, as can be seen in the recently released Linux Mint 17.
A hint of Apple
Extending its flexibility even further, LXLE also gives users the choice of a Mac OS X paradigm, offering the general feel of Apple’s desktop operating system. Part of the philosophy behind LXLE is to add useful mods and tweaks for improved performance and functions, the design team says. Also among its goals are to “develop a beautiful, modern-looking intuitive desktop for anyone to use easily” and to “save system resources and spend them wisely on capable, feature-rich apps.”
Emulating Ubuntu's Unity
Yet another choice for users of LXLE, meanwhile, is a desktop paradigm that offers the feel of Ubuntu’s Unity interface. While the mobile-inspired Unity option has been a controversial one ever since it was first introduced back in 2010 in what was then Ubuntu’s Netbook Edition, it has gained a considerable number of fans as it’s been refined over the years. With a vertical application switcher called the launcher, it’s now Ubuntu’s default user interface.
Packed with work tools
In addition to its diminutive footprint and speedy performance, LXLE also offers a wide array of full-featured apps preinstalled. Among those on tap in LXLE 14.04 are the latest stable versions of the LibreOffice suite for office productivity and the Osmo personal organizer along with the Evince document viewer, FBReader for ebooks, and HomeBank for personal accounting.
Accessory apps include ClamTK for virus-scanning and security, the gedit text editor, the PCManFM file manager, and the Xarchiver archive manager.
A raft of internet apps
For connecting with the Internet, LXLE offers Mozilla’s Firefox as its default browser and Claws Mail for email. Linphone is the default VoIP client, while Gitso handles remote desktop connectivity.
Since Canonical recently shut down its Ubuntu One cloud service, LXLE 14.04 includes Bittorrent Sync instead for file syncing and sharing among multiple platforms. FileZilla offers FTP capabilities, while Pidgin and Xchat are both on hand for chat purposes. uGet is the software’s download manager.
Graphics tools galore
One of the changes made to LXLE’s suite of graphics apps in version 14.04 was that Gpicview was replaced by the Mirage image viewer “to offer more features like cropping, resizing, etc.” while providing an alternative to always using GIMP, the project team notes. GIMP is still on hand for bigger jobs, though. Other options in LXLE’s graphics toolbox are LibreOffice Draw, the Shotwell photo manager, Simple Image Reducer, and Simple Scan for scanning.
Access for all
A number of Universal Access tools were added in LXLE 14.04 to extend the software’s capabilities for users with visual or hearing impairments or physical disabilities. The Florence Virtual Keyboard, for instance, offers features such as a timer-based auto-click input method. Gespeaker, meanwhile, can play text in many languages, with settings for voice, pitch, volume, speed, and word gap. The xZoom magnification tool is also included, as are right-handed and left-handed cursor themes in various sizes.
A rich software trove
Long before app stores became commonplace in the mobile computing world, Linux users were already enjoying software repositories such as Ubuntu’s Software Center as the place to quickly and easily find new software without having to scour the Web.
LXLE users in search of software tools to add to their setup can turn to the Lubuntu Software Center, which is packed with both free and for-a-fee options. Also available are the Synaptic package manager and the Y PPA manager along with an updater tool to keep everything current.
100 Flavors of Beauty
Last but not least, LXLE 14.04 gives you more than a few ways to customize your desktop and make it your own. A full 100 wallpapers come preinstalled, in fact, pretty much guaranteeing that there will be something to please everyone.
There’s also a Random Wallpaper feature for those who like variety, and you can add your own images as well. LXLE was designed to offer theme consistency throughout system, the project team says. Included ARandR software, meanwhile, provides multiple-monitor support.