Exploring desktop environments (DE) continues with LXQt. Interestingly, LXQt, using Qt, is a port of LXDE, using GTK. Similar to how this personal journey began, the developers were unhappy with GTK3 and hence the port.

LXQt development is active but there does not seem to be a current road map. The DE is lightweight with relatively few packages. The current design seems to focus only on the environment rather than a kitchen sink full of software tools. LXQt provides the following native tools:

  • LXQt-archiver - Archive Manager
  • LXQt-runner - Application launcher and math calculator
  • Lximage-qt - Image Viewer
  • PCManFM-qt - File Manager
  • QTerminal - Terminal Emulator
  • Qps - Process Viewer
  • Screengrab - Screen Capturer

Browsing the online discussions indicate some desire to rename some of the tools with less complex names.

There is a reddit community forum for users.

LXQt is window manager “agnostic” and does not provide a window manager. Users must select which window manager to use. Presumably this approach reduces development overhead. The chosen window manager controls much about how the desktop looks and functions.

On first launch a dialog appears requesting the user select a window manager. This is not a friendly dialog because the user needs to know the file name of the window managers as they appear in /usr/bin. The dialog should populate the selection list with locally installed window managers. Likewise once the desktop is installed, the configuration tools offer no help with selecting window manager candidates. There is a /usr/share/lxqt/windowmanagers.conf file that seems to support user friendly selections. Perhaps the option was not compiled or installed correctly here.

The file manager is a cornerstone of computer usage. The PcManFm-qt file manager seems like a capable tool. The file manager inherits some features from previous days in GTK, such as the Location bar bread crumb file path. Unlike some GTK file managers, the Location bar can be configured or toggled into an editable text box. There are different ways to select the user’s Home directory but there is no Home button in the toolbar. Bookmarks are supported and the tool seems to automatically recognize the user’s .gtk-bookmarks file. The tab bar can be configured to be persistent. Multiple tabs can be opened using the menu, keyboard shortcut, or a double-click on the tab bar. A respective “new tab” button is available in the toolbar rather than the tab bar. The file manager supports list view in the file pane but not an expandable tree view. Not as convenient but tree view is available in the side pane. Mouse wheel cycling in the tab bar cannot be disabled. There does not seem to be a way to configure the toolbar.

For many people another cornerstone of Linux systems is a terminal window. QTerminal is a functional terminal window. A welcomed feature is bookmarks — supported in a side pane, but a Bookmarks menu would be less intrusive. Unlike the file manager, the bookmarks feature does not automatically populate user bookmarks. Like the file manager, mouse wheel cycling in the tab bar cannot be disabled.

The desktop panel supports several features and widgets. The task bar supports disabling mouse wheel cycling but the work space pager/switcher widget does not. The panel menu is a traditional simple menu and contains a search text box. There are no menu items for favorites or recently used items. Some text file wizardry could resolve that. There do not seem to be any widgets to add a logout button on the panel. Currently logging out is done through the panel menu. While a simple menu is acceptable, likely many users these days expect a tad more.

The panel menu does not have a Run option to launch the Runner. The only way to launch software without the menu is with the traditional Alt+F2 keyboard shortcut to launch the Runner. The menu supports a search text box that probably suffices for the lack of a Run option. Logging out is possible with the Runner but requires switching from the keyboard to using the mouse to access the pull-down menu.

Part of the desktop configuration is about the window manager — icons, decorations, and themes. There are no fancy animations and glitter except what the underlying window manager supports. The desktop is snappy with the default Openbox window manager, but the Openbox window manager does not behave well. Although windows were configured here to open centered on the desktop this did not always happen. There are related discussions online, but the problem seems to never have been resolved. Switching to the Xfce xfwm4 or the kwin_x11 window managers did not have this problem.

Initially no task switcher appeared when pressing the standard Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut with the kwin_x11 window manager. That feature reappeared when using the Openbox and Xfce window managers. Perhaps something was incorrectly configured here.

There is no native clipboard manager.

The image viewer seems designed to do only one thing and one thing well. Initially the tool used the Qt file picker. Later in the testing the native LXQt file picker dialog appeared. Perhaps too much fiddling caused the quirk. Unlike the file manager, the Qt file picker is not automatically populated with bookmarks. The Qt file picker can be populated with bookmarks using drag-and-drop or directly editing shortcuts= in $HOME/.config/QtProject.conf, but the bookmarks are not formatted in a friendly way.

A golden discovery is using the LXQt file picker dialog with supported GTK3 apps. This trick is accomplished through the XDG xdg-desktop-portal front end service. After testing this feature giggling and happy feet were heard for some time. There are some decent GTK software tools, but the GTK file picker is an abomination. Using the LXQt file picker will help with making some GTK3 tools more productive.

This portal is not available to GTK2 apps, but the GTK2 file picker is a hair more tolerable than in GTK3. Using a GTK3 package rather than GTK2 package might be unfavorable. For example, Meld is a user interface nightmare with GTK3. Using the GTK2 version of Meld provokes less stress although incapable of benefiting from the LXQt file picker.

Config files are stored orderly in $HOME/.config/lxqt, $HOME/.config/pcmanfm-qt, or $HOME/.config/qterminal.org.

LXQt is a step up from a plain window manager environment to break away from GTK. Yet this approach requires effort to find a palatable window manager and software tools. The limited package set is a reasonable foundation if the goal is to only provide a basic DE. Seems the design is for LXQt to serve as a base for users to build their own DE. For consistency many users will prefer Qt based software. A lengthy list of Qt software is available online. Another list is found here.

Unknown is stability. A version number of 1.2 should imply above average stability. Yet LXQt stopped functioning here after installing KDE packages to prepare for additional desktop testing.

Whether the cause is PEBKAC or some conflict with KDE packages remains unknown without further testing. Initially this seemed like a conflict in packages or with the way the packages were compiled in Slackware. Recompiling, removing and reinstalling packages, deleting user config files all did not help. Turns out LXQt was functioning just fine — albeit everything had defaulted to the color black. “Blind” clicking on the panel and desktop to show popup menus slowly allowed configuring. Strange behavior.

LXQt could have some appeal here in the house network to avoid GTK. Possibly after a skeleton collection of LXQt config files are fine-tuned to avoid the strange pseudo black screen of death, testing LXQt on some of the vintage computers might be tempting. There do not seem to be any LXQt minimum system requirements posted anywhere, but LXQt requires cmake 3.1.0 or newer and Qt5 5.15 or newer. Both packages are far newer than what is offered in Slackware 14.1 running on the vintage systems. Even if getting that far, more testing with other window managers is needed, especially when vintage computers have far less RAM than modern computers. Important to testing on the vintage systems is compiling 32-bit packages.

Paper cuts somewhat dampen that appeal. A desktop environment should provide a built-in clipboard and the opening dialog to select a window manager might need attention. Options are needed to disable mouse wheel cycling. A traditional simple menu is adequate, but many people today often expect inline support for a Run option, favorites, and recently used files. Configurable panel options to quickly end a session would help as well as configuring the file manager toolbar.

Important is the challenge of finding useful software. While there are many Qt tools to create a more full DE, the mixture of the LXQt and Qt file picker dialogs creates an inconsistent experience.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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