How can I replicate Windows 7 toolbars and taskbar in Linux

Greetings everyone. I’m not sure if this thread is in the most appropriate category. I did see a desktop customization category.

Being a long time gamer, windows user, and player of WoW, I ended up incorporating some of my WoW UI setup ideas into my Windows desktop. I also ended up making very good use of Windows XP/7/10 toolbars, taskbar, and shortcuts. Once I got started adjusting stuff it became natural to me. The fastest and easiest way for me to access what ever I want quickly is to just click a button. The only thing faster are shortcut keys, but I don’t want to commit a long series of shortcut keys to memory.

I don’t like large full screen grids of icons to hunt through (tablet/smart phone UI), I don’t like searching for my applications (unless I have to), and I’m not a fan of the Mac OS UI. Now that I want to get into Linux more (MS is handing me an excuse to jump ship with Windows 10/11), I would like to preserve my setup and work flow to a large degree, while incorporating the advantages that Linux has to offer.

The 3 pics below are of an old setup I had on Windows 7. I want to have a multi-row taskbar the holds the buttons for the actively running applications. I want multiple panels, stacked into rows, where the icons are launchers that can be easily be arranged. I want to be able to replicate the functionality of toolbar menus without extensive customization work.

Pic #1:

Pic #2:

Pic #3:

Pic #1, has the my old Win 7 desktop. There are a few desktop icons and an expanded Win 7 taskbar with a quite a few toolbars. The icons on the left and right side are important but not critical. The icons across the top are lazily left in place after installing those applications and can be safely removed. The taskbar is shown, but is set to auto hide. Moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen will have the taskbar slide upward on top of what ever is being displayed, with the exception of a full screen video game. The open applications are represented by the 3 rows of large rectangular buttons along the top-middle of the taskbar. The system tray and clock are to the right side of the taskbar and the Start menu is on the left side. The bottom 3 rows in the middle of the taskbar are Windows toolbars. The toolbars are created from folders of shortcut icons. The names of the toolbars are the names of the folders. The toolbars can be configured to show the icons with or without their names.

Pic #2, is just the taskbar shown from a different date, but with the same setup. The icons at the bottom row are the most access applications. The row above are shortcuts to my Windows drives. The row above the drive shortcuts are shortcuts to frequently access folders spread across the drives.

Pic #3, shows my cascading toolbar menus. After switching between browsers over several years, I decided to turn all of my bookmarks into Windows URL shortcuts. This allows me to easily and efficiently arrange my bookmarks into a folder hierarchy and makes them portable. The shortcut files are tiny in size. When clicking the >> symbol next to the toolbar folder name, on the right-middle side, the Windows OS automatically reads the contents of the folder and builds a menu from it. There is no programming, scripting, or config files needed to build the menus. The items on the menu are either files or folders, and the folders have a triangle symbol to the right of them. Clicking on a folder in the menu, will cause the OS to read that folder’s contents and build a cascading sub-menu. Clicking on a URL shortcut file in the menu will cause a new browser window to launch and navigate to the URL or an existing browser window will be used. I can find what I want very quickly within the menus since they are alpha sorted by name and this saves me from giving away clicks that makes Google and others boat loads of money (and I get nothing in return). If I don’t have a bookmark URL shortcut for what I want then a trip to a search engine may be required. The URL shortcut files also do not contain unwanted identifiers so a site like facebook can’t piggy back off of and track my browsing activity. The toolbar menus are like having random access into an array, with the array websites and hierarchical structure. This means I don’t have to click 3 to 5 times on a site to get to the page I want. Just like the toolbar menus are like having random access into an array, the bottom row of icons are like random access into the Start menu. I have immediate access to the most used applications, without having to hunt and scroll around the Start menu. The bookmark collection was built over more than a 10 year period.

What makes this setup great is that all of the folders that make up the toolbars can easily be backed up. The contents of the folders are tiny in size. If the contents of the toolbar folders change then the toolbars reflect that change. The contents of the toolbars are not limited to URL and application shortcuts. In my work setup I tend to have folders for the various projects I’m working on. In those project folders will be a series of documents. I can quickly add/remove new toolbars based on the project folders. Toolbar menu’s of documents are auto-generated once a folder is added as a toolbar. This makes my setup very flexible. The arrangement of the toolbars can be reproduced very quickly because the OS provides a simple an intuitive UI for creating toolbars. This allows me to back up my data along with the toolbar folders, do a fresh OS install, and reproduce my setup exactly within minutes.

To some this may look cluttered or non-minimalistic. However, when the Windows taskbar slides down out of view I have the entire screen to work from without the need for tiling windows. My work style is very much get in, get what needs to be done, get out, and move on. Remember this spawned primarily from playing World of Warcraft PvP and to a smaller extent StarCraft where one needs fast random access.

Without getting into any details, and with the disclaimer that I’m only really experienced with KDE Plasma (and earlier KDE versions), I believe you can do most of that with KDE Plasma. It allows for stacked panels, individual panel width, height and position settings, panel autohiding, a multi-row (icons-only or full application name) taskbar, bookmark widgets, a cascading application launcher menu, et al.

KDE Plasma is definitely the most flexible and customizable of all desktop environments for a UNIX workstation. It may not be able to do all of the things you’re asking for ─ I don’t really know, because I’ve never tried all of that ─ but it’ll do most.

The most significant thing however is that you stop thinking about GNU/Linux as some kind of Microsoft Windows with different underpinnings, because that is only going to lead to disappointment and frustration. GNU/Linux is a UNIX operating system, and it is very, very different from Microsoft Windows. It will therefore require you to adapt your habits, preferences and workflow.


Thank you Aragorn. My approach is not so much to Windows-ify Linux/Unix but to preserve my workflow as much as possible. I will of course be spending time learning Linux and incorporating its advantages into my workflow. This means I’m amenable to change. What I have come across are heavy efforts towards Mac-ify Linux desktops with very little push back against doing that. My Windows setup makes good use of what the Windows OS provides while being agnostic to a degree. For example, moving my bookmarks out of a browser’s internal bookmark structure allows me to move to a different browser without the risk of losing my bookmark investment. Having a toolbar of the most frequently used app icons insulates me from changes to the start menu (think in terms of moving from Win 7 to Windows 10’s nightmare Start menu).

The important take away is that by not having my data and setup tightly bound to a particular OS, application, or installation I can quickly switch to an alternative or recover from failures. This is partly why I embrace open standards versus proprietary designs. I’m not expecting a full 1:1 parity between Linux desktops and Windows, but I’ll take what I can get and build anew based on the advantages that Linux provides.

Why would that be a bad thing? :stuck_out_tongue: Personally I would much rather see a GNU/Linux desktop that looks somewhat macOS-like ─ than one that looks like MS-Windows, because…

  1. At least macOS is a UNIX ─ albeit that it’s the least UNIX-like of all UNIX systems; and…

  2. Too many desktop environments are trying to look like Windows out-of-the-box, with as a result that this is attracting Windows users to GNU/Linux who want their system to not only look but also behave like Windows.

There is a Plasma widget that allows you to create a cascading menu of hyperlinks/bookmarks. If it’s not installed by default, then it’s bound to be available from the repository or from the AUR, and I’ve even seen it offered for download at, which is a website with themes, wallpapers, widgets, et al.

Hmm… :arrow_down:

If you’re going to go with GNOME ─ which is one of the most restricting and definitely non-Windows-like desktop environments ─ then you’re going to be badly disappointed, my friend. :thinking:

The Mac OS UI doesn’t excite me. If I was bound to a chair and forced to use a Mac I would find a way to learn and adjust. However, I would not rush out to spend my own money on Mac. I used Macs a long time ago before the dock metaphor redesign. When I finally had the money to spend on a computer of my own, I built an x86 system and saved a bunch by not enriching Steve Jobs.

I don’t think this is a bad thing and for the newcomer who only knows windows, having something familiar is a blessing. There is still plenty to explore, discover, and learn. However, the difference between having something familiar and not is akin to having a paved on-ramp to a highway for one’s car versus attempting to hoist a 5000 pound vehicle (2267.962 kilos) up a rope attached to a grappling hook.

Keep in mind that once I perfected my Windows setup I taught it to others. If I jump ship there are others who are likely to join me at some time down the road. I have no reservations against providing them with a migration road map to the Linux territory.

Explore, discover, learn, evolve. I think it was Bruce who said “be like water”. Let me sample what the boys and girls at Manjaro are cooking up.

I did experience KDE in VM a few times. I concur it is quite flexible, though i still find Xfce more straightforward for customization. Well, i do stay on Xfce for a reason… :stuck_out_tongue:
Cinnamon and MATE also have some flexibility, but i haven’t tried them much lately.

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What you desire is largely impossible.

You cannot transfer your Windows knowledge and habits directly to Linux.

You need to unlearn Windows to learn Linux and unless you are prepared to do so there no reason to do a switch to Linux.


I disagree. There is definitely going to be overlap in what I’ve learned on the Windows side. You may be correct in that some functionality may not exist (ex: stacking panels). As I stated in a prior post, I’m amenable to change. If I were not amenable to change then moving would be pointless.

I see nothing wrong with saying here is what I have, explaining my workflow, and taking ideas on how I can adapt my workflow to a Linux environment. Some stuff will be unnecessary such as shortcuts to drive letters since there are no drive letters in a Linux/Unix filesystem. Based on how much of the OS X UI has been replicated, I’m betting there would be some Windows functionality replicated. Again, I don’t expect a 1:1 parity in all things.

I settled on using Firefox many years ago. While exploring and learning Linux I may decided to switch to a different browser. I’m already looking at moving to alternatives for other things so I may as well examine and sample the menu of options. Some alternatives may fit my adaptation better that others.

With all that I said above and contents of original post, how can I adapt parts of my workflow?

If you do not like Mac OS interface, then going Gnome will be a waste of your time. Nothing from what you showed in the screenshots can be achieved there. Yes, KDE Plasma can be tweaked to look like almost everything imaginable, and has many ways to achieve things, but you have to know where and how.
As @maycne.sonahoz said, Xfce will be more straight forward to do what you want and i’m 100% that your workflow will be affected to a minimum.

Now, then next thing, do you want to experiment with some fancy WM ? You will forget your workflow and have nightmares about it :upside_down_face:

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I never committed myself to Gnome. However, I’ve not paid much attention to it either so, I considered that I may as well take a look at what is happening in that camp. As far as Xfce is concerned no one has explained how to go about adapting it to my current workflow. Can you guys explain and elaborate?

I agree - I apologize for any misunderstandings - there’s nothing wrong about it - it’s just that your setup has taken a long time to create and recreating it on linux may not be feasible due to the complexity involved.

You can at least theme it - from what I read it works best on Cinnamon edition and you can add plank, tint2 and conky.

For you drawers you could use something like tint2 which can create a drawerlike appearance using a button to do a specific task like opening the file manager at a specific place. And tint2 can create stacked panels - and it can stay below so it doesn’t take screen estate from your apps.

There is also various kinds of docks like Plank or Docky plus conky to create statistics on the desktop. Another tool is gkrellm to monitor system.

I would say going - Openbox using Tint2, Conky and Plank - would be the logical path to achieve what you want as this is a combination screaming for customization.

There is also various editions Openbox and desktop editons like LXDE and LXQt.

The live at

You could take a look at the mabox spin Mabox Linux 21.09 ISO refresh as it is based on Openbox and has a really fresh look at desktop and navigation.

It is built by @napcok using Manjaro system.

Create panels, configure each behavior and apparence, add launchers and plugins… Customizing panels is very straightforward, really. Launch a VM or a LiveUSB with it and see by yourself.

While I haven’t gotten to xfce yet, I did some random poking around in Cinnamon with Cairo dock. I stumbled upon the quick browser applet. This applet replicates the functionality of the toolbar menus in Win 7/8/10 and the applet can have multiple instances, which allows multiple folders to be browsed. My concerns are whether Cairo Dock is actively maintained and how well it would integrate with KDE. Latte dock seems to be the more popular dock for KDE. Now to see if there is an equivalent applet for Latte dock.

Update: NVM… there was an update to plug-ins on July 30th.

If I toss the main panel (the one with the Manjaro app. menu icon) to the top of the screen, is there a way to get Yakuake to display below the edge of the panel instead of unrolling underneath or laid across the top of the panel?

No, if you have a panel at the top, then Yakuake will always roll down from the lower edge of the panel.

@Aragorn, @linux-aarhus:
I see the point of the anti-windows stance. It took me looking at a video that compared another Linux distro to Win 11, where the comparison was though both were on equal footing. I’ve seen the Windows way now I need to learn the Linux way. How would you guys describe the Linux way of doing things? There will be Windows for work stuff because that is what my employer requires, but I’m not locked into that for my personal use.

@bogdancovaciu, @maycne.sonahoz:
I’m going to end up using a dock mostly to have just a row of app. launcher icons at the bottom, a task bar panel at the top, and set them both to auto-hide. Xfce is simpler with respect to customization, but most importantly it is so light on resources. Under 600k on a fresh install is hard to ignore. Currently, I’m torn between KDE and Xfce for my desktop. I have an old Dell laptop that I recently inherited. It has 2GB RAM so its definitely getting the Xfce treatment. I tend not to tile windows since alt-tab is burned into my memory and the muscle memory is cemented. Gnome desktop is taking the back seat to KDE and Xfce.

That’s not easily put into a few words or even paragraphs. The best way to go about this is to open your mind and forget everything you thought you knew about computers from having worked with Microsoft Windows.

Approach GNU/Linux as if you know nothing and you have to learn everything all over again. Because that’s how you’ll come to understand how the system works and ─ crucially ─ why it works that way.

The user is in control.
You want to do something? Windows wants to do it for you. Linux gives you the tools to do it.

I think the biggest difference, usability wise, is that KDE tends more than Xfce to be a full-feature desktop.
The KDE environment is way more flagrant. Its application suite is a lot wider, provides many more features, and is more tightly knit. Personally, it gives a vibe of productivity.
The Xfce “suite” doesn’t provide as many applications or features, so it relies more on “external” applications to fill the blanks, yet those don’t feel out of place – not that they do on KDE. This way of customizing is what i like, making it more my own.

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