I finally broke down and tried installing XFCE4.
p - madness
My 'p' key doesn't work. Yes. Pressing the button labeled 'p' does NOT produce the letter 'p'.
Holding down shift and pressing 'p' produces a capital P, as expected. But - I kid you not - you cannot enter a lowercase p.
After digging around the menus, this turned out to be because Super-p was bound to starting some program (which, by the way, didn't start).
Panels, my panels
The panels were easy to set up, and work as advertised. They even stay in the corners.
Sessions, oh no
Usually I configure my desktop session to start Iceweasel, Emacs, Pidgin and a terminal with a tail of a lot of logfiles on login.
I prefer not to have the desktop remember what programs were running when I logged out and starting them again when I log in, because often I logout with programmes running I don't want to automatically start again.
In GNOME 2 it took a couple of years until removing the checkbox from "Automatically save my session on log out" (or whatever it was called) worked. But in the recent couple of years it has worked nicely for me.
Now, in XFCE4 there is a similar option. Only it DOES NOT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE.
Every time I log in, I get an extra Iceweasel, an extra Emacs, and an extra terminal-with-tail-in it started.
I am back to square one on this problem. I kid you not.
Simple is good
On the positive side, I can now choose my preferred Simple theme and buttons, scrollbars etc. look familiar again. It was quite easy to configure the anti-aliasing settings to give pleasing results in both Iceweasel and Emacs, so that is something.
The notifications look horrible in XFCE4, though.