Maybe the Gnome folks will fix the panel so it works vertically.
Typically now I simply eliminate the bottom panel. It's the first thing I do when running Gnome. I much prefer to have the bar at the top.
However when I worked call center it was invaluable to have the 'big fat panel' on the right side of the screen. Which XP was able to handle quite well. When coming to work I would always open up applications in the same order. This way when I was talking on the phone and needed to find information or a window immediately without interrupting the flow of the conversation I could find what I needed without any hesitation or thought. Time was very critical and stopping to go 'ummm' and 'ehhhh' as I clicked around windows looking for stuff just pissed off the already irate user and made my job harder.
Alt-tab is too slow and the fact that windows would be arranged based on the last ones I used was not particularly useful. A horizontal taskbar simply did not take up enough screen area to present a large target and a efficient way to list the large number of windows I needed to use.
With the way the LCD screens are made nowadays, being widescreen, means that having a horizontal bar presents a better use of space for many people.
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