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Review: Linux Lite 4.0

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I think some people might, upon glancing at Linux Lite's description, pass it off as just another one of the many Ubuntu derivatives. After all, one may wonder what separates Linux Lite from another flavour of Ubuntu running the Xfce desktop, such as Xubuntu.

While Lite does share a lot in common with other members of the Ubuntu family, the project has a lot of little features and special tweaks which left me impressed this week. The distribution includes a very nice and detailed help manual that is easy to navigate and provides a lot of useful information. The manual not only explains how we can do things, but also offers some alternatives and trouble-shooting tips, which I think new users will appreciate. Lite is also very easy to install, it can be set up by basically clicking "Next" a bunch of times in the Ubiquity installer.

While I ran into a few limitations while using Timeshift, I think the idea behind including it is good. I would like to see Timeshift run at a lower priority and offer a way to save snapshots on a remote computer, but otherwise the technology is off to a good start. I'd love to see Lite take Timeshift a step further and integrate it with boot environments.

Mostly though what impressed me with Lite was a combination of the performance and the visual style. Lite is one of the faster, smoother, more responsive distributions I have used this year. I also liked that there was a minimal amount of visual effects, but a maximum amount of detailed, colourful icons, high contrast buttons and fonts I could read without a trip to the settings panel. I get frustrated with minimal, stick-figure icons and buttons that are indistinguishable from labels. Lite looks nice. Not in a flashy way, but in a clear, easy to read, pleasant to navigate way.

As an example of Lite's visual style, I have used Xfce a lot recently. I run it on one computer or another almost every day. And, on an intellectual level, I knew it was possible to adjust the size and dimensions of the Xfce Whisker application menu. But I'd never thought to do it because on every other distribution I have used the menu's resize button is so muted and low-contrast I'd never noticed it before. But on Lite, the resize button stands out and I clicked and dragged the menu to the size I wanted without even thinking about it. This is a very little feature, but one I had never noticed on other distributions, even though it was always there. In my opinion, all of Lite is like that: offering well defined controls that are clear about what they do.

Lite's value, in my opinion, is not in any one big feature or unique offering, but in the way Lite polishes many little things which make it so much more pleasant to use day-to-day than most other distributions. Lite is an operating system I can use consistently without thinking about it, without distractions, without hiccups and without searching for features I suspect are there, but are tucked away. I've used some powerful distributions this year, and some with really neat, unique features; but probably not any that have offered such a smooth experience as I've had this week. That's why the next friend who asks me to come over and fix their messed up laptop is going to get a fresh copy of Linux Lite.

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