Updated: July 1, 2018
Sounds like a funky recipe, or a beginning of a very weird artistic movie, but it is in fact related to software. Linux Mint, specifically, and its Cinnamon desktop environment. As it turns out, over the years, Linux Mint has striven to give its users a consistent, classic desktop formula, which blends both functionality and intuitive approach, as I've shown many times over the years, including more recently in my Sylvia review. The only problem is, the problem of limited space creeps in on smaller screens.
Having shortcuts tucked in on the left side of the panel is all nice and dandy like when you have many inches of screen equity and high resolutions, but on a typical laptop screen, a dozen app shortcuts will take 50% of the width, and soon you may find the list of your open app windows inaccessible. Various operating systems and desktops solved this by using the icons-only task manager idea. Not so with Cinnamon, though. Enter Icing.
Shaken not stirred
The community has acknowledged the issue - and so various icons-like task managers were born. Cinnamon has a fairly extensible framework of addons/extensions (a-la Gnome, which it is underneath), and they are better known as Spices - and specifically, Applets. You can search and install and activate these integrally through the system settings menu, similar to what Plasma offers, with fewer choices but also fewer duds.
Icing is a fork - and extension [sic] - of the Window List With App Grouping. Launch the settings menu, click on Applets, search for Icing, install it, then activate it (with the + button). You will then have the element added to the Cinnamon panel, and you now can edit its configuration settings. There's a fair amount of options available.
You have the option to customize titles, animation effects, context menu (with Firefox as a separate item), mouse click actions, and more. You can also use system favorites for pinned apps, which can save you some time.
I began experimenting, to see if this concept works. And it does. First, I had to cleanup the panel, removing existing shortcuts, and the window list, then I moved the Icing task manager close the system menu icon. Next, I started opening programs and pinning them. You can re-arrange the stuff with drag 'n' drop, although the effect is not as smooth as Plasma. But it works well.
The right-click menu is quite powerful. You can add apps to the auto-start list, move them around different workspaces, and some programs also have their own custom actions. You also get very cool thumbnail previews, even if you have multiple app windows open. Very powerful and elegant.
You can also make Icing show active apps - and this comes complete with actions and progress bar. Again, you get this in Plasma too, so this is very neat and progressive [sic]. Ha ha. Also, it makes for a very powerful case when it comes to productivity.
Workspaces & a few odd things
All in all, it worked great. But there were a few weird things. One, I started customizing Icing on Workspace 2, and then continued on Workspace 1, and both had different configurations. If you want to "clone" your Icing setup, then you will need to delete extra workspaces (access via Ctrl + Alt + Up Arrow), and create new ones after you've customized the first one. Then, they will also have identical setup. Not sure what happens if you make changes after that. But then, there's an element of flexibility in this, too.
Once or twice, the system menu would not launch - not sure if this is Icing intercepting anything or such, and Spotify didn't show at all, not the installed version nor the Snap application. Quite odd that. Apart from that, the rest worked well.
More lovely screenshots
And some cool piccies - for those asking, wallpapers taken from wallhaven.cc - the reincarnation of wallbase.cc, which I've reviewed on Dedoimedo a while ago. Check the "Japan garden", "misty forest" and "snow" search entries to find these and similar backgrounds. Anyhow, Icing is pretty, modern, stylish, and effective when there be a dearth of pixels for your applications.
I like Icing, and I am happy to have discovered it. I believe Linux Mint - and Cinnamon - does not advertise its extensible nature well enough, or the many goodies available, be they desklets, applets, or widgets. They can help enhance the desktop experience, and some of these, like Icing, should even be considered as default options for future editions of the distribution. Just sayin'.
All in all, the icons-only Icing task manager is a refreshing addition to the Cinnamon desktop. It's got lots of options and settings, it's quite pretty, and you lose none of the power features that you previously had. On the contrary, you gain even more granular control over the context menu and thumbnails, and you can customize per-workspace settings. Very cool. In fact, icy cool. Do check it. And for those asking, Mint 19 Tara review coming soon. Dedoimedo out.