I’ve been a loyal pidgin user for a long time, and for the last couple of years it’s sat somewhat uncomfortably on the Ubuntu desktop. Obviously, Empathy became the default IM client a while back, but the more troublesome part, for me, has been Unity dropping support for the well established system tray icon specification in favour of their own Application Indicators. Ignoring the relative merits of the standards, and the questionable claim that you can unilaterally deprecate a widely used standard, Ubuntu has been good at providing indicator replacements for all the tray icons I care about, with one notable exception – Pidgin. Rather than providing a pidgin icon, they instead provided integration with the central messaging indicator. While this is a fine aspiration, I find the messaging indicator a very poor replacement – it doesn’t offer reasonable behaviour for showing and hiding pidgin and has problems dismissing new message notifications.
Initially, it was possible to turn on the system tray compatibility function in Unity with a simple dconf setting, but in 13.04, this was changed so that it would only work for java, and nothing else. In turn, this led to the creation of ppas for 13.04 and 13.10 to provide patched versions of Unity with the general purpose system tray restored (a one line change, apparently). I’ve been running with that for a while, but I didn’t want to swim upstream on this issue forever, so I decided to write a pidgin plugin that provides a proper indicator, with the same menu and behaviour as the tray icon.
It turned out to be an interesting exercise – creating indicators is extremely simple – all credit where it’s due – with the main challenge being building the menu without reinventing a wheel that’s already present inside pidgin. The pidgin tray icon (docklet is the internal name) is not a plugin, although there is a partial concept of different providers. Unfortunately, the interface can’t be used to drive an indicator as it assumes it can show the menu itself, while indicators require the menu be shown by the indicator. Ultimately, I had to copy the docklet code into my plugin to make the necessary modifications.
It would be possible to modify the docklet interface in pidgin to allow for an indicator provider with minimal impact on the existing providers, but I wanted to offer a working solution without requiring a newer version of pidgin, never mind the complexities of feeding changes upstream, etc. But, there’s an aspirational project there.
At some point I’ll get around to producing a deb for it, but just source for now.