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In my Xubuntu session, icons appear correctly in my xfce4-panel menu applet. If I launch xfce4-panel in my Unity session, the icons are missing.

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Is your Xfce panel set to the top? – user25656 Apr 18 '13 at 0:51
What does it mean? – jasmines Apr 18 '13 at 4:23
screenshots probably will help (crop to the area showing the applet icons in XFCE and then what you see in unity) – fossfreedom Apr 20 '13 at 8:01
I believe you don't need screenshots. Consider I receive an error about the notification area selection: "The notification area lost selection. Most likely another widget took over the function of a notification area. This area will be unused." – jasmines Apr 20 '13 at 13:11
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Probably those icons are related to something in notification area. In Unity notification area is already handled by another indicator, and the one in xfce4-panel (or whatever else) would conflict. That's why the second loaded notification area will always fizzle.

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Xfce4 is gtk2, unity is gtk3/qt/javascript. The enviroments are different

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