One good thing about Linux system is that you can change almost every single aspect of the system. Dislike the dull wallpaper? Change it. Not happy with the default splash screen? Change it. Getting bored of the default panel menu (the place where you access Applications, Places and System)? You can change it as well.
In Gnome based system, there are several panel menu applets that you can use. Some of them are great eye candy for spicing up your desktop while others are small and fast and aim to improve your productivity. Let’s see what choices do you have:
If you are looking for a pretty menu to spice up your desktop, then GnoMenu is the one to go for. This application menu supports themes, regardless you are using a composited or non-composited desktop. It is also fully compatible with apps like Gnome-Panel, Avant Window Navigator, Cairo-Dock, XfApplet, Kde Plasma and the system tray.
A good feature of GnoMenu is that you can right click on an application and select from a variety of actions. For example, when you right-click on the Firefox browser icon, you can either open the app as Administrator, Add to Favorite, Create Desktop Shortcut or even Add to system startup.
Other than eye-candy, GnoMenu also comes with plenty of configuration options. You can install new themes (skin, button, sound and icons), change key binding to bring up the menu and also edit the commands when an application is clicked.
Ubuntu System Panel give you lot of customization option as to how you want the information to be displayed. The default interface is a big broad window that show almost everything it can put on it, but you can easily minimize those options to the side pane and save up screen space.
The best thing about USP is that it supports plugins and is highly configurable. You can add new plugins to the list and arrange them in the order you want. The configuration option allow you to change the width and height of each pane, the font size of the wordings and the command for each option. Best of all, you can even adjust the menu size to accomodate to your screen size. Cool!
While Cardápio is late to the party, it is in no way inferior to the rest. Other than a panel menu, it can also acts as a launcher, just like Gnome-Do.
At any point of time, you can press the Super + Space button to bring up the menu and perform a search. It is well integrated with the tracker, so you are able to find what you want quickly.
One thing that I like about Cardápio is its responsiveness. It is fast and does not clutter your desktop. The Gnome-Do feature is also very useful, although the stock Gnome Do is much better.
On the other hand, it will need a GUI to access its backend configuration. Currently, the way to configure it is via the gconf editor and its own config.ini file. Cardápio has a lot of potential, but it definitely need to make it easier for newbies to use it.
MintMenu needs little introduction. It is the default application menu for Linux Mint, and it has the best layout (in my opinion) in this list.
What I like about MintMenu is its well integrated design with quick access to Places, Applications (alternating between All Applications and Favorite Applications) and System Menu without cluttering the whole window. All I can say is, it has the right thing at the right place.
The configuration section offers some options for you to change the appearance and layout of the menu. It also comes with a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + Super by default) that you can press to bring up the menu.
Other panel menu not in the list
Gnome Main Menu has been around for quite some time. The package in the repository (version 0.9.13) is lacking in feature and the latest version (0.9.15) has some issues with the Gnome desktop. Those who are interested in testing it out still can access it via:
Gimmie used to be a great project that bring great eye candy and accessibility. However, the development has been stalled for 3 years (since 2007) and there is no news whether it will be continued. Until now, there is no official PPA (or deb package). Users who are keen to test it out will have to compile from source.
Which alternative application menu do you like best?