I decided to describe my computer desktop layout and the way i use it, in hope that it will inspire someone to some ideas to improve their desktops, and perhaps even give some ideas to people who make the Linux desktop software. I do realize that the way I use my desktop is far from standard, but I find it rather convenient (possibly due to habituation). Anyways, here it is.
First, an obligatory screenshot, with some explanations:
As you can see, I use XFCE with two fixed panels and a lot of workspaces. On the central panel you can see, from left: four application icons, the workspace switcher, the clipman plugin, the sound mixer plugin, the system monitor plugin and two network monitors. The small panel has a system notification area and a clock. In addition, there is an applications menu appearing on right-click on the dekstop. That's it.
I don't have any icons or desklets on my desktop. It's completely clear, with some patterned desktop wallpaper (usually dark, but I change them from time to time). The reason for that is simple: I don't need any distractions, and all the icons I do need to access are on the panel – always available and never covered by windows.
There are only two things there: the window title and the window close icon. I don't need maximize or minimize buttons. I always work with several different applications at a time, so maximizing one window doesn't make any sense, plus my screen is much too large for that. And when I need more room for new windows, I just switch to a new workspace – no need to minimize anything.
The four application icons that I have on my panel are, in order, Terminal, Web Browser, Music Player and File Browser. They also have their keyboard shortcuts, although I usually use that for the terminal (it's bound to Alt+F1). Apart from the terminal, all the other applications are some kind of a "browser" application – that's because all the rest of applications I use are started by opening the files from the terminal, file browser or web browser. When I need to create a file from scratch, I use Thunar's templates to create an empty file first, and then I open it in the right editor.
This is the main tool for window management. I use workspaces heavily for different tasks at hand – since I mix and match different applications heavily, it doesn't make sense to group the windows by the application name. I just put all the windows related with one thing on one workspace. The first and last workspaces are special – the first one always has a terminal window with an ssh session to my server, and the last one holds all the instant messengers and conversations. I can move windows between workspaces by just dragging their miniatures in the switcher.
The clipboard manager plugin is a must – I don't have to worry about losing things I have copied to the clipboard. I have it configured to keep the "selection" and "clipboard" separate, so that I can quickly copy-and-paste text with just selection and the middle mouse button, and at the same time I can keep larger things in my clipboard without worrying about it being replaced by a random selection.
The sound mixer plugin lets me adjust the sound volume with my mouse, and also quickly mute/unmute my microphone or switch between headphones and speakers.
The system and network monitors are another thing that I need to have always visible for comfortable work. You see, the mouse cursor changing shape to a hourglass (or a throbber icon) is not reliable, because it's controlled by the individual applications. But the system monitor never lies – it always shows me whether my computer is doing something heavy at the moment, or just sitting there idle and waiting for my commands. The network monitors have the same function for network-heavy tasks. I need two, because sometimes I use the wireless network, and other times the ethernet cable.
The system notification area is pretty self-explanatory. I don't like or use the new "indicator" plugin, and I try to minimize the number of icons in my system tray.
The clock is there because I got used to it being in that place from Windows 95.