How to Work with Workspaces in Gnome

Gnome Multiple Workspaces Featured

The workspaces, or Virtual Desktops, is a main feature of the Linux desktop. It has been around for a long time and is available for almost every Linux window manager. However, when Gnome moved to version 3, the development team decided to hide the workspaces in favor of minimalism. To use them, you must either know about their existence beforehand, stumble upon them, or read something like this mini tutorial. Read on to find out how to work with multiple workspaces in Gnome.

What and Where Are Those Workspaces?

A workspace is a clone of your desktop in different areas (or screens). You can then organize your desktop by moving different groups of applications to different screens. You can, for example, have Firefox’s, Skype’s, and Slack’s windows neatly arranged on a workspace you use for all your Internet apps; Sublime Text, an FTP client, and a terminal on another one; your task and time management apps on a third one; etc. Instead of continuously minimizing and maximizing windows, you can now switch workspaces for instant access to all your apps’ windows.

In Gnome 3, you’ll find the workspaces panel by pressing the Win key (also known as the “Super” key) on your keyboard. The workspace panel will be on the right of your screen. If you aren’t running any apps, you’ll see only your primary workspace.

Gnome Multiple Workspaces Single Workspace

If there is at least a single window open on this primary workspace, Gnome will automatically create a second blank workspace.

Gnome Multiple Workspaces Auto Workspace Creation

When you drag an application to the second workspace, Gnome will then create a third blank workspace. Are you following the logic now?

Gnome Multiple Workspaces Multiple Workspaces

In the past, Gnome worked with a fixed number of workspaces that you could tweak to your liking. Gnome 3 now manages the number of workspaces for you by always creating one more than the ones you’re using or by closing the ones that have no windows in them.

Move applications between workspaces

Let’s say you have two applications opened. For example, a file manager and LibreOffice’s Writer.

Gnome Multiple Workspaces Juggle Windows

To move one of the windows to a different workspace, first press the Win key to reveal the Activities. Click and hold the left mouse button on its large preview at the center of the screen, then drag it to the right onto the workspace where you’d like to move it.

Gnome Multiple Workspaces Move Window To Workspace

To create a new workspace between existing ones, you have to use their panel. Drag and drop the application window directly between two existing workspaces. You’ll see a glowing splitter appear between them to show that a new workspace will be created there that contains your window when you let go of your mouse button.

Gnome Multiple Workspaces Manually Create Workspace Between Others

Another way to send a window to a different workspace is by right-clicking on its title bar. Choose either “Move to workspace Up” or “Move to workspace Down” to do precisely that, move the window to the workspace before or after the one you’re currently in.

Gnome Multiple Workspaces Right Click Move To Workspace

You can also use keyboard shortcuts to manage your workspaces and move windows around them:

  • Win + Page Up or Page Down will switch to the previous/next workspace. You can do the same by keeping Ctrl + Alt pressed, then hitting the up-down cursor keys.
  • Win + Shift + Page Up or Page Down, or Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Page Up or Page Down
  • Win + Home and Win + End take you to the first and last workspace, respectively.
  • Win + Shift + Home or Win + Shift + End to move the active window to the first/last workspace.

Other than accessing workspaces, Gnome doesn’t make it obvious that you can change the folder icon too. Luckily, we have the guide for that. And if you are using multiple monitors, you can also set different wallpaper for each monitor in Gnome.

Odysseas Kourafalos
Odysseas Kourafalos

OK's real life started at around 10, when he got his first computer - a Commodore 128. Since then, he's been melting keycaps by typing 24/7, trying to spread The Word Of Tech to anyone interested enough to listen. Or, rather, read.

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