Use a Windowsstyle Start button and taskbar

Ubuntu uses a dual-menu system, whereby the Applications, Places and System menus are always visible at the top of the screen, and an application's menus appear below. This isn't the most efficient use of desktop space and you can add a single Windows-like "Start" button to access Ubuntu's software, and off which can be found the Places, System ^ Preferences and System ^ Administration menus.

The following steps explain how to combine the top and bottom panels of Ubuntu into one, to create a similar arrangement to Windows:

1. Start by pruning the top panel of any features that you don't need. This is necessary to save space. For example, Ubuntu activates the Fast User Switcher by default (look for your username at the top right of the screen), even if the system only has one user account. To remove it, right-click it and select Remove from Panel. You might also choose to make the time and date display take up less space— right-click it, select Preferences and uncheck Show the date. Following this you can find the date by hovering the mouse cursor over the time display.

2. Right-click a blank spot on the top panel and select Add to Panel. In the dialog box that appears, look for Show Desktop and click the Add button. Do the same with Window List, Deleted Items and Workspace Switcher. Once done, leave the Add to Panel dialog box open but move to the next step.

3. Right-click anywhere on the Applications Places System menu text and click Remove from Panel. Then return to the Add to Panel dialog box and select Main Menu. Click Add and then close the Add to Panel dialog box. You will now have a Start-like button. Look for the icon—it will be the circular Ubuntu logo.

4. You can now delete the bottom panel. Right-click it and select Delete this Panel. Then click-and-hold on the top panel and drag it down to the bottom of the screen (assuming you want it at the bottom—many people prefer to have it at the top).

5. Now you can move everything on the main panel to where you'd like it to be. To do so, right-click each item and select Move. If Move is greyed-out you'll need to uncheck Lock to Panel. If some icons are locked, you won't be able to move anything past them, so it's a good idea to first ensure everything is not locked. If you'd like to add a dividing line between certain elements on the panel, right-click a blank spot on it, select Add to Panel and, in the dialog that appears, select Separator. This can be handy in order to clearly separate the new Start-like button from its neighbors.

The steps above reproduce a Windows 95-like Start menu, which is vertical, with submenus coming off it. See Figure 3.33, on the next page for an example taken from my test PC. For something closer to the Windows XP/Vista Start menu, complete with separate areas for recently accessed documents and applications, use Synaptic to search for and install gnome-main-menu. Once installed, right-click a blank spot on the panel, click Add to panel, and select the second Main Menu entry in the list (it will have the icon of a monitor, rather than the Ubuntu icon; if it doesn't appear to be in the list, log out and back in again).


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Figure 3.33: Adding a Windows-like start button and panel arrangement (see Tip 209, on page 243)

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