All you wanted to know about workspaces in Ubuntu Linux

By | 25/07/2013

Workspaces can be thought of as virtual screens or desktops which can be used to manage your open programs easily by grouping them together. Each workspace has same panels, menus etc. It’s just that they are separated from each other so that user can segregate his/her work.

For example, I personally keep all my work related windows in one workspace, all messengers, e-mail clients etc. in other and any system backup or upgrade related windows in a separate workspace. In this article, we will discuss how to enable and use workspaces in Ubuntu 13.04.


Enable Workspaces

Workspaces in Ubuntu 13.04 are not enabled by default. You have to enable them explicitly.

Here are the steps :

  • Go to system settings


  • Next, click on the Appearance icon


  • Once there, click on the ‘Behaviour’ tab and you would see a check box for enabling workspaces.


  • Just click the check box


  • Once done, you will see a workspace icon appearing at the bottom area of the menu on left side of your Ubuntu desktop.


  • Click on this and you can see 4 different workspaces




Use Workspaces

If you are not much experienced with using workspaces then here are a few tips that might help you in working with workspaces :

  • Workspaces can be switched both by using mouse and keyboard. Through mouse, just click on the workspace icon (shown in previous section) and you can choose which workspace to switch to. If you want to switch using keyboard then you can use the short-cut ctrl+alt+arrow-keys to switch between workspaces. While using keyboard short-cuts, this is the type of switching screen you will see :


  • There are various ways to move windows from one workspace to other. Simplest being drag and drop a window from one workspace to other while in workspace switching mode.


  • Then there is another way to move a window from one workspace to another. Make sure that the window is not maximized. Now, right-click at the title bar of the window and  you will see many options to switch the window to other workspaces. Use any of them to switch windows between workspaces.


  • As can be observed from the above image, you can click “Always on Top” to make sure that this window always remains in foreground in current workspace. You can also click “Always on Visible Workspace” to set this window in foreground in all workspaces.
  • You can also use keyboard to switch current window to any other workspace. All you need to do is to press ctrl+alt+shift+arrow-keys. Where arrow-keys determine which workspace to switch the window to. For example, the following screen-shot was taken when I was using this key combination to switch current window from left-top workspace to right-bottom workspace.


10 thoughts on “All you wanted to know about workspaces in Ubuntu Linux

  1. Brian Fahrlander

    One core, simple question that remains unanswered: How do I start an application in workspace 5?

    The time-honored “0:0.1″-type numbers don’t work they way they used to. Can you provide an example?

    How would I start Clementine on workspace 6?

    1. Himanshu Post author

      That’s a good question. I’ll come up with a separate article on this topic (later this week). Please stay tuned. :-)

  2. Ashwini

    Ctrl+Alt+shift+arrow was what I was looking for.

  3. Ibrahim

    how to make every workspace separated from the other
    it’s luncher its desktop icons, background
    and running applications

    every thing should be separated, how???

  4. Andy Wuensche

    Dear Himanshu,
    This is a question about my open source graphics program “DDLab” (,
    coded in c. When I move away from the workspace with the DDLab window, then back,
    the contents in the DDLab window disappear. Strangely, the contents of other windows visited might reappear the DDLab window. Probably a software question — how can I retain the window contents when changing workspaces? Covering/uncovering with other windows is OK. (using Ubuntu 11.10 and GNU desktop, but have the same problem in KDE and other Linux versions)
    Andy Wuensche

    1. Himanshu Arora Post author

      >the contents in the DDLab window disappear
      What does a DDLab window contain?

      >Strangely, the contents of other windows visited might reappear the DDLab window.
      I didn’t get this

      1. Andy Wuensche

        >What does a DDLab window contain?
        contains interactive graphics and prompts for user input — see for examples and downloads.
        >>Strangely, the contents of other windows visited might reappear the DDLab window.
        >I didn’t get this
        while working in DDLab, you move to another workspace to work in another application such as emacs, firefox or kmail, then return to DDLab: — the DDLab window has lost its current graphics, but instead may contain fragments of the graphics from the last application from the other workspace. However, DDlab continues to output new graphics correctly.

        1. Himanshu Arora Post author

          Well, I am not sure what’s causing this issue. I think Ubuntu forums would be a good place for you to raise this question.

  5. Bill Hennessy

    In Fedora the workspaces are on the panel and all you need to do is ccick on the one you want to use. Why does Ubuntu make you do a extra step? Anyway to make Ubuntu work like Fedora. I use 4 workspaces and need to chang them quickly.


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