Lubuntu is an Ubuntu derivative that uses the LXDE desktop environment. Because LXDE is written in the C programming language and uses the GTK+ 2 toolkit, it offers a breezy performance and a familiar look. Anyone who’s used the Windows operating system should feel right at home in Lubuntu.
But despite its efficient nature, Lubuntu is just as powerful as its parent distribution, Ubuntu. It comes with the Firefox web browser, a collection of office applications, webcam software, and several multimedia applications. Of course, you can make it anything you want—just be careful to use only GTK+ 2 applications to keep the resource requirements low.
Linux Mint is a popular distribution of the Linux operating system that is based on both Ubuntu and Debian, aiming to be a simple-to-use operating system for regular users. Linux Mint is available in several editions, with an edition featuring the Cinnamon desktop being considered standard.
We, however, recommend the Xfce edition, which offers a nice middle-ground between the performance of Lubuntu and the polish and features of Cinnamon or Gnome. Linux Mint’s configuration of Xfce is especially skillfully made, featuring sane defaults in combination with a well-rounded selection of applications and third-party drivers and codecs, provided you choose to install them.
Google’s Chromebooks have proved that there’s a huge market for low-cost machines whose main purpose is to allow their users to access the web, and do so as painlessly as possible. Peppermint Linux OS brings the cloud-centric approach to computing popularized by Chromebooks to the world of Linux.
This Lubuntu derivative also uses LXDE as its desktop environment of choice, but it has replaced many native applications with their cloud alternatives. In stead of GIMP, Peppermint comes with Pixlr; Gmail takes care of email; and time-management is left to Google Calendar.
Who said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Because Puppy Linux can be run from RAM, with current versions generally taking up about 210 MB, it can give a second life even to laptops that remember Windows 98. Because Puppy is built for speed first and foremost, don’t expect it to have the same bells and whistles as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and other big names in Linux desktop.
But just because Puppy is sometimes a little rough around the edges—it’s a puppy, after all—doesn’t mean that it can’t satisfy the needs of beginners and pros alike. In fact, many Linux aficionados use Puppy Linux for file and system rescue, malware cleaning, or general maintenance.
Arch Linux can be as compact and speedy as you want. In fact, some Arch Linux users have replaced all graphical applications with their CLI equivalents to prove to themselves that pretty icons and visual effects are overrated. Needless to say that an operating system without any graphical applications can run on virtually anything, including your old laptop.
With Arch Linux, you have the freedom to create the operating system that best fits your needs, but you should be ready to work for it. The Arch Linux Wiki is your best friend as it explains everything from the installation of the distribution to its configuration.