Indicators are the icons that sit in the upper panel, doing things like estimating the battery level, displaying the current time, letting you adjust your volume, etc.

Over the next few releases, Ubuntu is phasing out the notification area (sometimes known as the “system tray”) because of its clutter, inconsistency and poor integration with the rest of the panel. We are replacing it with two types of status menu: custom status menus for programs, known as “application indicators” and system status menus for messaging, power, sound, etc.

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