I was trying different desktop themes, with a bunch of apps open: firefox, thunderbird, skype, openoffice, gimp, mplayer... upon switching to a theme near top of the list (sorry I don't remember which) I lost the desktop entirely. Even reboot doesn't fully restore the situation in that I no longer have panels.
xfce is on Zenwalk, I've tried re-installing xfce in text mode, still no panels. I re-installed the distro (without formating partition) but still the same problem.
Can anyone suggest a solution?
I'm just guessing here, but usually if someone loses panels or the desktop it means the programs were killed and the session was saved without those programs running.
With a bit of luck you can fix the issue by running 'xfce4-panel' and 'xfdesktop', for instance from the run dialog (Alt-F2), and saving the session when you log out.
You cracked it. That little bit of genius has saved the day. Thanks a million.