Many software packages address the general problem of building a graphical interface to simplify life for the end user. Xtpanel is worthwhile only if it offers something that these other packages (many of which are public domain) do not.
Some packages are complete graphical user interface builders. These programs let the user create an object, move it around on the screen or change its attributes - all interactively. While these programs are very powerful, they also tend to be somewhat difficult to use. Typically the work must be done interactively; the various configuration files are verbose and not easily edited by the non-expert. Such packages also are usually more self-contained; it is not as easy to integrate existing non-interactive UNIX software as it is in xtpanel.
Another set of tools takes a simpler approach, with all the configuration information specified on the command line. Two examples, distributed with the X windows source code from MIT, are xmessage and xmenu. These construct a panel with a set of messages, or a menu with several items. While such tools are very easy to use, they are typically quite limited in what they can do.
Xtpanel was designed to fill in the gap between these two classes of tools. It is meant to be very easy to use, but capable of generating panels that are complex and powerful. Also xtpanel takes more advantage than many other products of the power of UNIX, making it easy to run system commands and to incorporate their results into the action of the panel.