Applets Galore: Back to the Panel!
Sounds a lot like the title for a new Hollywood blockbuster, doesn't it?
Applets are, as you might have gathered from the name, small applications. You'll find a few of them embedded in the panel at the top and bottom of your graphical desktop. These little programs are engineered to fit nicely into your panel and window list, while still providing useful functionality. The window list is just one of many applications embedded in that panel. Other embedded applications include the workspace switcher, the menu, the clock, and even the notification area (sometimes called the system tray).
Although we could work with either (or both) of the GNOME panels, I'm going to concentrate on the bottom one for now.
The default look and size of the bottom panel is roughly 24 pixels by default. Depending on the nature of the program, applets embedded in a panel of this size tend to be a little hard to look at. Luckily, this is easily resolved by changing the size of the panel as described earlier in this chapter. To make some of these applets useful, you will most likely want to increase the default panel size. In my experience, and on my monitor, 48 pixels is pretty much ideal.
Now that you've prepped your panel, it's time to find and add some of those applets. Right-click the panel and a small menu appears. Click Add to Panel and a list of all the available applets appears (see Figure 5-16). This list may be one single list with a short description of the applet in question, or it may be organized into categories. Scroll down and find something you like, then click the Add button. For my first applet, I chose the one labeled Fish, an animated swimming fish that pops up random bits of cleverness using the fortune (or fortune cookie) command. And, yes, the fish's name is Wanda. And, no, I did not make this up.
Figure 5-16 Adding an applet to the GNOME panel.
In a few seconds, your applet appears in the panel. When an applet starts, it rarely starts in the position I want. Luckily, moving it is an easy process. Simply right-click the applet and a small menu appears (see Figure 5-17). One of the options is Move. Click here and a small hand icon appears that allows you to drag the applet to wherever you want it to live. You can even move it to another panel (more on that in a moment).
Figure 5-17 Each applet can then be configured, moved, or removed.
Have another look at that menu and you'll see that there are some other useful options. For instance, each application may have its own set of configurations. The fish applet I had you install comes with a small handful of additional graphics—you may not like fish. Just click the Preferences menu to make your changes. Finally, should you decide that the program you chose is just taking up space, there's a Remove option.
When the applet mania has taken hold, you may find yourself out of space. Yes, it is time to add another panel. Right-click somewhere in your panel's empty space. From the pop-up menu, select New Panel. A blank, gray panel appears; you can drag it to any location that you see fit. As with the original panel, selecting the properties dialog allows you to change the size to fit the applets you have in mind.
I'm going to share some of my favorites with you, although they are not all entirely useful in terms of work. The Dictionary Lookup applet is a must, as is the Weather Report program. The fortune Fish (mentioned earlier) is fun, as are the eyes that follow your mouse pointer around the screen. The Take Screenshot applet is particularly useful when you are doing documentation. Because I work on a variety of systems, I'm also rather fond of the Terminal Server Client and the Connect to Server applets. (I briefly mentioned this last one in Chapter 4, but via Nautilus.)
I'm going to leave the discussion of applets here, but I invite you to try others and discover your own favorites. Go ahead. Explore!