New Ubuntu and new GNOME fast user switch applet.

I like that new fusa applet, because they implemented something I had wished for a long time – you now can tell with one applet what you current status is and it tells that different applications like pidgin and empathy. Like the clock applet that now also shows weather information this allows the user to have less applets on his panel. This is exactly the right direction.

But I am still missing this: Rather than still adding different applets I like to configure my panel. It should have some standard elements that cant be damaged. Right now it happens to me and many many users that the destroy their panel and either NEVER find back (end of GNOME usage!!) or with extreme efforts. my suggestion would be to have a new panel which has less possibilities. So it has some standard setup that cant be destroyed. Then let there be the old panel for all those who desperately need all kind of applets. I usually dont.

I need this:

  1. most importantly under no circumstances should I be able to destroy my panel accidently
  2. I like the standard elements like the three main menu entries, the clock, user switching and the message field.
  3. I also like to be able to add some quick application starters. But I would suggest that you do not put them directly on the panel but rather they are hidden and you get icons if you move over a special part of the panel. This might by standard be just the applications the user used last – or if people drop icons on that field primarily it might be those that were dropped. I would give this field a special look and name. It might even be extandable to also collect text clips or image clips – so generally .
  4. The panel should only have these menu entries: “Configure panel …”, “Help”, “Info”. Then what appears should be a panel setup tool where you could configure the panel like you have different tabs where you could enable and disable some displays – but generally discourage people dropping random applets onto this panel.

Why all that? Because panel space is very limitted and with more and more functionalities the panels are getting overcrowded and unusable. Messaging should also be better organized – like you have some inboxes from different senders and those can be either applications or people from an instant messenger. So what is bad is that you have Skype, Empathy, Ekiga, Pidgin,… that all have a status icon in the message area. And also it is bad to have every user organized differently in every application. I am not a coder but wont it be much  better if applications also like system updaters send messages via jabber to a user? And that the desktop will have a minimal jabber server running – and then the user could also set forwards of messages. So if I get a phone call on Ekiga on my notebook I should be able to answer it on another desktop with another SIP application maybe. I think identification of ressources and messaging between appliations and users will become extremely important. Especially because the user has a limitted possibility to understand the messages. It should be the task of the desktop to organize information well and not to flood the user with messages and informations.

So on the one hand under the hood the messaging needs to be intelligent and then I like to see the third generation panel. The panel really is one of the elements in GNOME that has not changed a lot – meaning you still can destroy it easily and only things that have changed are applets that added additional informations. But I think the applet idea was not good. Because you can add endless applets. I have also seen on the MacosX that people put their “panels” or how they call it to the left or right and put something like 30 icons with small sizes on it. That shows that this drag&drop editing approach has a natural end. Nobody can really say that this is easy to handle. Like you then have all those icons but on a fresh installation, even if you would have all the software installed a user would need maybe days to regenerate his panel setup.

I think the panel needs some major overhaul similar to the one that Epiphany got after Galeon some years ago. That means remove all the clutter and give the user less options – but make everything more easy and structured an dependable.

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