Ubuntu Linux, Day 22: Spread Out and Get Comfortable
By Tony Bradley, PCWorld
30 Days With Ubuntu Linux: Day 22
When I grow up, I want to have one of those desks that looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise–where there are three 23-inch monitors side by side, and I can extend my workspace and work seamlessly across all of them. That dream may not happen any time soon, but with the virtual workspaces in Ubuntu Linux I can essentially simulate the same thing.
I do have a relatively large monitor–at least when I am sitting at my desk. My laptop has display on the small end of the spectrum at 13-inches, but my desktop monitor is 23-inches. That is great for snapping a browser window to the left for conducting research, and the LibreOffice Writer window to the right to do my writing, but what if I am actively working in more than two windows? What then?
That is where the virtual workspaces come in. I assume that the concept was intended for use on netbooks, or smaller notebooks (like mine), but it has value on any size workspace. It is more a function of the number of windows you want to have actively open and ‘visible’ at a time than it is about the screen real estate itself.
On the Ubuntu Classic desktop, there is a button on the bar at the bottom right that lets you select which quadrant of the virtual workspace you are operating in. When using the Unity desktop, there is a button on the bar on the left of the screen for the Workspace Switcher. When you click it, Ubuntu tiles miniature versions of the four virtual desktops on the screen so you can see what is currently open on each and select the desktop you want to work with. As a side note, it is also possible to modify the number of virtual desktops so you could have six, or nine, or whatever.
I started with the top left desktop and opened up a spreadsheet that I use to track my writing in LibreOffice Calc. In the upper-right desktop I opened Firefox to explore some information on the Web. In the lower-left, I opened up Gimp to play with the tool and see what it’s all about. And, in the lower-right I opened up LibreOffice Writer to work on this article.
Granted, it is not as seamless as having a virtual desktop extended across multiple monitors where the mouse can just traverse between them as if they are a single workspace. It also doesn’t save much time and effort to click on the Workspace Switcher and change virtual desktops as opposed to just clicking on the icon for the open programs in the Unity bar to switch back and forth. In fact, it actually involves more clicks.
But, there are times when I am working on multiple, unrelated projects, and it helps to be able to keep the workspaces separate. I can be working on a 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux post in one workspace, while taking care of my personal finances in another, and researching a white paper on a third. However you use it, it is nice to have four times the desktop space as an option to stretch out and make yourself comfortable.