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I wrote about alternative launchers before, like kupfer or docks.
Today, I'd like to cover a plugin the reminded me of the way the window manager awesome handles the start of applications. The verve plugin for the Xfce4 panel allows you to type the name of a program and launch it hitting enter, while acting like a command line at the time, supporting autocompletion by use of the tab key and a history, that is.
Setting up a shortcut for verve-focus in your keyboard settings will provide you with an easy way to handle the start of any installed application by just a few keystrokes. Be it Ctrl + Space as with kupfer, Super + R as with awesome or any other combination - you name it.
You will most likely find the verve plugin in your repositories, otherwise you may download it from the Xfce website.
On Xfce, you have a menu and occasional panel shortcuts to start your programs and a task bar to manage the windows already opened by default. Those, however, are not the only options to get these tasks done. Using an alternative menu like Whisker Menu or a keyboard based launcher like kupfer is one way, another one I want to cover here.

The operating system from Cupertino features the Dock, used to launch applications and switch between open windows. The task bar in this other OS from Redmond works quite similar in recent versions, while not being as shiny as the Dock.

GNU/Linux offers a variety of Dock-like applications to either grant more comfort when juggling with open windows or simply to give your desktop a more modern look, while being more than just eye candy.

avant window navigator might be the most well know example. awn is easy to use and offers a variety of functions apart from only launching apps and switching between them. You may for example add applets that allow you to control your media player, check for new emails or display system stats. Also, a systray may be added, so awn can be a complete substitute for a panel.
awn will need a compositor up and running to start. Also, it will pull several GNOME dependencies with itself, possibly cluttering your system.
I used it myself for a while, maybe my screenshots (1, 2, 3) will give you a first impression of it's customizable appearance. For more information, visit awn on Launchpad and take a look at the optional applets.

wbar is a pretty lightweight alternative. It may not look as neat as awn, but it will get the job done and go easy on your disk space and RAM at the time. wbar is configured via a single dotfile, making adjustments easy as pie. See here for further details or take a look at screenshots and an example config file.
wbar will run without a compositor.

Docky is another launcher, split off from GNOME Do and written in Mono, that requires a compositor. For documentation and screenshots, see the project's wiki.
If you want to run it without a compositor (and with less functionality), you might find Plank (screenshot by elavdeveloper) to be useful. Read (a little) more on Plank here.

Glx-Dock, formerly known as Cairo-Dock, is "designed to be light, fast and customizable". An interesting option is to drag launchers from the dock and place them on the desktop, much like widgets.
Visit for additional information.

For anyone who prefers the usual panel but wants to have a dock's functionality nervertheless, the DockBarX plugin for Xfce might do the job.

Are you using one of those or a similar application already or are you (now) interested in doing so?
The Xubuntu team asked the community to suggest wallpapers for the upcoming release of Xubuntu 14.04 "Trusty Tahr" back in November 2013.
Two days ago, they made their choice public, presenting the backgrounds to be shipped in April.

Personally, I like "Balance" a lot.
What do you think, are these images a good choice? Should Xubuntu provide photos or would you prefer to keep it limited to the default background?
Three days ago, the Xubuntu team published an article asking the community to help gather a few wallpapers to be shipped as default with the next release, Xubuntu 14.04 LTS.
Anyone keen of making wallpapers might find a chance to partake in this upcoming release, when regarding these guidelines. You'll need an Ubuntu Single Sign-On account, though.
I hope, the team will have better luck involving the community this time, as the last try seems to have silently passed away. At least I have not read nor seen any outcome of this project and no updates in the galleries for a while. Anyone got info on that?
It happened before and was revoked four months after, yet it is given another try.
Debian 8.0 "Jessy" switched from GNOME to Xfce as its default desktop. This decision will be evaluated around August 2014, when the DebConf takes place.
Until then, as the commit states, data will be gathered on how many users will install GNOME rather than using the default desktop. Also, it will be evaluated wether accessibility has improved and how well new and existing users will be able to use the respective desktop.

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