I have started using a wide-screen monitor at work — 24“ and awesome — and have been experimenting with having a vertical taskbar along the right side of the screen. I’ve seen the screenshots of Windows Vista with a sidebar and thought it was a bit funny; it takes up too much screen real-estate on a ”normal” monitor. However, I can say that with a wide-screen, this setup starts making more than sense: it’s great.
The little extra vertical space for applications is nice. Applications maximised on a standard wide-screen setup feel stretched, the vertical sidebar approach removes enough horizontal space that this problem goes away.
A vertical sidebar also provides space for more interesting things in the taskbar. It can fit more buttons than a horizontal taskbar, even with a two-button height taskbar I used before. This has freed up some space near the bottom where I’ve put a couple of useful widgets.
Firstly, I’ve got an area where I show the most recent five documents that I’ve used. These are copied from the Windows Recent Document folder by a small application I wrote. I didn’t really use the Recent Documents menu before — it seemed quicker to open them from Explorer — but having the buttons right there makes it far more useful.
Secondly, I put a couple of buttons for Shutdown and Restart. One of the peculiarities I’ve noticed with Windows is that the Shutdown dialog sometimes takes ages to appear. These buttons just kill everything and shutdown immediately, so that’s another timesaver.
If I start using Gnome with a wide-screen, I’d definitely have to experiment with this setup. I think that a sidebar version of Gimmie would be great, as the vertical space would allow for a lot of experimentation. Text labels could provide information about the online state of contacts, for example, and other information hard to present with a simple icon.
Overall, I’m very pleased with my wide-screen monitor, and finally understand why they are becoming so popular.