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I really like the fact that Ubuntu is revamping the GNOME “notification area” because as it stands now, it is a trough that accumulates interface debris.  But aside from the inconsistency, the one use case I don’t understand is minimize-to-tray, in which an application disappears from the window list (ie, usually disappears from the panel), but still lives in an icon.

For one thing, this behavior is almost always prompted by the user attempting to quit the app (such as with the “X” button), so it’s incorrect. Quitting is the “common case;” the common case should be fast, and should be consistent across the desktop.  When I click the “X” on Thunderbird or EOG, the window/app quits.  So when an update release of Rhythmbox decides that *it* will no longer quit, but simply minimize to the tray on “X,” it is breaking the convention and detracting from the consistency of the desktop.  Tenfold more annoying when the behavior appears in one release without warning.

But the second and more fundamental complaint I have is that there is no advantage to minimizing to the notification area.   There, each app is represented by a single icon.  In the default GNOME panel’s window list, each app gets its icon and the window name if space is available. That’s right, IF.  There is no space saved by minimizing to icon-only form, because the extra text of the app/window name is only displayed if the required space is free.  The other notification-area-icon uses (displaying a blink on activity, popping up a message) are also available to the app when minimized to the window list.  I frequently “check my messages” by glancing at the window list to see if the window name has changed (e.g., Inbox (32), Facebook (New message from CrazyDudeFromHS!)).

In other words, minimizing to an icon in the notification area just needs to go, period.  There are certainly use cases for apps needing to live only in the notification area (such as Update Manager alerts), but for interactive user applications, there’s no case, and no benefit.

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