I tried duplicating your problem in v5.5 and it seems the activity bars don't start any closer to the left hand margin than about one inch, even when reports is at its narrowest, so there's at least an inch of bar-free space for thought names.
Even when thought names are so long that some do overlap the activity bars, I don't find reading their names a problem, maybe because I prefer a really dark background for the plex, which also becomes the background for reports. I use very light and bright text colors against the background, and since the activity bars turn out as darker shades, I can easily read text against them. Maybe you could try switching to a similar color scheme (light text against dark background) in a test brain and see if this helps.
I agree that layouts should be capable of being saved, also that it should be possible to turn off display of activity bars. I look at them very rarely and if they interfere with text display they should definitely be able to be turned off. In that way users can have the best of both worlds.
Since it's easy to switch themes, why not save your present settings as your "Work" theme, then experiment with backgrounds and colors till you find one against which you can read thought names in the reports pane? Save it under another name, say, "Activity", then switch to it only when you really have to make a long thought name visible.
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