Vertical panel in GNOME
UPDATE 2009-09-06: Read the follow-up post
I've been playing with various desktop GNU/Linux distributions last couple of months. I'm not exactly a newbie to Linux, I have been administering a VPS box for a hobby project for several years now, but I never managed to play with it on a desktop.
So I did. And I must say I'm very impressed. Last time I checked (FreeBSD 4 back in 2000), FLOSS desktop was mostly a geek toy, these days it is ready for the average user.
I will spare the overview of the distros that I tried, as well as my take on the KDE vs. GNOME flame war for another post, here I want to talk about one particular annoyance that I really want to see fixed.
You see, these days it's hard not to have a wide-screen monitor sitting on your desktop. They are great for watching films and playing games but this comes at a cost -- you end up with fewer vertical pixels.
Vertical space is much more important for most other tasks I do on the computer, be it browsing the web, coding or writing blog posts. And the only way to maximise it is to move the everlasting task bar sitting on the bottom of most operating systems to the left or right of the screen.
This is how it looks like in Vista and KDE. I know it takes some getting used to, but it's worth a few days of slight disorientation. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.
The vertical layout works great in XP, Vista and KDE, but not in GNOME. I want to list here all open issues along with the links to the GNOME bug database. I guess we have all these issues because not many GNOME developers are using the vertical layout, or even aware of the benefits it can give them. I hope this post will help it, even if only a little bit.
Window List: The list of open windows is arguably the most important piece of information sitting on the panel. And the most terribly behaving in vertical layout.
First of all, the height of the window list applet is fixed, meaning the list doesn't occupy all available vertical space.
Second, the height of the buttons that represent the open windows, stretches to fill the entire applet. The buttons should have a fixed height that depends on the font used in the buttons.
Third, after you open a few windows, the list splits to two columns and becomes irresponsible to mouse clicks. This is the most annoying bug of the three.
These issues are documented in bug 86382 that was open back in 2002! The bug has a patch, but it looks like it's not perfect either.
Notificatioin Area: In vertical layout the notification area wastes a lot of space by placing one icon in a row. It also uses different sizes for different icons, some are really huge, e.g. 128x128. It should instead use a flow layout for icons and use the same size for all of them. This is described in bug 531371.
Quick Launch: The quick-lounge applet had a bug that made it nearly impossible to use on a vertical panel (see bug 531358). It's fixed now in the trunk, hopefully it will be integrated into the next GNOME release.
There are other related annoyances (see bug 428943 and Ubuntu idea #1906) but I can live with them if the above issues are resolved.