There is a new version of this tutorial available for Xubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr).

The Perfect Desktop - Xubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal)

This tutorial shows how you can set up a Xubuntu 12.10 desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that works even on old hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge. Xubuntu uses the lightweight XFCE desktop environment.

The software I propose as default is the one I found easiest to use and best in their functionality - this won't necessarily be true for your needs, thus you are welcome to try out the applications listed as alternatives.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Xubuntu desktop to have the following software installed:


  • Pinta - open source drawing application modeled after Paint.NET
    • KolourPaint - paint application with elemental functions
    • MyPaint - paint application with a large variety of brushes
  • The GIMP - free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • Shotwell Photo Manager - full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop


  • Firefox
    • Opera
    • Chromium - Google's open-source browser
  • Thunderbird - email and news client
    • Evolution - combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • Deluge - free cross-platform BitTorrent client
    • Transmission BitTorrent Client - Bittorrent client
    • Vuze - Java BitTorrent client
    • qBittorrent - free alternative to µtorrent
  • Marble - desktop globe similar to google earth
    • GoogleEarth - Google's desktop globe
  • Flash Player
  • FileZilla - multithreaded FTP client
  • Pidgin IM Client - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Dropbox Client - cloud storage
  • Gwibber Social Client - open-source microblogging client (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)


  • Adobe Reader
    • Evince - document viewer
    • Okular - document viewer
  • LibreOffice Writer - replacement for Microsoft Word
  • LibreOffice Calc - replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • GnuCash - double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus - open source desktop publishing (DTP) application

Sound & Video:

  • Banshee - audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
    • Amarok - audio player
    • MPlayer - media player (video/audio), supports WMA
    • Rhythmbox Music Player - audio player, similar to Apple's iTunes, with support for iPods
    • gtkPod - software similar to Apple's iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
    • Sound Juicer CD Extractor - CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
    • Nightingale - audio player similar to Winamp, but not yet as feature rich (Songbird fork)
    • XMMS - audio player similar to Winamp
    • Clementine - Amarok 1.4 fork
    • Exaile - audio player
  • VLC Media Player - media player, plays all kinds of videos (video/audio)
    • Totem - media player (video/audio)
    • Xine - media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • Winff - free video converter
    • SoundConverter - free audio converter
    • Soundkonverter - free audio converter
    • XFCA - free video/audio converter and ripper
  • K3B - CD/DVD burning program
    • Brasero - CD/DVD burning program
  • Audacity - free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Kino - free digital video editor
  • dvd::rip - full featured DVD copy program
  • Multimedia Codecs


  • KompoZer - WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
    • Bluefish - text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Eclipse - Extensible Tool Platform and Java IDE


  • VirtualBox OSE - lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don't have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read-/Write support for NTFS partitions
  • gedit - simple text editor

Lots of our desired applications are available in the Ubuntu repositories, and some of these applications have been contributed by the Ubuntu community. Some may also not be in the default repositories and have to be downloaded from the internet or from extra repositories.

The software provided in the above list covers most of the basic tasks one may need to do on their desktop computers, sometimes there are multiple choices for same functionality. If you know which one you like best, you obviously don't need to install and test the other applications, however if you like choice, then of course you can install more than one.

I will use the username falko in this tutorial. Please replace it with your own username.


2 Installing The Base System

The installation of the base system is easy as 1-2-3 because the Xubuntu installer doesn't offer a lot of options to choose from, so you cannot go wrong.

Download the Xubuntu 12.10 iso image from, burn it onto a CD, and boot your computer from it:

Select your language and click on the Install Xubuntu button to start the installation:

On the next screen you see a few requirements for the Xubuntu 12.10 installation (the system should have at least 4.4 GB available drive space and should be connected to the Internet). Please check the Download updates while installing and Install this third-party software (this will install the software necessary to process Flash, MP3, and other media files) checkboxes and click on Continue:

Now we come to the partitioning of our hard disk. Usually Erase disk and install Xubuntu is a good choice, unless you need custom partitions and know what you're doing. Erase disk and install Xubuntu will create one big / partition for us:

Then choose your time zone:

Change the keyboard layout, if necessary:

Type in your real name, your desired username along with a password, and click on Continue:

Afterwards, Xubuntu is being installed. This can take a few minutes, so be patient:

After the installation, you will be asked to reboot the system. Click on Restart Now:

Your new Xubuntu system starts. Log into the desktop with the username and password you provided during the installation:

This is how your new Xubuntu XFCE desktop looks:

Now the base system is ready to be used.

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By: Bonnie Dalzell

Nice introductory article. I have expanded a few points.

Xubuntu presents a traditional computer desktop environment for those of us who do not like the newer style desktops that emulate a cellphone or tablet multi-icon, "no useful menus" desktop.

Xubuntu's desktop, Xfce, is a relatively "light" program so it runs well on older computers (such as my built in 2002 single core Athlon) but the demand that many modern web pages make on your machine may cause a really old computer to have problems when you are trying to access modern feature rich web pages. That is not a problem of the operating system itself but a computational limitation of an elderly computer.

As the author mentioned, you can download a "live" .iso file and burn it to a CD and run Xubuntu from the CD alone until you decide if you want to commit to putting it on your machine. You can also install it as a dual boot with Windows although that is a bit tricky to do the first time so make sure you read up on how to do it.

Also Canonical, the Ubuntu/Xubuntu/Edubuntu/Lubuntu, etc, parent company releases its updates in two formats - Long Term Support and cutting edge releases.

Quantal Quetzal 12.10, until April 2014 is a short term support release

Precise Pangolin 12.04 LTS, until April 2015 is the current long term support release.

I would suggest getting Precise Pangolin Long Term Support initially until the next long term release candidate comes out. The long term releases are numbered with the .04  Here is a link:

page down to the Precise download link on this page.

As with almost all operating systems, when upgrading to a later release it is a good idea to carefully read the upgrade directions and make sure you have backed up important files. This precaution is not needed for your basic day to day updating of programs from the notification icon even though its message says "upgrading system".

I would strongly recommend WINE which allows MANY windows programs to be run directly in Xubuntu without having to fool around with a virtual machine such as VirtualBox. Since I started using Linux WINE and its commercial (although inexpensive cousin CrossOver) have been greatly improved and recently the majority of the Windows programs I have needed to run have run under WINE or Crossover.

Also the file manager, gnome-commander, which is a two pane file manager with the ability to link to remote accounts is very useful. 

It should be mentioned under Programming that Xubuntu, as with most Linux installs,  comes with perl, python, php and a number of other programming languages already installed. In addition adding new programs either through the Ubuntu Software Center or via the Synaptic Package Manager is very easy and since the programs are coming from a secure archive you do not have to worry about introducing malware or about the complex installation methods that used to be characteristic of Linux installations.

There is even a automatic "notification of updates" icon that is part of the install.

I have been running one version or another of Linux since 2000 and I have yet to have any problems with malware appearing on my Linux computer although I have had to go and help rescue my roommate's windows computer at least two times in the last 3 years.

If you decide to venture into Linux the major distributions maintain forums (for Ubuntu see: and its relatives such as Xubuntu: ) and there are a great many on line local Linux Users Groups (such as NOVALug in my area) which are excellent communities for support.

Some other useful tools available through the Program Manager to have:

GParted for disk partitioning

FSLint - for searching out duplicate files. Very useful because it does not search on file name but on other characteristics of the file.

Screenshot - takes a picture of your screen. I find it useful for recording receipts in a more compact for than as a saved web page.

Sensor Viewer - keeps track of the temperature of your harddive, video card, etc.