Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tips on GNOME Classic workspaces

In the world of affordable, dual 27-inch monitors, the GNOME virtual screen feature (aka workspaces) may not hold the same prominent position as before. But, to people like myself who still operate machines equipped with only a single 19-inch monitor, using workspaces effectively is still a big productivity booster.

Below are some tips for using GNOME Classic workspaces.

Tip 1: Change # of default workspaces

By default, the GNOME desktop has 4 workspaces available. The default number can be changed. I, for one, would like to decrease the number of workspaces to 2. I hardly ever need more than 2. With 4 workspace icons spanned out at the bottom of the GNOME Classic screen, I often accidentally click on the wrong one.

To change the default number of workspaces, first install the wmctrl tool. (This tool is also featured in my previous post on how to change window manager.)

$ sudo apt-get install wmctrl

To modify the number of workspaces to 2:

$ wmctrl -n 2

Note that the change takes effect immediately. Also, the change persists after you log out of GNOME.

Tip 2: Keyboard shortcuts to move window to another workspace

Move focus to the window that you want to move. This can be achieved by simply clicking inside that window.

Press the Shift+Ctrl+Alt+RightArrow keys to move the window one workspace to the right. Similarly, press the Shift+Ctrl+Alt+LeftArrow keys to move one workspace to the left.

Tip 3: Keyboard shortcuts to switch workspaces

Before I learn of the keyboard shortcuts, I always mouse over to the workspace switcher app at the bottom of the GNOME Classic screen. From there, I can either click a workspace icon, or scroll using the mouse's scroll wheel, to switch to the target workspace.

If you prefer keyboard shortcuts to the mouse,

  • press the Ctrl+Alt+RightArrow keys to switch to the workspace on the right of the current workspace, or
  • press the Ctrl+Alt+LeftArrow keys to switch to the workspace on the left.

Tip 4: Customizing keyboard shortcuts

You can view the entire list of GNOME keyboard shortcuts, and even customize them according to your personal preferences.

  1. Open System Settings.
    $ gnome-control-center

    You can also open System Settings from the user menu in the top right corner.

  2. Open Keyboard / Shortcuts / Navigation.
  3. Change keyboard shortcut.

    To edit a keyboard shortcut, click to select the corresponding row. Note that a new label is displayed: New accelerator. Press the new keyboard shortcut keys.

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