Removing the Top Panel

The main Ubuntu desktop has two panels (or toolbars), one at the top and one at the bottom. If you’re coming from the Windows world, if you’re running Ubuntu on a netbook (or laptop), or if you just don’t like wasting space, you probably want to get rid of one of them. This tutorial explains how to remove the top panel and move it’s functionality to the bottom panel, cleaning some things up along the way.


What We’re Going To Do

Each panel consists of several items, all of which can be added to, removed from, and moved around within any panel. What we’re going to do is:

  • remove an existing item from the bottom panel,
  • add a new item to the bottom panel,
  • move some of the top panel items to the bottom panel,
  • delete the top panel,
  • position all the items where we want them on the bottom panel.

Unlocking Panel Items

The first thing you have to do is unlock all the panel items you want to move. There are three of these on each panel:

Bottom Panel Items   Top Panel Items
showdesktop Show Desktop firefox Firefox
windowlist Window List notificationarea Notification Area
workspaceswitcher Workspace Switcher clock Clock

You have to unlock each item individually by right-clicking on it to display the pop-up menu, then clicking on the Lock To Panel menu item so that it is not checked. Note that for the Window List and Notification Area items, you have to right-click on the thumb (three lines on the left hand side of the item) in order to display the pop-up menu.


Moving Panel Items

Once they’re unlocked, move the three items from the top panel to the bottom panel. You do this by right-clicking on the item to display its pop-up menu and then clicking on the Move menu item.


This starts the move operation. Note that this is not like a drag-n-drop operation, you don’t hold the mouse button down. You just click on the menu item and start moving the mouse. The item will follow the mouse, even if you move it to another panel. When you have the item where you want it, click the mouse to stop the move operation. Do this with all three unlocked items on the top panel, moving them to the bottom panel. It doesn’t matter where they go on the bottom panel right now, just get them down there somewhere.

Deleting The Top Panel and Trash

Now that everything we want to keep is on the bottom panel, we can delete the top panel. To do this, right-click somewhere in the free space (i.e. not on one of the items) on the top panel to display the pop-up menu, then click on the Delete This Panel item:


Next we’ll get rid of the Trash item, because it just isn’t very useful on a regular basis. To do this, right-click on the Trash item to display the pop-up menu, then click on the Remove From Panel item:


Adding The Menu Item

Now let’s add the new main menu item to the bottom panel. To do this, right-click somewhere in the free space on the bottom panel to display the pop-up menu, then click on the Add to Panel… item:


This will display the Add To Panel window:


Select the Main Menu item and press the Add button, which will make the Main Menu icon (below) appear somewhere on the bottom panel. You can now close the Add to Panel window.


Arranging The Panel Items

This should give you all the basic items somewhere on the bottom panel, so it’s time to move them into sensible locations. I usually do this:

  1. move the Show Desktop item to the far right,
  2. move the Clock item up to the left edge of the Show Desktop item,
  3. move the Workspace Switcher item up to the left edge of the Clock item,
  4. move the Notification Area item up to the left edge of the Workspace Switcher item,
  5. move the Main Menu item to the far left,
  6. move the Firefox item up to the right edge of the Main Menu item,
  7. move the Window List item up to the right edge of the Firefox item,

which gives me bottom panel corners that look like this:

bottomleft1       bottomright

And a desktop that looks like this:


Adding Launcher Items

You can stop there of couse, but I also add several launcher items on the left hand side. To do this, go to the menu item for the program you want to launch and right-click on it to display the pop-up menu. Then click on the Add this launcher to panel menu item.


This works for all normal menu items, but it doesn’t work for the items on the Places menu. Those have to be drag-n-drop’d onto the panel. I generally end up with 6-10 launchers for the programs I run most often, and I like to put a little space between the Main Menu item and the leftmost launcher, so it ends up looking something like this:


Alternative Menus

There are other menu items you can use too. I like the Main Menu item because it has everything the old top panel menu had, all hanging off a single icon. There’s no learning curve, it’s the old menu slightly rearranged. But that’s not for everybody. There are a few alternatives that I know of:

The only one I’ve used is the Gnome Main Menu, I have it set up on my wife’s accounts. It’s easy to install:

sudo apt-get install gnome-main-menu

Unfortunately, it’s a little confusing to add to a panel because it uses the same name as the Main Menu we’ve already seen. After you right-click on the bottom panel and select the Add to Panel… item, you will see two Main Menu items in the Add To Panel window:


This new one is selected above, it’s the one with the monitor for an icon. The one we used earlier in this tutorial is just above it, with the Ubuntu logo for an icon. Here’s an example of this new Main Menu menu:


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