I really like them.
No, let me rephrase that: I LOVE them.
They simplify things.
The “envelope-style” indicator applet showed up in Karmic after the implementation of Empathy as the default messenger in Ubuntu (Gnome). I wasn’t too happy with the change, as I thought I wouldn’t know what was going on when I received a message. I was completely unsure of how these things would work, as I’d been used to Windows and its setup of tray icons.
In Jaunty, Ubuntu introduced the “notifications” which were click-through bubbles that would appear on the screen in the upper right corner to tell you when something happened: music changing in Rhythmbox. your print job was completed, the network died, etc. I loved it. I never really liked the older-style bubbles that had buttons on them for interaction. I really like the way these new ones look.
Karmic saw more development with the indicator applets and notifications, most notably the change in where the notifications show: in the upper-right corner, but down a bit. I wasn’t very happy with this, but I’ve adjusted. I can kind of understand why it’s like it is, but I’d prefer them directly under the clock. The biggest issue is on my netbook, but it has a much smaller screen.
Now, we’re in Lucid. The notification icons have been (mostly) replaced with indicator applets. There are a couple of programs that hold out and stick around in the system tray; mostly Dropbox, Wakoopa, Network-manager and Tomboy. Getting Things Gnome, Rythmbox, Banshee (through a PPA) and others are integrated with the indicator applets. The generic envelope icon is here to stay; that’s where all your notifications for IM, mail, Gwibber, and Xchat-gnome (I’ve added a package to do this). It’s really handy, BUT, I would like to see the addition of different colors or something to indicate how important a message is. Right now, the envelope changes to green every time you get a message, whether it’s an email, a PM in Gwibber, a generic message in xchat-gnome, or an IM. I’d like to see the user able to set importance to different things and have different colors or some other indicator to show importance of new messages. I can ignore some messages (a DM from twitter, the xchat-gnome message, etc) but others I want to be notified of right away (email from my job search email address, a direct message in xchat-gnome, etc). I’m not sure how this would work out.
Mark Shuttleworth addressed the new indicator applets back in April. I find his insights great. I was intrigued by his thought process, and I’m looking forward to what comes out of it. Ayatana seems to be a very promising idea and its implementation has been pretty awesome so far. See also the wiki article for the messaging menu for more information.
I especially love the Rythmbox and Banshee indicator applets. I just click on the indicator and I have everything I need to interact with the music player. The messaging menu (that I addressed above) has its quirks, but overall, I like it. The battery menu is handy, though I preferred being able to hover on the battery icon and see how much time I had before I had to recharge my laptop. The Getting Things Gnome (GTG) indicator applet is really handy. I also hear that Dropbox is going to have an applet in the near future; this will integrate well with the direction Ubuntu is headed. Tomboy Notes and Wakoopa just need to hop on the bandwagon. I know there’s an applet for Tomboy notes, but it doesn’t fit in with the new iconset in Ubuntu. I’m not sure how to change that. Anyway, it shows up in the notification area, which is fine. Also, there’s an icon/applet for Docky that I’m using right now that I’m very happy with.
I’m really looking forward to what the Ubuntu and Ayatana devs have in store for Maverick Meerkat.