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Workspaces allow you to manage which windows are on your screen. You can imagine workspaces as being virtual screens, which you can switch between at any time. Every workspace contains the same desktop, the same panels, and the same menus. However, you can run different applications, and open different windows in each workspace. The applications in each workspace will remain there when you switch to other workspaces.

By default, four workspaces are available. You can switch between them with the Workspace Switcher applet at the right of the bottom panel. This shows a representation of your workspaces, by default a row of four rectangles. Click on one to switch to that workspace. In Figure 2.2, “Workspaces Displayed in Workspace Switcher”, Workspace Switcher contains four workspaces. The first three workspaces contain open windows. The last workspace does not contain currently open windows. The currently active workspace is highlighted.

Figure 2.2. Workspaces Displayed in Workspace Switcher

Workspace Switcher. The context describes the graphic.

Each workspace can have any number of applications open in it. The number of workspaces can be customized: see the section called “Adding Workspaces”.


Workspaces enable you to organize the GNOME Desktop when you run many applications at the same time. One way to use workspaces is to allocate a specific function to each workspace: one for email, one for web browsing, one for graphic design, etc. However, everyone has their own preference and you are in no way restricted to only using workspaces like this.

Switching Between Workspaces

You can switch between workspaces in any of the following ways:

  • In the Workspace Switcher applet in the bottom panel, click on the workspace where you want to work.

  • Move the mouse over the Workspace Switcher applet in the bottom panel, and scroll the mouse wheel.

  • Press Ctrl+Alt+right arrow to switch to the workspace on the right of the current workspace.

  • Press Ctrl+Alt+left arrow to switch to the workspace on the left of the current workspace.


The arrow shortcut keys work according to how your workspaces are set out in the Workspace Switcher applet. If you change your panel so workspaces are displayed vertically instead of horizontally, use Ctrl+Alt+up arrow and Ctrl+Alt+down arrow to switch workspaces.

Adding Workspaces

To add workspaces to the GNOME Desktop, right-click on the Workspace Switcher applet, then choose Preferences. The Workspace Switcher Preferences dialog is displayed. Use the Number of workspaces spin box to specify the number of workspaces that you require.

For more on this, see the Workspace Switcher Applet Manual.

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  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire