Linux Lite is another distro from Down Under. This time from New Zealand. It has always focused on two things: One: As the name suggests, being very light and thus suitable for older hardware. Two: Being beginner friendly with the aim of getting users to switch over from Windows. From reading through forums and comments on various channels it seems they have been successful and the latest version number: 5.0 is a testimony to that.
Linux Lite is based on Ubuntu LTS and although it doesn’t specifically mention 20.04 I suspect that would be the actual version since 5.0 was released on June 1st. I used the torrent option for download and it completed the 1.4GB download in no time. This is always a good sign of popularity. I like how they added a Download Tip option so users can “tip” the developers for their hard work. Somehow this feels more adequate than a donation. I mean, you tip someone for a job well done and you donate for a good cause, right? Nice one Linux Lite!
I am always a bit apprehensive when seeing “light” and “user friendly” in the same sentence because more often than not they cancel each other out. Let’s see if the developers succeeded with their ambitious goal.
I fired-up the ISO in a virtual box. The boot process was quick. It finishes loading with a jingle and we are greeted with a very traditional desktop and a Welcome app. Welcome apps are getting quite popular and are really essential for distros trying to get Windows users comfy. It gets us started with things like updating the system and installing additional drivers & languages and toggle between light and dark themes. There are also several important links, including one to the excellent manual. The manual opens up in Firefox and covers pretty much anything a novice user could be looking for.
The XCFE desktop is fully traditional with the task bar at the bottom, system tray on the right and and the menu on the left hand side. The menu is very well laid out and includes descriptions for every item. Desktop icons are also activated by default, showing files, the trash can, a link to the user manual, and a link to the control panel. Inserted media also show up automatically on the desktop. All these little details do make things easier and more transparent for a new user. The visual experience is more cluttered as a consequence but that can be tweaked once the user gets more comfortable with the system.
I was surprised, however, with the memory usage. I fired up htop right after booting up and got:
- RAM: 842 MB
- Tasks: 81
- Threads: 163
Once I closed the welcome app, RAM usage went down to 782 MB. That start-up jingle probably used a few megs as well. Being XFCE, I was expecting something in the region of 500 MB. It is still by no means a heavy system but it does put it in the same area as Cinnamon powered desktops that offer a bit more visual polish.
Linux Lite 5.0 comes with a well rounded selection of pre-installed applications. Under Office, they went for LibreOffice and I am happy to see they only chose to include Writer, Calc and Impress. There is also the usual document viewer. Under Graphics we get Gimp for picture editing and Shotwell for organizing and viewing photos. Included is also the simple GNOME-Paint app. Under Internet we find the Firefox browser and the email client Thunderbird. Multimedia playback is handled by the ever so popular cross platform VLC.
In order to install additional software we have the option to use the Synaptic Package Manager that is in no way newbie friendly or the in-house developed beginner friendly “Lite Software” app. It is found under System Settings and once launched it first offers to update the system and then asks whether the user wishes to install or remove software. It offers a curated selection of apps like Skype, Spotify, Steam, Dropbox and Chrome. Wine is also included so that some Windows applications could be installed as well. A good selection overall but a very limited one. Thankfully, the manual does a good job explaining how to use the Synaptic Package Manager. Still, I feel a more comprehensive and visually pleasing app store would have added value to the distro.
There are several “Lite” in-house developed apps found under Settings. Other than the “Lite Software” app mentioned above, I found “Lite Tweaks” to be quite noteworthy. It’s basically a set of scripts that offer to run a large variety of tweaks on a system level like free-up memory, add kernels or enable TLP to improve battery life. All tweaks are identified as being either completely safe to execute or that caution should be used. I think it’s a great way to introduce more advanced aspects of the system to newbies. Well done!
As already mentioned, the overall look and feel is very traditional. The developers went with the “Adapta” theme and “Papirus” icon set. The overall appearance is a combination of black, blue and grey. There is a small selection of options to change the look in the settings app, including Ubuntu’s old “Humanity” icon set. This always brings back good old memories. There is also a selection of wallpapers but not many featuring the distro’s feather logo. I tried moving the panel to the left but it didn’t look quite right.
Although a bit more resource hungry than expected, the system felt very responsive during my testing in a virtual box. I liked how they grouped together all the system settings in a “Control Panel” and pinned it to the desktop. This makes XFCE less daunting. The included manual, welcome app and online forums combine to make this system truly beginner friendly. The road map shows that this version will be actively developed and fully supported until about April 2022, basically following Ubuntu’s LTS cycle. So, if all of the above has intrigued you, now would be a great time to start with Linux Lite.
If you have already tried Linux Lite and would like to share your experience, please write us a few lines in the comments section below!