How to Make Lubuntu Look Like Windows XP
Migrating longtime Windows XP users to a Linux operating system like Lubuntu can generate a lot of fear of the unknown. Making the new OS look as much as possible like the old one may be one way to alleviate fear, and help users get up to speed faster.
When Microsoft dropped support of Windows XP, our church made the decision to switch to Lubuntu Linux as the operating system (OS) for our computers.
We chose Lubuntu because its “look and feel” are close enough to Windows XP that our volunteer staff would have a relatively easy adjustment to the new OS. In fact, our goal was that when the changeover was made, our users would hardly notice the difference.
With that objective in mind, I was intrigued when I learned that it is possible to set up Lubuntu so that it looks to a casual user very much like WinXP.
That’s possible because the entire Linux family of operating systems, of which Lubuntu is a member, allows great flexibility in making the user interface look pretty much any way you want. This is done through the use of “themes” that define what users see and how they interact with the system, while preserving all the underlying functionality of the OS.
Video: Introducing Lubuntu
The Need for Step-By-Step Instructions
I decided to try out one of the XP-like themes that can be found on the web. In doing so, I was immediately hit with one of the major problems we Windows refugees often face when trying to get up to speed with any of the various Linux distributions. The instructions provided on how to install an app often assume a familiarity with Linux we don’t have, and are therefore woefully inadequate for someone who’s entire experience has been with Windows.
It took a lot of research and a lot of hours for me to figure out how to do what a Linux vet could probably do in minutes. For that reason, I wanted to provide a step-by-step procedure for installing an XP theme.
Do you think making Lubuntu look like XP is worth the effort?
The first step, of course, is to install Lubuntu if you haven't already done so. As a veteran Windows user who wasn’t at all familiar with the Linux environment, I found that the easiest way to get Lubuntu onto my computer was to install it using Wubi – the Windows Ubuntu Installer. For information on how to do that, see:
Wubi works well with Lubuntu 12.04, which was the version I used. If you’d like to install the latest version of Lubuntu, you can find download information at lubuntu.net.
NOTE: Once you've installed Lubuntu, I recommend that before making a change to any parameter you make a record of the original value. That will allow you to easily backtrack if you want to restore the original Lubuntu theme. One easy way to copy the original value is to simply hit the Prnt Scrn (Print Screen) key before making any change. That will place a screen image of the original value in your /home/userID/ folder.
Downloading the Windows XP Theme
To download the XP theme I used, click here.
The following steps are all performed under Lubuntu. Note that “userID” refers to your Lubuntu login ID.
When the download is finished, a file named 162880-XPTheme.zip should have been added to your /home/userID/Downloads folder
- Click on the File Manager icon.
- When File Manager opens, use the left-side pane of the window to navigate to your /home/userID/Downloads/ folder.
Installing the XP Theme
The zip file must be extracted to your /home/userID/.themes/ folder.
- Double click on 162880-XPTheme.zip to open an extraction window.
- Click on the Extract icon.
- In the Extract window, click on the pencil icon at the upper left to bring up the Location field. Type /home/userID/.themes/ in the Location field.
(Note that it’s /home/userID/[dot]themes).
- Now click the Extract button at the lower right to extract the theme into your .themes folder
Inserting the XP Theme
Now you have to insert the new theme as the operative one.
- Go to “Start button → Preferences → Customize Look And Feel → Widget tab”.
- You should now see entries for XP Blue, XP Olive, and XP Silver. Click on each one and look at the Preview pane at the right to decide which you like best.
- Once you’ve decided which version of the XP theme you want to use, click Apply.
- Click on the Window Border tab and select the XP theme you've chosen. Now click on Apply, and then close the window.
Set the XP Desktop Background Wallpaper
Now, we’ll put the famous XP background (called “Bliss”) in place.
- Click the Desktop Icon to reduce all open windows to icons on the Task bar and show the desktop.
- Right click anywhere on the desktop and select Desktop Preferences
- Now click in the Wallpaper field. That takes you to the “Please select an image file” window.
- Next, you must navigate to your /home/userID/.themes/ folder. Look under Places at the left of the window, and click on your user ID.
- Scroll down until you find your .themes folder. Note: If you don’t immediately see the .themes folder, you may need to press Ctrl-H to show hidden folders.
- Double-click on the .themes folder to open it.
- Select xpbg.jpg. Notice that at the right side of the window a preview of the selected background appears.
- Now, when you click Open your XP desktop background should magically appear!
Setting Up the Task Bar
We’re almost there! All that remains is to apply our XP theme to the task bar at the bottom of the desktop, and change the appearance of the Start Button.
- Right click on an empty space in the bottom panel (the task bar). Select Panel Settings, then the Appearance tab.
- On the Appearance window, select System theme, then Close.
Now the task bar should show the colors of your XP theme.
Next, let’s change the look of the Start Button. You can choose between two versions:
- Right click on the Start Button and select “Menu” Settings.
- You can either type in the path to the .themes folder and enter the file name of the version of the Start Button you chose, or click on Browse to navigate to the .themes folder and select either xpstart.png or xp2start.png.
- When you close the Menu window, your XP Start Button will appear on the task bar.
Choose an Icon Set
Here’s our final step: selecting the set of icons we want to represent files, folders, etc.
- Bring up the “Customize Look and Feel” window once again
(Start → Preferences → Customize Look and Feel).
Select the Icon Theme tab.
- Click on any of the icon themes shown in the left pane. You’ll see how it will look in the right hand pane. Choose the one you want for the final touch of your XP look. I chose Humanity-Dark.
And finally, here it is: your Lubuntu theme that looks just like (close, anyway) Windows XP!
A Final Word
Whether or not we ultimately decide to install the XP theme on all our church's computers, this has been a good project for me. I've learned a little more about how to function in Lubuntu, and my own comfort level has risen. If you are contemplating migrating from Windows XP to Lubuntu or any other flavor of Linux, a small project like this one might be a worthwhile exercise.
For further information, please see:
You can see the author's description of the XP theme here.
© 2014 Ronald E Franklin