The situation, in brief
A recent post in the Canonical blog (“Farewell to the notification area, April 21st, 2010 by Matthew Paul Thomas”) announced that they are planning to remove the notification area completely in Ubuntu 11.04 which will be released an year later. The move is already in progress and there will be significant changes with Lucid Lynx (Ubuntu 10.04).
According to Canonical, the concept of “notification area”, popularly known as “system tray” is largely inconsistent with various applications do not use it to display any notifications, and important notifications like system updates are too tiny to be noticed. There is also no consensus about the use of icons in the notification area and the purpose which they will serve, though efforts have been made for a long time to make developers aware of the purpose of the notification area. The notification area will no longer serve as a quick and alternative access to minimized applications.
Ubuntu is going to make a move to implement a menu-driven replacement for the notification area. Each component of the notification will be separated and grouped into individual menus. For example, there will be a sound menu for controlling sound options and for music players, a messaging menu for IM clients like Pidgin and Evolution, etc. There will also be a new “me” menu which will show information about the current user and status set by IM clients. In cases where applications will not be able to fit themselves into the pre-defined menus, there will be flexibility to use a custom menu dedicated to the application itself. As Canonical has written, they will keep looking for alternatives to provide an improved and fruitful user experience.
I gladly accept this new initiative. Personally, I felt that the notification area did not serve any real purpose rather than cluttering with unnecessary icons. Frankly speaking, I do not think applications like VLC, Amarok, Pidgin and the like serve any real purpose in planting an icon in the notification area. The move can be towards a gadget-based desktop, similar to Plasma for KDE, minus the notification area. :-d