I always want to use things the way they were intended, but it has always grated on me that there are not one, but two panels with controls and everything all over them. Now I understand the logical division of the default panels. The simple menus to the top left in what I would call the Ximian configuration. The ‘system tray’ stuff in the top right. Virtual desktops and running apps along the bottom.
I remembered the usability work Novell did on a new style of menu they developed for the Novell Linux Desktop and went in search of it. I knew it was referred to as the “slab” menu because it’s basically a button that calls up a big slab with your stuff on it. To get it, just install gnome-main-menu. Right click the panel and click “Add to Panel” then find it in the list where it’s labeled “Main Menu”- you want the second item with that name (obviously the slab isn’t Ubuntu’s choice) that has the caption “Default Menu and Application Browser”. Try it. I think it’ll grow on you. I had to alter the panel height to be 28 pixels so the computer icon wouldn’t be clipped.
After installing, I’ve now consolidated everything down to the bottom panel to free up the 24 pixels at the top of the screen. Generally, this will simplify my layout and hopefully let my eyes focus on what I’m working on and not the million system icons.
I was also thrilled to find a mention of the default hotkey that the standard GNOME window manager, Metacity, uses to open the GNOME menus and that when I tried it, it opened the slab. Goodbye mouse-clicks!