Gnome is the most popular Linux desktop environment and one of it's key features that makes it so wonderful is the "gnome panel". For those unfamiliar the "gnome panel" is the bar that is typically located at the bottom (and top sometimes) of the screen where your menu, task-bar, and icon tray are located. If you have never done it, try right clicking on some blank space and click "add to panel". You will be presented with a list of applets you can add to the panel. While there are a good number to choose from by default, there are piles of other applets you can find online to install. The following is a list of my four favorites I use on my various Linux systems around my house.
Namebar allows you to optimize screen space when you maximize an application by moving the title bar and minimize/maximize/close buttons onto the gnome panel. Download the Namebar in .deb form from here. Also note that you will need to make a small edit to your compiz settings to have it properly remove the gtk bar when maximized.
Global Menu -
Global Menu is another great way to save screen space (with GTK applications). It does this by moving the file/edit/ect part of the menu to the gnome panel (similar to the OSX menu). You can install global menu with .deb files you can find here. Global menu does only work for GTK applications however, so KDE apps, Firefox, and OpenOffice will not function with it as of yet.
DockBarX is designed to replace your normal task that displays your loaded applications. Instead of displaying the application's name, it simply shows the program's image icon (similar to a dock or the Windows 7 task bar). Hovering the mouse over a loaded application gives a window preview of the application:
You also have the option of "pinning" a loaded application to DockBarX so you can quickly load it later on:
To install DockBarX run the following in terminal -
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:dockbar-main/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install dockbarx dockbarx-themes-extra
I saved my favorite for last! One of the things I mentioned about Zorin and Linux Mint is their main menu, Ubuntu's default "custom menu" feels bland and looks a bit dated. Gnomenu is not only flexible and customizable but has several great looks to choose from:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnomenu-team/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gnomenu
After installing any of these applets simply right click on blank space on one of your gnome panel and select "add to panel" and find it in the list. All of these applets are also decently customizable, right click on the applet and "select" properties and poke around a bit.
Anyone else know of fun/useful Gnome Panel applets that are not included by default in most distros? If so, let me know by dropping a comment below.