Username or EmailPassword
Use Xfce. Really. It is often mislabeled as an "alternative" or "lightweight" DE. Both terms are technically correct, but that misses the point that Xfce is currently the most usable and comfortable Linux desktop.
If you like the vertical panel then try to get hold of Xfce 4.10. Ubuntu still ships 4.8, 4.10 is available from Xubuntu via ppa.