Linux Desktop: Adding Applets to the GNOME Panel

Linux Desktop: Adding Applets to the GNOME Panel
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You can’t miss the GNOME panel. Depending on how you’ve configured GNOME, the panel is made up of those two gray strips at the top and bottom of your screen. The panel isn’t just a place for common system menus or for applications to rest when you’ve minimized them.

By adding applets, you can get a lot of great features and functions with a mouse click. Sometimes, not even that.

What’s an applet anyway?

An applet is just a little program. Usually, an applet does one thing and one thing only – say, displays the date and time or the current weather. Simple functions, but they’re generally useful.

GNOME comes with a large number of pre-installed applets, which do things like:

  • Show the remaining charge of your laptop’s battery
  • Get dictionary definitions
  • Run programs from the run dialog
  • Create stick notes

Just to name a few.

Adding an applet to the panel

Doing that is easy. Right click in an empty space on your panel and select Add to Panel from the menu that appears. A small window pops open, which displays the panel applets that are installed. Find the one that you want to install in the list, click Add, and then click Close. A new icon appears on the panel.

If you don’t like where the applet is on the panel, right click the icon and choose Move. Then, drag the icon to wherever you want it to go.

Other applets to check out

The pre-installed applets aren’t the only game in town. Here are a few useful panel applets you can either download from the Web. or install using a package manager like Synaptic.

If you blog, there’s no need to log into your weblog to write an entry. Blog Entry Poster allows you to quickly write and publish blog posts. It’s a very basic editor – you can add simple font formatting, links, and images but little else. And you can only configure it to work with one blog. Still, if your needs are simple then this applet is definitely handy.


Keeping track of all the thing you need to do can be tough. So, by not add a todo list to the GNOME panel? It’s easy with Gnome Todo List Manager, aka gtodo. Just create your todo list and add items to it. When you’re done, check them off. This applet is definitely bare bones, but it does the job. To use it, you’ll have to install both gtodo and its panel applet component.


I maintain two Web sites, and prefer to securely log into the servers using the ssh utility when I need to modify or delete files. Instead of doing the job from the command line, I can use a panel applet called SSHMenu. With it, I can simultaneously connect to multiple servers and even group servers together in their own menus. SSHMenu also allows me control the font, the background color, window size, and other settings for each connection.


Summing up

GNOME panel applets just add to the power and flexibility of the GNOME desktop. The only danger is that it’s easy to go overboard and fill your panel with applets!