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GNOME Panel Management with help from Docky (Tutorial)

When GNOME 3 is officially released next year it will no longer have a bottom panel. The default bottom panel in GNOME 2 can be problematic at times. Some applications compete for the space at the bottom of the screen making buttons difficult to access. In this post I will suggest some solutions, and in fact, demonstrate how you might eliminate the panel all together!

Begin by right clicking on some empty space in the panel. Among the options you will see “Properties“. Clicking on that will reveal several visibility options. Check the boxes next to “Show hide buttons” and also “Arrows on hide buttons“. Return to your desktop. Notice the arrows on each end of the panel. Click on one. Watch the panel slide off to the side.

Once again right click on empty space. This time notice the option “Add to Panel“. You are now offered a long list of Panel Applets. By default the Workspace Switcher and the Trash applets are activated. The remainder of the panel is used as the taskbar. Yes, these applets are certainly useful but they really don’t need to be fixed to a panel, or at least not to the bottom panel.

A dock also serves as a taskbar. Furthermore, you can add docklets to replace panel applets. My next comments will refer to Docky, the dock that I use, but other docks such as the Cairo Dock or the AWN dock may be equally configurable. Instructions for the installation of Docky appear here.

Docky installs with a few default docklets and you can configure it for others. When running as a taskbar, right clicking on an icon will give you the option to pin that app to the dock. Once you have Docky configured to your liking you can return to your GNOME desktop. Right clicking on a panel icon will give you the option to remove it. On my desktop I removed icons for Firefox, email, trash and clock, all of which were now on the dock.

The only remaining bottom panel applet was the Workplace Switcher. I removed this too but not before adding it to the top panel that had gained some free space. With the email, browser, terminal, clock and trash icons now pinned to the dock you probably only need two workspaces. Why two? Sometimes an app will crash freezing your display and leaving your mouse useless. You can go to another workspace with your keyboard.. CTRL+ALT+RIGHT (LEFT) Arrow. Then you can open a terminal and kill the crashed process. Right click on the workspaces applet and reduce their number to two.

This completes our panel customization. All that remains of the bottom panel is a little arrow in the corner. Mine has not been pressed for several days.

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