This tutorial by Redmistpete explains how to add Cairo-Dock which acts as a "Quick Launch" bar on the edge of the screen for the apps you use regularly. In addition, there are many docklet applications to add extra functionality such as an analogue clock, battery monitor (for laptops/netbooks), a weather monitor and a shortcut which displays regularly used devices and folders.
1- open the Software Centre (or synaptic if you prefer) and install Cairo-Dock
2- open the session manager (startup programs) from the control centre and add "Cairo-Dock" so she starts up each time you reboot
3- launch Cairo-Dock from 'Accessories>GLX-Dock' (if your computer supports openGL rendering, otherwise click on the no_openGL_cairo-dock version instead)
The shortcuts docklet allows the user to quickly jump to a desired device, drive or folder.
1- right-click the dock, go to 'Cairo-Dock>Configure' and put a tick in the 'Shortcuts' box in the 'Desktop' section
2- for neatness, I configured mine to display only folders (not drives or devices)
3- to make the docklet open when the mouse passes over the icon, remove the tick from "Open on Mouse Click" option
1- right-click the dock, go to 'Cairo-Dock>Configure' and put a tick in the 'Volume' box in the 'Controlers' section (it's French - forgive their spelling)
2- for neatness, I configured mine to display the %volume in the icon itself (rather than above the icon)
3- use the middle mouse wheel/touch-pad to slide the master volume up/down, right mouse-click opens the default sound-mixer
This docklet graphically displays the current weather and temperature. It can be expanded to show a short-forecast for the following number of days of your choice (the forecast is dependent on an internet connection and takes a moment to connect to the server after startup or reboot)
1- right-click the dock, go to 'Cairo-Dock>Configure' and put a tick in the 'Weather' box in the 'Accessories' section
2- to get a forecast, you need to ender you region code. US and Canada are automatically searched by entering a State but for UK, either search weather sites/google for your code or just experiment; UK codes will be in the format of either UKxx0001 or GBxx0001 and will run alphabetically by City
3- for neatness, I configured mine to display only 3 days in the forecast