The trick of moving from one operating system to another is that you get used to certain conventions. It’s not so much that you can’t adapt to new conventions, but if you can have some uniformity, that can help moving between the systems. I’ve been customizing my Ubuntu 10.04 interface so that reflects my preferences. The great thing about Ubuntu is that this is all out-of-the-box functionality. Unlike Windows, where you can really just add or drop additional toolbars, Ubuntu gives you the flexibility to really customize.
The first thing I did was to eliminate the bottom screen panel (Right-click on panel, select Delete this panel). I don’t use it and I was planning to replace it for the single purpose of showing me which applications are open. I got the idea for this from a netbook Ubuntu interface, which placed the open apps notification on the top panel. This is the panel item called Windows List. Right click on the top panel, select Add to Panel . . . and scroll down the list of possible items. Windows List is at the bottom, and will show an icon or button for each application you have open, just like in Windows or on the bottom panel in Ubuntu.
The Windows List item takes up some significant horizontal screen space so if you can free up some, it will be more useful. I do not care for the separate menus for Applications, Places, and System. I removed that from the top panel (Right-click on menu, select Remove from panel) and used the Add to Panel . . . function to add Main Menu. It compresses the menus into a single Ubuntu logo, which shows the application menu, system, and places menus all on one long menu. Again, this is more like the Windows Start button with your control panel and application icons all in one place.
Another pair of menus I don’t use are the User Switcher and Indicator Applet Session. The one enables you to switch users (which I don’t have) and the other enables you to mark your status, as well as to shut down the machine. I prefer the much simpler Shut Down panel item, which is a red shut down button that pops up a login to restart, log out, etc.
I used Ubuntu Tweak to kick the minimize-maximize-close buttons from the top left to top right corner of all open windows, and also to make a right-click on the title bar roll up the window. All in all, it’s a cleaner look for me and puts all my information across the top of my screen, rather than splitting it into two places. Funnily enough, moving my Windows task bar to the top of my Windows screen makes the transition between OS even smoother, since my Windows Start and Ubuntu Gnome Main Menu are in exactly the same place, as are my open application buttons, my date/time, other notifications, and network status.