Linux hints and tips
Mint/Ubuntu: Add your favourite tools to the Panel
The Panel at the bottom or top of the screen is similar in some ways to the Windows taskbar and it shows which programs are open and allows you to switch from one to the other by clicking the item in the Panel. It also provides useful information, such as the date or time, whether updates are available, who's logged in and so on.
The Panel can also contain your favourite tools too. It is possible to add an icon to provide information about something, like the date, or to provide access to something, such as the speaker volume control.
Right click an empty part of the Panel and select Add to Panel from the menu that is displayed. A long list of items is displayed, such as a battery charge monitor, a disk mounter, Force Quit for stopping stuck applications, eyeballs that follow the mouse, an icon to shut down, to switch users, monitor the system load and so on. Some are for fun while others are serious tools. You will already have a few of them already and each linux distro provides its own default selection, so Ubuntu and Mint have slightly different Panels.
To add an item to the Panel you just select it in the list and then click the Add button. To use an item that you have added to the Panel you just need to left click it. If you right click it a different menu appears that enables you to customise it. Right click an item and select Move if you want to move it to a different place in the Panel. Right click it and select Remove if you want to get rid of it. Right click it and select Preferences if you want to change its look or behaviour. Just left click and right click to see all the things you can do with Panel items, it's all quite straightforward.
Mint/Ubuntu: Configure the Panel to get more screen space
The Panel at the bottom of the Lnux Mint screen (there are top and bottom panels in Ubuntu), can be customised in many ways. For example, you can make it bigger so that more items can be placed on it and icons can be larger, or you can make it smaller so that it occupies less screen space. You can also configure it to disappear when it is not being used and this gives you the maximum about of space for your application windows.
Right click an empty part of the Panel and select Properties from the menu that is displayed. On the General tab you can set the size (the default is 24 in Linux Mint), choose whether to display it at the bottom, top, left or right side of the screen, and whether to autohide it.
With Autohide ticked the Panel doesn't completely disappear, but it shrinks down to just a few pixels. It is restored to full size when the mouse hovers over it.
The Expand option lets you choose between two modes. When ticked the Panel always expands to the full width of the screen, but when the tick box is clear the Panel width is only as wide as necessary to accomodate the items that are on it. The mode you choose depends on your personal preference.