If you need a desktop environment that is light on system resources LXDE may be perfect. LXDE has all the features of other popular desktop environments but is designed to run fast and efficiently. Hence why LXDE is also known as the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment.
LXDE comes packaged with several distributions and is available in several languages as well. And of course the LXDE desktop still has all the basic components you would expect from a high quality esktop environment.
LXDE is also quite easy to install on most popular distributions. In most cases LXDE is already included in the repositories for most distributions, and can be installed with a few simple commands.
Some distributions use LXDE by default, Lubuntu is one of the most prominent. Just download a distribution using LXDE and you can install everything all at once from a live CD. Of course you can also build LXDE from source code if you have the experience.
Like other popular desktop environments LXDE uses several different components which each add extra functions and options to your desktop. These modules, libraries and applications include a file manager, an application launcher, a panel, a session manager, a window manager, and many more.
More About LXDE Components
As I said, LXDE will work well on many Linux distributions. Almost all the desktop components work independently. You can add more components for additional desktop functionality. Or you can replace existing components with other that you prefer. Together these components give LXDE an enormous list of features. This desktop environment is also highly configurable using simple graphical user interfaces.
The primary display manager is LXDM which was created to replace GDM on LXDE. This is a light display manager with highly optimized code. Unfortunately I could not find very much documentation or information regarding LXDM. I am not even sure if this project is beyond the experimental stages currently.
The LXDM display manager provides the graphical user interface used to login to your desktop. LXDM can also use different GTK themes and greeter themes for the login screen. Here you can check out all the configuration files and settings as well.
LXSession is the default session manager which is used to start all of your applications after logging in. LXSession can also remember your running applications and launch them again for your next session.
Session Manager Functions
The session manager is run by the login manager after authenticating your login information. The session manager will then run all of your autostart applications and many scripts.
You can configure exactly how your desktop session loads and which applications start, and you can customize your logout dialog as well. Configuration files and details are provided, check it out.
If you are using the LXDE desktop environment you are probable also using the lightweight OpenBox window manager. The OpenBox window manager is well-known for being highly configurable and great on system resources.
Don't worry, the OpenBox window manager is very easy to install on most Linux distributions. Of course installation instructions are also provided. Many distributions use OpenBox by default, LXDE is just one.
OpenBox OBConf Tool
The OpenBox configuration tool or OBConf can be used to customize many aspects of your desktop. With the OBConf tool you can customize your settings for your themes, keyboard, mouse, windows, and more.
The LXDE desktop offers a single panel at the bottom of the desktop. The panel has a single menu, several useful launchers and tools, and a system notification area. The LXPanel is also easy to configure, you can open your panel preferences from the right-click menu. Here you can find several common options such as panel auto-hiding, panel colors, panel position, and panel size. From here you can also easily add new items to your panel.
LXDE Panel Applets
Applets are used to populate the LXDE panel, graciously several applets have already been provided. The default panel is arranged in a common fashion, applets can me added, removed, and rearranged as you please.
The LXDE menu which lays in the bottom panel can also be configured without too much trouble. The menu comes packaged with the LXDE panel. LXDE uses a simple menu which contains categories for all of you application launchers and much more.
You can alo customize your LXDE main menu, you can add your own launcher, or move items around. You can customize your menus with the convenient graphical user interface, or by editing the coniguration files.
On the LXDE desktop you can usually find the PCManFM file manager which is also built for speed. This is a very effective file manager that, while remaining lightweight, still offers several excellent features. Tabbed directory browsing is available, as well as thumbnails.
The OpenBox window manager also provides multiple virtual desktops or workspaces for users to use. You can add as many workspaces as you want and move windows between them to keep things organised.
Using workspaces you can increase your work productivity by minimising distractions. Just keep your work on one workspace, and other tasks separate. You can then easily switch between workspaces so access your other tasks.
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