LXDE is one of the lightest graphical environments you can choose for a computer. If it’s your primary desktop environment, you have likely chosen it because your computer is somewhat restricted as far as resources go. In cases like this, you probably don’t want to run additional launchers. Yes, they’d offer easy access to your favorite programs, but they’d also take a toll on the available resources.
Fortunately, like any other self-respecting desktop environment today, LXDE allows you to easily add extra panels to the desktop that are not that different in action than your typical launcher. They, too, can offer quick access to all of your favorite programs as well as some useful widgets. The process is simple, fast, and consumes far fewer resources than if you used a specialized application for that purpose.
Note: this article assumes you are already using LXDE as your desktop manager.
To create a new panel on the desktop, right-click on the existing one and select “Create New Panel.”
The big annoying gray rectangle at the left end of the screen is your new panel. Do not worry about its appearance; we will fix it in the not-so-distant future. We deviated from the defaults by choosing that we want our panel to appear on the right side of the screen (Edge: Right), that its height will be dynamically determined by its contents (Height: Dynamic), to reduce its width to almost one third of the default value, from 150px down to 64px.
Move on to Panel Applets, which is essentially the (currently empty) list of contents of your new panel. Click the first key, “Add,” to add a new item to this list.
There are many possible applets you can use to customize your panel precisely as you wish. For the time being, choose the “Application Launch Bar”which gives access to most-installed applications.
An app launcher bar has been added to your panel with a large button with a “+” sign as its sole resident. Click on this button to see a list of all installed applications that allow you to choose which ones you want to add to your panel.
You can add as many applications as you want to your bar, but we recommend not overdoing it at this point and thinking a bit about organization and grouping. Although you don’t have such organizational capabilities when editing your program lists, you can add different Application Launch Bars for different application groups, and space them apart to differentiate them.
Return to the previous menu and click the “+” button again to add a new entry to your panel. This time, choose the “spacer” that displays a “blank space” on the spot of the panel where you add it.
With your brand new spacer directly after your first bar, you can now add a second bar after the spacer. By using different bars and spacer combinations, you can group visually and keep all of your panel elements organized.
The spacer will initially take up so little space that it will be almost invisible. To fix it, right-click on it, select “Spacer Settings” and resize it from the popup window that appears.
Your panel, by default, will look a little colorless, copying your desktop’s defaults. To splash some color on it, visit the Appearance tab. There, click on “Solid color (with opacity).” In the new window that pops up, you can select both the background color of your panel as well as its transparency (by changing the Opacity value).
Finally, to avoid having your new panel taking up useful screen real estate, go to the Advanced tab and activate “Minimize panel when not in use.” Also, note that the “Size when minimized” field allows you to set up how much space the panel will occupy when it is “hidden” on your screen.
Although we focused on launching applications, since that’s the primary reason for using standalone program launchers, it’s worth taking a look at the other applets you can add to your panels. Those will allow you to turn your panels from simple program collections into central control points for your whole computer, to be closer to what an actual third-party launcher would be like.