> But I've always disliked side panels. I don't know why, maybe because I don't read up and down?
I have found that as long as the panel is just a source of occasional visual hints or information, like time, network and battery status, it works for me vertically when placed on the right of a wide screen. There it destructs less.
The disadvantage of such setup is that one cannot use the panel for navigation between windows. First there is a problem with a long mouse travel to the right edge from the left where most of my activity happens. Second a task-bar style navigation with ungrouped windows simply cannot work unless one makes the panel really wide to see all window titles. But grouping implies more mouse movements or clicks first to select the a group and then to select a window within the group.
So with a single vertical panel on the right one needs efficient keyboard navigation to switch between windows. I have found that MS solution in Win7 is rather good with big application icons on the panel, ability to pin an application to a permanent on the panel position and keyboard shortcuts to access a particular pin or cycle through its windows. One can emulate that on Linux with virtual desktops, but application icons still offer a possibility of using a mouse with a single movement and click to access single-windowed rarely used applications.