edit: Oh hey, rebooting makes the panel come back. But the problem persists, removing a launcher will make the entire panel disappear. This laptop is going to be used by somebody who wouldn't know what to do if "google isn't there anymore" and would have no way of rebooting by themself.
So, I added a shortcut to the panel for chrome by saying 'add to panel'. It doesn't show up the way I want, where it would just have a single icon for chrome when open. It has 2 icons. One that just stupidly sits there all the time in my panel as a shortcut with a smaller icon next to another one with a larger icon for the open/active chrome app.
So I right click it and say 'remove launcher' because honestly, that looked like the right thing to do. But just assume it was a misclick, because these things happen. Boy did I underestimate how ridiculous you people made this 'baby's first linux distro'. Who knew some absolute genius would decide that ANYBODY would want to make the entire panel disappear, with no way of restoring it?
I tried going into settings for 'Panel' and it just tells me 'GDBus.Error:org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.ServiceUnknown. The name org.xfce.Panel was not provided by any .service files'
Going to just reinstall because I don't like my chances of getting help before I need to have this thing ready in a few hours.
I just tried on a virtual machine and I get the same behavior, but only with certain programs. For example no issues with Mahjongg (first icon I run into), but Rhythmbox causes this issue.
Opening the panel from the terminal allows to capture some output of the errors happening when reproducing the issue. Unfortunately I have no idea what these mean but hopefully someone more knowledgeable can make some sense out it?
Applications added to the panel are supposed to be quick links to your most users apps. When activated, the task panel displays any open windows, notifications in them (if enabled) and only survive a long as the application is open. This behavior is not any different from win xp through 10, Ubuntu, pop or any other Linux distro. The only place I've seen a panel as you intend is MacOS.
Right click on the taskbar icon when you launch the program, and check the "Pin to Dock" option. This will create a permanent launcher on the panel, similar to how the default launchers for Firefox, Files and Software work.