I recently upgraded my laptop from Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.04, and, after about ten days of fighting to regain control of my computer from the Unity desktop, I concluded, "I think this is the way they *meant* for it to work." I spent a lot of time researching alternatives, and settled on the Xfce desktop, which I installed yesterday. Wow. In an hour or two, I had a desktop that does everything the 10.04 desktop did for me, and more. A desktop that stays out of the way when I'm trying to work, but has easily findable and configurable tools at the ready if/when I need them -- no fuss, no muss, no googling. The biggest challenge I've had so far is trying to decide on the best color scheme for the panels and menu bars.
A workplace switcher that shows the contents of the workspaces. Panel buttons showing the windows in the active workspace, and a keyboard shortcut to toggle among them. Fully customizable (or removable) panels, containing as many (or few) menus, application launchers, and accessories as you want. An Applications Menu that takes you wherever you need to go.
Workspaces that reappear the way I left them before my last logout. Applications that launch without delay. Remote X windows sessions that work the way they're supposed to. Keyboard shortcuts that match those shown in the system settings. Fullscreen flash video that works: no more rapid-fire mouse clicking, or trying to figure out how to disable hardware acceleration in the Adobe menu.
No more guessing which workspace I'm in, and which keystrokes will take me where I want to go. No more losing windows behind applications that open fullscreen. No more menu bars suddenly jammed into the Global Menu (Unity top panel) for no apparent reason. No more Unity Cartoon Launcher dominating the left edge of the screen (or, if hidden, refusing to come out after repeated mouse attacks). No more Dash asking for search terms for things I used to find in menus. No more compiz error dialogue boxes with questions about how I want to handle bug reports (I hope).
What a relief. That old linux feeling of knowing that things will work the way they're supposed to -- that, if I want to tweak something, there *will* be a way. Thanks to all who have worked to preserve the freedom of choice that is what drew me to linux in the first place. May you still be working in 2017 (Ubuntu 12.04 LTS end of life)!