Wednesday, July 27, 2011

changing workspaces in unity

One of the big complaints about Ubuntu's Unity is that there's no workspace pager on the panel to quickly switch workspaces. There's the Workspace Switcher on the Unity launcher, but a common complaint about it is that using it to change workspaces requires too many clicks -- for example, a click on the Workspace Switcher item to bring up the workspace grid, and then a double-click on the workspace you want to move to.

However, in Unity there are a few different ways of moving to different workspaces:

- Using the Workspace Switcher alone, I've found that once the grid is showing, a right-click instead of a double-click is an easier way to move to the workspace you want to go to.

- I installed the Workspace Indicator applet (found out about it at With this applet, two clicks takes you to the workspace you want to go to; or, you can use the mouse wheel to change workspaces.

- The ctrl+alt+arrowkeys combo works nicely for moving to different workspaces.

- You can set up the mouse wheel to take you to different workspaces (if the desktop is visible and the application window is not maximized). I did this by going to CompizConfig Settings Manager > Desktop section > Viewport Switcher > Desktop-based Viewport Switching and setting "Move Next" to Button5 and "Move Previous" to Button4.

- The Super+s keystroke also brings up the Workspace Switcher. Convenient in certain situations.

- Finally, I set up a desktop edge to bring up the Workspace Switcher by going to CompizConfig Settings Manager > Desktop section > Expo > Bindings tab. "Expo edge" is disabled by default, but if you click on the "Engage wall expo mode edge binding" button (the button will be marked "Disabled" but you can see what it's called when the cursor is hovering over it) you can set the binding to whatever edge you choose. With this set, changing workspaces requires only moving the cursor to your set edge and right-clicking on the desktop you want to move to.

Even all these options won't make some people happy. Some folks simply want a workspace pager. In Ubuntu Natty, those folks could always go to Control Center > Startup Applications, create an entry for gnome-panel to start at the beginning of a session, and simply add the Workspace Switcher to the panel. Installing something like xfce4-panel or AWN (Avant Window Navigator) should also work fine -- once installed, just add a workspace pager to one of those, if one isn't present by default.

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