2.2. Using the Panel

The desktop panel is the bar that stretches across the bottom of the screen and holds icons and small applications which makes using your system easier. The panel also holds the Main Menu, which contains shortcuts for all of your applications. Applets embedded on the panel allow you to run specific tasks or monitor your system or services while remaining out of your way. The notification area holds alert icons such as the one for Red Hat Network so that you can be quickly alerted to critical messages.

Figure 2-2. The Panel

2.2.1. Using the Main Menu

You can click on the Main Menu button to expand it into a large set of menus that allow you to access the applications on your system.

From here, you can start most applications included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Notice that, in addition to the recommended applications, you can also access additional applications within each sub-menu. These sub-menus give you access to a full range of applications on your system. From the Main Menu, you can also log out, run applications from a command line, find files, and lock your screen (which runs a password protected screen saver).

2.2.2. Using Applets

Applets are small applications that run on the panel. Applets let you monitor various aspects of your system. Some applets perform useful tasks while others are designed to be entertaining.

There are a few applets that run on your panel by default. These applets are fairly important and are covered in the following list.

Workspace Switcher

The graphical desktop gives you the ability to use multiple workspaces so you do not have to have all of your running applications crowding one viewable desktop area. The Workspace Switcher represents each workspace (or desktop) in small squares and show the applications running on them. Click on one of the squares with your mouse to move to that desktop. You can also use the keyboard shortcut [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[up-arrow], [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[down-arrow], [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[right-arrow], or [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[left-arrow] to switch between desktops.

Figure 2-3. Workspace Switcher


Next to the Workspace Switcher is the Taskbar. The Taskbar is an applet which shows you the titles of running applications on any one virtual desktop. This is very helpful if you decide to minimize an application as it seems to disappear from the desktop. Once it disappears, you can bring it back by clicking on its title in the Taskbar.

Figure 2-4. The Taskbar

2.2.3. Using the Notification Area

Red Hat Network Alert Notification Tool

Part of the Notification Area, the Red Hat Network Alert Notification Tool provides you with an easy way to make sure your system is up-to-date with current errata and bug fixes from Red Hat. The applet shows you different images that indicate whether your system is up to date or needs upgrades. If you click on the icon, a list of available updates is displayed. To update your system, click the button to launch the Red Hat Update Agent. If you are not registered with Red Hat Network, it launches the registration component. Right-click on the applet icon for a list of options from which to choose.

Figure 2-5. Red Hat Network Alert Notification Tool

The Authentication Icon

The key icon that is sometimes displayed in the Notification Area is a security notification that displays whenever you have gained root authentication for your system (such as running a graphical system configuration tool). It disappears when the authentication times out.

Figure 2-6. Authentication Icon

Printer Notification Icon

The Printer Notification Icon allows you to manage your print jobs. Click on the icon to view running print jobs, and cancel jobs by right-clicking on the job and selecting Cancel. The Printer Notification Icon only appears during an active print job. If the print job you have is small, you may not see the icon appear.

Figure 2-7. The Printer Notification Icon


If you cannot see any of the notification icons, then the notification area was removed from the desktop panel. To add the it back to your panel, right-click on the panel and choose Add to Panel => Utility => Notification Area.

2.2.4. Adding Icons and Applets to the Panel

To make the panel fit your needs, you may want to add more applets and launcher icons.

To add an applet to the panel, right-click in an unused area on the panel, select Add to Panel, and choose from the various types of applets. When you select an applet, it appears on your panel. In Figure 2-8, the Weather Report applet has been added to show the current local weather and temperature.

Figure 2-8. The Weather Report Applet on the Panel

To add a launcher icon to the panel, right-click in an unused area on the panel and select Add to Panel => Launcher.... This launches a dialog box that allows you to enter the name of the application,and the location and name of the command that starts the application (such as /usr/bin/foo). You can even choose an icon for the application. Click OK and the new launcher icon appears on the panel.


Another quick and easy way to add a launcher to the panel is to right-click on an unused area of the panel and choose Add to Panel => Launcher from menu. Then select an application that appears in the menu. This automatically adds a launcher icon based on the properties of the item in the Main Menu.

2.2.5. Configuring the Desktop Panel

You can hide the panel automatically or manually, place it on any edge of your desktop, change its size and color, and change the way it behaves. To alter the default panel settings, right-click in an unused area of the panel and select Properties. You can set the size of the panel, its position on the desktop, and whether you want the panel to be automatically hidden (Autohide) when not in use. If you choose to hide the panel, it does not appear on the desktop until you move your mouse pointer over the panel area (called hovering).