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It's no wonder that the Linux desktop operating system is not attracting hoards of new users from Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS X platforms. Linux has almost too many desktop choices. And most of them are far from good. One clear exception is the Lightweight X Desktop Environment, or LXDE. I am becoming increasingly enamored with it as the near ideal Linux OS desktop environment. Consider the other choices. Developers continue to monkey around with the functionality of Gnome 3 and KDE 4 desktops.
The lack of menu search tool isn't as serious because it could be done by using the 'xfce4-appfinder' which also works fine under LXDE. What I'm missing much more are system tray monitors for net-, harddisk- and memory-usage. Further it's boring that desktop-icons couldn't be sorted / arranged manually. But even though LXDE is a nice desktop environment because of it's low resource-consumption. But actually I still prefer XFCE cause of the lacks mentioned. Perhaps sometimes they will be fixed / expanded...
LXDE has been great for quite a while. It's not about search mechanisms, it's not about a ton of stupid shortcuts; it's all about CUSTOM stuff YOU want so you create the shortcuts yourself.
If you're going to build a PHP-VBox Hypervisor, you better have LXDE running. It's the only way to have great clean shortcut fun to the tools you need to run your visor.
I know what you mean about using the panel as a launch bar. LXDE sacrifices some easy to do things like drag and drop in order or remain lightweight. But here's how I add applications to the LXpanel.
Right click on Panel,
Panel Settings (tab),
Application Launch Bar,
Add it in, it should be blank when you do. Right click it on the panel and (settings) from here you choose an entry from the Menu and done! It's a heck of a lot more steps from Gnome, but meh you only do it once anyways.
Besides that LXDE is still great for those of us who always prefer speed over looks.
"..missing from the LXDE's bag of tricks. One of them is the ability to use the panel as a launch bar"
Maybe I am not understanding but if you add menu entries (either by creating a desktop file or by using lxmed) then you can include them in the 'application launch bar' entry of the panel.
Agree with you about LXDE (i am using Lubuntu). A few rough edges but much promise. Doesn't get in the way.