> Eh, Neither G2 or G3 is particularly good on that front
I agree with you here, actually. At least Gnome 2 and Gnome 3 fallback can be customised better.
The annoying bit in Gnome 2 (and Gnome 3 fallback) is the existence of two panels. One has to travel with the mouse up/down all the time. Personally, I have been running a single (top) panel for years now, with workspace switcher right next to the menu. Plenty of space for the taskbar too.
And, if space was not wasted on displaying user's real name all the way to the right (people have to be reminded of their name? seriously?), if applications/places were icons instead of text and Gnome 3 fallback wasn't buggy when displaying status icons (which are too widely spaced), there would be even more space available on that single panel, whether it be on top, bottom, left or right (depending on personal preferences, screen X to Y ratio etc.).