Tag Archives: panel

In need of a major new GNOME panel

I suggest that people start working on an alternative GNOME panel now. I have seen some suggestions on a GNOME wiki page, but I think most directions are very wrong. Like what you see here:

Essentially these are imitations of the fancy Mac panel. But I think that the Max panel does not give us anything cool as well as the things AWN an Kiba dock do. Look at this video: At one point it shows how to play volleyball with the icons. How stupid is that? I mean cool. Or better: I don’t care!

First of all I still do like the text menus, because you can access a lot of applications and settings without going through a lot of folders and sub folders. But I have some major problems with the panel:

  1. You can fix the position of a panel. but when I plugin in my digital projector the panel moves to the other display (on the right). How can this be called a fixed position?
  2. When the size of the panel changes the position of the fixed icons changes too. I have to resortmany icons after I have dettached my projector display. How fixed are thise positions, then?
  3. So it is impossible to configure one monitor display to show exactly the same things on each occasion. This comes from all the dynamic configuration. At least thats true for Ubuntu. Its like you always plug in a new display which you have never attached before and also like it would make any sense that the panel should never be on the main  display but always on the external display.
  4. You can also not configure to have a second panel which is bound to one display

These are only some of my new points. Here is what I desperately need:

  1. A panel which is much less customizable and dynamic. Because everything that can change results in random results or I have configure or reconfigure the panel. From my view the panel never moved to the point of the rest of GNOME. You can do nearly everything with the panel which does not make any sense.
  2. I suggest that new work goes to a new panel which can be a replacement of the old panel. Maybe one can reuse some of the old code but the essentials should be very different.
  3. I think one very important thing is that screen/display configuration and the panel should be one thing.
  4. Have the ability that the screens (1-4 or so) can be linked to specific displays, so lets say if I have two screens one is the major screen of my notebook (screen 1 on the left) – and the other screen has a different screen size (screen 2 on the right) and is configured for my projector display (which is a 16:9)
  5. If I attach a display and configure the contents, the panel, etc. these settings should be saved for this screen and display so that I get these back once I plugin in that display again. The content (desktop icons) of a display could also be available if this display is detached. Then screen 2 should be reconfigured to a single screen mode.
  6. Essentially if you want to give a presentation you will want perfect control of what the presentation screen looks like and what appears there. If you never know what happens a GNOME desktop can not be used for such a purpose. The frustrating thing is that things rather seem to get worse. I really think about switching Linux distribution because the dynamic screen configuration is really awful. I remember Fedora had a “system-config-display” which worked more relliable. I still dont know why this is not used upstream. Maybe some people think that this dynamic thing is actually good. Maybe it would be if it would work – but till then please keep this as an experimental feature in SVN and do not put it on Ubuntu LTS! grrr. sorry I had to go through a lot of troubles and still do because of this thing.
  7. I would dump all current panel applets because most of them are useless. Instead I would suggest to give a panel some functions like displaying time and weather. Or maybe for advanced users allow them to put a content on the panel which they can insert from script output. Like if I put on the hardware sensor monitor applet I get 10 or more icons on my panel and then have to find out which is the right important temperature. Instead of an applet a user should have a setting where he can enable the display of a temperature and hopefully GNOME can show the right one or give the user the opportunity to to enable the right sensor.
  8. Then there should be an area where the panel displays the icons of the most used user applications. Maybe allow the user to say which applications should never appear. But this would give the user a perfect access to the most used apps without forcing him to put them there. Why should he?
  9. As stated before I think it would be most intelligent if the panel itself is the interface to configure display. So when you add a new screen/display you can choose which panel you want (like no panel, copy major display panel, standard clean panel,…) And maybe have the ability to close/remove a screen with a closing the panel like you do it with tabs in browsers.
  10. I also think organizing screens and applications via the panel should be more intelligent. The tabbed window managers (wmii,dwm,…) invented the ability to group applications – so lets say you can configure a graphic screen and gimp, inkscape, blender,… all open on this one – or you have a mail screen where you work with email. Those screen layouts or definitions could be saved, so that you may have a more general notebook screen but if you go to work and attach your notebook to a large LCD display graphical applications will appear there. Today its rather primitive like you have screens 1-4 and have to move an application there manually on each occasion. Also handling screens should be easy like handling tabulators on a browser. Maybe in the future you may even be able to drag and drop a screen to a remote computer and then the other computer can work or see what you are working on or you can share a screen.

So I think most that is discussed so far on GNOME is nothing more that re-engineering of what Apple did and maybe spice it up a little. Only interesting page on the wiki that I saw was that about GroupBasedWindowManagement. I a pessimistic about GNOME or KDE being more creative in the future. Unfortunately the tabbed window managers still have problems with many applications and often still require some manual configuration. I really think maybe soem new project should try to do things better without repeating past mistakes. Like have less dependencies, so that operating systems like OpenBSD will also follow the development.

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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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