With the panel on the left or right, you get more visible space for content in portrait orientation, like word processing documents and websites and you don’t have to scroll as much. Ubuntu‘s Unity desktop environment got that right.
If you have a low resolution screen this is even more important. If you only watch films on your computer, then the “traditional” Gnome 2 and Windows layouts work fine. The traditional layouts also make more sense on a “traditional” 4:3 screen since the screen has more space in the height compared to the width than modern wider screens (16:9 or 16:10).
In addition to scrolling less and seeing more content, I also find this layout functional and a bit more beautiful than the «traditional» layout. It is possible to use a more fancy dock like docky or plank in stead of the LX panel that comes with Lubuntu, but then you also need compositing and that makes the machine a bit less energy efficient, even if it looks beautiful, so I prefer to just use LX panel. It is possible to use translucency without compositing and it looks quite nice in my opinion.
The advantages of using Lubuntu with the LXDE desktop environment in stead of standard Ubuntu with Unity is mainly that it is faster, runs better on older hardware, uses less RAM and CPU and GPU cycles, uses less energy (= longer battery life on laptops) and is more tweakable. Even if I like Unity, Lubuntu lures me back time and again and I enjoy using it a lot. At present, I use it on my laptop after a period of Manjaro Gnome. I am probably more of an LTS kind of guy even if I like the idea of a (slow) rolling distro.
I have made a video showing how to tweak LXDE to be more pixel efficient than it is out of the box on Lubuntu. I also change some other aspects of the look and feel more to my liking. The goal is to get something like what you see on the screenshot above. (There is no sound in the video.)
Here is a step by step guide if you didn’t get all of it from the video.
Openbox configuration manager
1. Choose “Lubuntu-small” theme in “Theme” tab
2. Make font sizes 10 in “Appearance” tab
3. Make 4 desktops and name them in “Desktop” tab in Openbox configuration manager
4. Set left margin to 33 in “Margins” tab
Customize look and feel
1. Set icon theme to “Ubuntu-Mono-Light” in “Icon theme” tab
2. Check / set that theme is “Lubuntu-small” in “Window border” tab
3. Check / set font size to 10 in “Title bar tab”
4. Check /set font sizes to 10 in “Misc” tab
5. Choose “Small toolbar icon” as “Toolbar icon size” in “Other” tab
Desktop preferences (right-click desktop)
1. Set font size to 10 for “Font of label text”
2. Deselect “Use desktop as a folder (show icons on it) by path:” in “Advanced” tab
LXpanel (right-click it and choose “Panel settings”)
1. Set “Edge” to “Left” in “Geometri” tab
2. Set height to 100 percent
3. Set width to 32
4. Set Icon size to 30
5. Select “Solid color (with opacity)
6. Click color field and choose a nice light grey and set opacity to 128 and click “OK”
7. Set Size to 7 under Font.
8. Remove everything except “Menu”, “Spacer”, “Volume control”,”System tray” and “Digital clock” in “Panel Applets” tab
9. Move “Digital clock” to before “Volume control” by selecting it and clicking “up”
10. Select “Stretch” for the spacer
11. Add new “Spacer” between “Menu” and “Application launch bar”.
12. Set width of new “Spacer” to 4 pixels by double clicking it.
13. Add programs to “Application launch bar” by double clicking it
(14. Set Tux image as menu icon by double clicking “Menu” in the “Application launch bar” tab and selecting the Tux image in the open dialog.)
A special thanks go to Leszeck Lesner for the Lubuntu screencasts from some years ago that taught me how to tweak Lubuntu! 🙂