View Full Version : [all variants] What's the Difference Between a Panel and a Dock?

July 19th, 2011, 03:13 AM

I've got the nicest, simplest, prettiest panels on my Xubuntu! The top one has only the task bar and is invisible until I "mouse over it." The bottom is translucent and has all my favorite launchers, tools, and applets.

But I keep reading about how cool docks are, and they do look really cool in all the screenshots I've seen. But really... what does a dock do that a panel doesn't? What's the real difference anyway? Other than that cool looking "table top" that the icons appear to rest on, why would I want a dock instead of a panel? They do look way cool, and I love to decorate!

Just someone please tell me how a dock would be different from my perfectly functional panel, please.


Frogs Hair
July 19th, 2011, 03:34 AM
I think panel short cuts will serve you just as well . Some docks have some very nice , weather , clock , and other widgets . I used a dock for a year before Unity and one reason is that I did not like icons on my top panel .

I used the cube for different work spaces and had no use for a window list or trash can . I could get almost any where on the computer without touching a menu and with very few Icons on my dock. Docks also consume more resources if you are a person concerned with that.

Customizing icons and changing panel style and color was enjoyable . It was possible to save the dock themes for future use .

July 19th, 2011, 04:30 AM
There is not much difference and I really would say that a dock is a type of panel.

Docks generally focus on icons and may offer some form of window management (e.g. minimize if active and icon clicked, raise if inactive and clicked, or launch if not running). Some programs called "Dockapps" are about the same concept/purpose as applets on a panel. For the most part, a dock is just a panel with a lock of clicky icons.

Panels tend to be more oriented towards a combination of things; frequently application menus, system trays, and window management (taskbar) features are included along with some type of dock; even if it is as simple as Windows NT's quick launch toolbar.

I personally prefer a system tray, a run dialog, and my terminals. Don't really need a taskbar or a dock as long as I can run programs by name; it's usually faster to control+p {program name} {press enter} than to reach for a mouse anyway.

July 19th, 2011, 11:03 AM
Thanks for the replies!

I'm using an old hand-me-down 'puter with modest resources, so it sounds like a dock would just slow it down. I'm pretty sure I can make my Xfce panel look like a dock, change a few icons and that kinda stuff. I was just wondering what all the fuss was about. Docks look very Mac-like. Gorgeous! But maybe not for me... at least not on this old hardware.

Thanks again for the thoughtful and helpful replies!


July 19th, 2011, 09:47 PM
I use a 4 year old desktop replacement laptop that was a real powerhouse when it was new and is still pretty sweet... except that the graphics card is not supported in any version of Linux I have tried. That means no Unity 3D, no Compiz, no full screen video, and no flashy docks. But who needs that when you have Xfce, right? Right now I am triple booting - Windows for when I need it, Linux Mint 9 Xfce as my primary work environment, and a "sandbox" partition that I try out different distros, currently a modified Linux Mint 9 Xfce. Anyway, just for fun, I set up my sandbox Xfce installation with inspiration from Unity (which is somewhat dock-like in it's behaviour). I prefer one panel instead of two, and since the laptop has a wide screen with lots of resolution, the vertical panel works well. As an aside - in Xubuntu 11.04 the bottom panel is also set up to be very dock-like, and that is what got me to thinking about modifying my panels.

The large icons down the left of the screen are my application launchers. The task bar is below that, currently showing four small icons which are the currently running programs. The small icons at the bottom left corner are the system tray icons.

http://hotimg23.fotki.com/a/97_65/251_222/Screenshot-vi-th.png (http://hotimg23.fotki.com/p/a/97_65/251_222/Screenshot-vi.png)

July 19th, 2011, 09:52 PM
http://hotimg23.fotki.com/a/97_65/251_222/Screenshot-vi-th.png (http://hotimg23.fotki.com/p/a/97_65/251_222/Screenshot-vi.png)

... well? How'd you do that?

July 19th, 2011, 11:32 PM
The closest thing to Unity available in Lucid is Unity's predecessor, the old Ubuntu Netbook Remix desktop. Inspired by the docks and the very cool look of Unity, I got my Xubuntu looking like the screenshot attached!

This is kinda fun - and who needs a dock when the Xfce panel - even with composting - can be this pretty!


July 20th, 2011, 05:50 PM
To FormatSeize

I'm using a one panel layout, Xubuntu and others use two, one at the top and one on the bottom, so you have to put your task manager on the same panel as your application launchers and notification area.

Here's what I did:

Moved my panel to the left vertical position.

Changed the style of the task bar buttons to show the icon only, no text

Opened three or four programs to have some applications shown on the task manager, then started increasing the size of the panel. The size of the task manager icons increased as the panel got larger, until it started showing two icons per line, then they increased some more until there were three icons per line. I backed down on the panel size until I was down to the largest icon size that would still give me two icons per row on the task manager.

I changed the icon for the Application Start button to one I preferred and removed the button title so there would be no text, just the icon.

I added all of my most commonly used programs to the application launcher area, removed the applets I didn't care for from the notification area, and I was done.

July 20th, 2011, 06:38 PM
Here's how I made my Unity-inspired, "dock-looking" Xfce desktop in Xubuntu! All of the beauty without the drain on resources: