Is it possible to minimize applications to desktop iconsl?

We are beginning to use 6-headed Linux  systems with gnome desktop  (and default metacity window manager)as operator consoles to replace our existing SUN systems.  When one minimizes a running application, it appears on a panel and can be accessed from there. However, our operators really prefer the SUN/Motif/XWindows environment in which minimizing an application creates an icon on the desktop for future access. Is there a way to replicate this behaviour using the gnome desktop? I've created "shortcuts" by dragging and dropping menu items onto the desktop as icons, but can't seem to find a way to do a similar thing with applications running on the system.
Thanks in advance!

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