Stop abusing the notification area

Yaron Tausky decaycell at
Fri Jun 24 22:58:44 EEST 2005

Hi there,

I proposed in a recent discussion on the GNOME desktop-devel-list [1] a
new way to tackle the need for running certain apps in the background
(e.g. music player, IM, etc.), since currently people are abusing the
notification area for that. Aside from the hackish nature of this
approach, it is also a usabilty nightmare -- compare the ways Gaim,
Muine and Rhythmbox handle their notification area docks to see what I
mean. Therefore, my idea consists of two suggestions:

1. Add a new WM hint (_NET_WM_STATE_DOCK, for example) which will ask
the WM to display the window as an icon-only button in the taskbar.
Whether to place it with the rest of the taskbar, aligned on a different
side, or any other place is up to a specific implementation.
This feature would help to save screen real-estate, and would provide a
better alternative to docking windows in the notification area. Aside
from the graphic representation, it would act like any other window --
i.e. when you close the main window the app quits, and the icon
disappears (unlike Gaim + dock plugin).

2. Add a WM API which would enable windows to add menu items to the WM
action menu (appears when you right-click the window in the taskbar on
GNOME). Together with the first suggestion, we should get a fairly good
implementaion of app docking, plus standard behaviour for every app
(i.e. right-click to bring the menu, left-click to show/minimize window,
close to quit the application). A little mockup I gimped up is available
This suggestion, however, is quite complicated to implement. The
application would have to post its specific menu item to the WM (in a
cross-toolkit manner!) since we would have to merge them with the
standard window options (e.g. close, minimize, etc.). We could go the
other way around, but then we would have to rely on the developers' good
will -- this is too prone to abuse. The same problem appears to come up
with cross-desktop applets [3], so we should probably have a unified
convention for posting menus to another processes.

I'd like to hear opinions and comments about this, since I know that I'm
not the only one who's fed up with the notification area abuse. ;-)

Yaron Tausky <decaycell at>

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