working in an environment with LOTS of open windows

At my day job I currently use a Solaris box running CDE for
both development and production tasks.  Because of the number of
systems involved I have about 40 terminal windows active all the
time, and there are people around me who have even more.  While
there are all terminal windows they are being used for totally different
things - some are for development, some are database logins, some
are product system logins - there is certainly a grouping by function there.

My system has to be very flexible in that for a given task I may need to
use any combination of those windows at a time, so using workspaces
doesn't make sense to me - I'd be assured of almost never having the right
set of windows in the same workspace.

I'm looking to move to a Linux/Gnome box, but the problem is that with
CDE I could have the minimized icons for the different sets of terminal
windows grouped in various places on the desktop, but these days
minimized icons tend to go to a taskbar, and having 40 items in a
taskbar would be a big mess.  Since they're ALL terminal windows
(just used for different things) stacking them by program doesn't work.

What I'm wondering is there any way to give hints to the window manager
under Gnome which would override the grouping on the toolbar so while
there all terminal windows I could tell gnome to stack all the terminals
used for database, production, development, and so on?  I am aware
that some terminal emulators have a tabbed interface but that doesn't
work for me either - for one thing that means I can't see two of the
tabs at once, and also the different windows might be stretched to
different dimensions (for a wide query I often have a window stretched
across both displays in Xinerama mode).

I can't believe that there aren't other developers out there who have
similar requirements, but haven't found a good solution to this.  While CDE
is supposed to be available, it is old/rotting and I'd like to be able to
do this with modern tools.

Does anyone have suggestions how this could be attacked?


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