First let's see what my desktop looks like now
There are two panels and an improvised storage room on the nautilus managed part more concretely:
- Window list
- NetSpeed Applet
- CPU monitor
- Keyboard switcher
- Desktop Switcher
- Application launchers
- Various session related applets - lock screen, log out, shut down
- Notification area
- Some documents, etc. on desktop
I find this layout particuraly useful since most things I am doing repeatedly are available on single click and the rest is two clicks ;-) Also thanks to the timetable on the desktop, figuring out which classes I have today is a matter of few seconds. And finally thanks to the network and cpu monitors I see how much I download/upload and how cpu behaves.
On the flip side this layout takes up a lot of space, the window list gets quickly filled, some of it feels rather duplicated with tray area (you know the 'minimize to tray' funcionality of nowadays's apps). Also the desktop itself feels cluttered and I cannot make the timetable bigger - the current size is as far as nautilus is able to scale.
And here's my (well let's say I rather put together various ideas from various people) solution trying to improve the usability as well as slickness (please note that the folowing image was made in inkscape, so it's not a real screenshot)
Now what has changed... Nautilus is no longer managing the desktop which in turn now serves as place for various widgets. I've put there the timetable in it's desired size (image widget - place an image you'd like on the desktop with desired size) and two monitor wigets - one for CPU and another for network. I can also imagine puting there a weather forecast, calendar, big analog clock, ...
Next thing that changed is that panel is no more. Instead there are two more widgets on the desktop - desktop switcher and dock area. There's not much to describe about the workspace switcher, just that it looks nicer and is not in any panel. More describing is due for the dock. Basically it's a reminiscent of the panel, but it's transparent, 3D-like and I've removed all differences between applets, application launchers, notification/tray area and window list.
The combination of launchers serving also for window list isn't a new idea, I've already seen it implemented in the cairo-dock, though due to frequent crashes I had not much fun with it. But as I said, I'd go even one step farther and merge also the tray icons. The idea behind is that there actually is no difference between those so why should we make one. It also saves a lot of space.
And now how it would work? Let's say I want to launch an audio player. I click on the audio player icon and it starts. The icon buttonises (shown with epiphany launcher) and starts to behave like it now behaves in task list and/or notify area. Right-click will hide (or focus if it is not focused) the window in the icon another right-click will bring it back, left-click will show a menu with the usual commands like play, previous, next, etc.
Now for pure notify icons it would behave slightly different, e.g. right-click on the signal icon (network-manager) will open a menu where you can select networks you'd like to connect to, left-click will open a menu with additional settings, just like it behaves now.
For the applications without their tray icon the launcher starts serving as a button in window list - right-click for minimize/focus, left-click for window menu.
When you'd want to open new window instead of focusing the current one, just hold shift and click the icon, or select new window from the menu that apears when you hoover over it. Windows of the same app would be grouped together and you'd select which one you'd like to choose by selecting one from the menu that appears when you hoover over the icon.
Next thing you can notice on the dock is menu and places. This would be similar to the Applications menu and Places menu, optionally the System menu as well, with the tiny difference that it would open on hoovering instead of mouse click.
This setup would mean that you'd have almost any action available for use on single click.
Final word to say about this is configurability, I think the dock should have an easy way how to manage the applets that are on it, prefereably similar to how you do it now with gnome-panel. The cairo-dock configuration window is a total no-no for me - in the basic view I wasn't able to set-up anything I wanted and in the Advanced view there was so much options that I got lost very quick.