How to Have a Live Preview of Another Workspace in Ubuntu

Workspaces in Linux help you keep your tasks segregated and organized, especially in situations when you’re working on multiple tasks in parallel. For example, in one workspace, you can keep all your office-related applications, while in the other, all your personal stuff.

Imagine a scenario where you are doing your office-related work while a movie download is going on in some other workspace. And you want to keep track of the download process. So, what will you do? Simply switch workspaces to take a quick look at the download progress.

While switching workspaces does the job, it’s not an efficient solution given that you need to take a break from whatever you are doing, switch to the workspace where the download is in progress, and then switch back again. What if you could get a live preview of the workspace where the movie download is going on? Won’t it save you some of your precious time? And don’t forget the frequent breaks that you have to take otherwise.

In this article we will discuss a way you can have a live preview in one workspace and a separate workspace in another on Ubuntu operating system. But before we begin, please keep in mind that all instructions, commands, and examples mentioned in this article have been tested on Ubuntu 16.04.

How to have live previews for workspaces in Ubuntu

There’s a dedicated software that lets you have live previews for workspaces on Ubuntu systems, and the software in question is WindowSpy.

To download and install WindowSpy on your Ubuntu box, run the following commands:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:vlijm/windowspy
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install windowspy

Once the above mentioned commands are successful, you can head to the Dash to launch the tool.


Upon launch, the WindowSpy icon appears in the system tray (the leftmost one in the screenshot below). Click on it and you’ll see a handful of options.


Now, to start using the tool, first head to the workspace whose live preview you want. Once there, click the “Represent active window elsewhere” option in the WindowSpy menu – make sure the application window whose preview you want is active. And then in the workspace where you want to see the preview, click the “Show preview on this viewport” option.


Here’s an example of what the live preview of a window from a workspace looks like (I was downloading an Ubuntu ISO file).


Please keep in mind that what WindowSpy gives is a near live preview and not an exact live preview because the preview window is updated every three seconds.

The tool also offers some customization options (accessible through the “Preferences” option in the drop-down menu) like ability to increase/decrease the preview window size, border width, and background color, as well as the window’s position on your desktop. There’s also an option where you can set the tool to launch at system startup.



Downloading and installing WindowSpy is a cakewalk, and its usage isn’t complex either. For the little effort you put in setting this tool up, the benefit it provides is huge – you don’t have to frequently switch workspaces, saving time as well as effort. If you’ve been looking for a tool like this, I’d encourage you to give WindowSpy a try – I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

Himanshu Arora
Himanshu Arora

Himanshu Arora is a freelance technical writer by profession but a software programmer and Linux researcher at heart. He covers software tutorials, reviews, tips/tricks, and more. Some of his articles have been featured on IBM developerworks, ComputerWorld, and in Linux Journal.

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