How to Automate Opening Apps Into Separate Workspaces in GNOME

Virtual workspaces are nothing new in the Linux world. They allow a single computer screen to feel like several, making multitasking a smoother experience. If you want to make your workflow even easier, consider having specific applications open up automatically into separate workspaces in GNOME, saving you from having to rearrange windows the old-fashioned way. The Auto Move Windows GNOME extension makes this easy to set up.

To install the Auto Move Windows extension, toggle the on-off switch on the extensions page.

AutoWorkspace-screenshot

When prompted, click install.

To configure this extension, install GNOME Tweak Tool. In Ubuntu, you can install via the Ubuntu Software Center, or using the command:

sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

If you use Fedora, this is a simple as opening up a terminal and typing:

su -c 'yum install gnome-tweak-tool'

Open the GNOME Tweal Tool and navigate to “Shell Extensions.” Look for the Auto Move Windows extension, confirm that it is on, and click on the configuration icon visible below:

AutoWorkspace-tweak-tool

When the GNOME shell extension preferences window opens, click on the “Add rule” button in the bottom left.

AutoWorkspace-extension-preferences

You are now looking at a list of your installed applications. Select the application you wish to automatically open on a specific workspace, then select the desired workspace in the field underneath. In the screenshot below, I have chosen Rhythmbox to open up on workspace #4 when launched.

AutoWorkspace-select-app

This one command performs the same task displayed above:

gsettings set org.gnome.shell.extensions.auto-move-windows application-list "['APPLICATION.desktop:WORKSPACE']"

Replace APPLICATION with the name of your chosen application. You can find the exact name of applications by navigating to “/usr/share/applications/“. Then, replace WORKSPACE with the number of the workspace you want the application to utilize. Below, I am again setting Rhythmbox to open on workspace #4 when launched.

gsettings set org.gnome.shell.extensions.auto-move-windows application-list "['Rhythmbox.desktop:4']"

If you want to set multiple applications via the command line, simply separate them with commas. Below I am also designating Firefox to open in workspace #2.

gsettings set org.gnome.shell.extensions.auto-move-windows application-list "['Rhythmbox.desktop:4','Firefox.desktop:2']"

First, install dconf-editor.

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

Fedora users can return to their terminals and input:

su -c 'yum install dconf-editor'

Once the application is open, navigate to “org -> gnome -> shell -> extensions -> auto-move-windows”.

Next to “application-list” the code is the same as before. In the screenshot below, you will see Rhythmbox and Firefox set to workspaces #4 and #2.

AutoWorkspace-dconf-editor

Your applications now open automatically on your choice of workspaces in GNOME when launched. If you want to move these windows around, feel free. They are not bound to any particular workspace, but they will return to their designated workspace if they are closed and re-opened later.

The Auto Move Windows extension also sets your minimum number of available workspaces to whatever your highest designated workspace is. Since I have set Rhythmbox to workspace #4, the shell now always displays a minimum of four workspaces in GNOME.

AutoWorkspace-shell

If I try to go past four workspaces, the shell will automatically create a fifth workspace as usual. This extension therefore strikes a nice balance between having a designated number of workspaces and having the number of workspaces dynamically increase as needed.