Alternative Formulation of Gnome Shell Overlay
I have thought reasonably long and hard about the GNOME Shell overlay, not being entirely satisfied with the current iteration (which seems to get in the way a little; but I'm sure that will be resolved). This mockup is a summary of what I think would really shine as part of the GNOME Shell interface... serving all of my needs, and keeping out of the way.
First, a rough mockup screenshot.
I propose two modes of using the overlay.
Firstly, showing only part of the overlay: if a user moves their cursor to the edge of the screen, and clicks, the screen shifts (up/down/left/right) to reveal the part of the overlay associated with that side of the screen (kind of like Mac OS X widgets overlay when adding a widget).
Secondly, showing the entire overlay: If they click what is currently labelled the "Activities" button on the panel (not shown in the mockup), then it would zoom out to show the entire overlay.
This mockup is missing the controls for creating new virtual desktops, or for switching between applications, but I would expect them to remain as is.
By default, then, only the wallpaper and the top menu bar will be shown, just as in the current GNOME Shell development version. Notifications don't need to be changed. The currently running applications (currently shown as a screenshot of Docky) is shown as part of the overlay; but it may be nice to have it popup if you just run your mouse along the bottom edge (rather than clicking), as is Docky's current behaviour.
Pulsing red glows along the right hand side could indicate messages from people (as per the way Docky currently works).
Yay for GNOME Shell!