Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ubuntu Tip 03: Quickly switch through applications using workspaces

If you are like me and use many applications(e.g. an IDE, a web browser, an email client, a virtual machine, a pdf viewer, another IDE, etc) everyday. Then you are going to love these tips to keep everything organized using workspaces.

What is a workspace?

A workspace is an exact copy of what most of us know as a "Desktop" (see image below for an idea).

The workspace switcher, showing 9 workspaces in a 3x3 matrix.

Ubuntu has this cool feature of maintaining various of these virtual desktops, where you can store applications and keep them isolated one from another, reducing the clutter.

The Idea

Keep only one (maybe two?) application inside each workspace, and switch through workspaces instead of Alt-Tabbing through a bunch of applications. There are a few shortcuts you need to learn to switch through workspaces at ninja speed:

Shortcut Description
Ctrl+Alt+Arrow-key Move through the workspace matrix.
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Arrow-key Drag an application from a workspace to another.
Super+S Open the workspace switcher.

Configuring the number of workspaces

There are various ways to achieve this, I'll explain how to use the CompizConfig Setting Manager.

First, get the application, if you haven't installed it yet.

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-setting-manager

Now launch the application from dash (press the Super key and type compiz).

Select "General Options".

Go to the tab "Desktop Size".

Modify the "Horizontal virtual size" and the "Vertical virtual size" as per your needs.

Keeping all organized

The last workspace trick I'll show you, consist on forcing an application to launch in an specific workspace, this keeps the applications organized in various workspaces.

We'll use the CompizConfig-settings-manager, but this time we'll go to "Window Management" > "Place Windows".

Under the "Fixed Window Placement" tab and in the "Windows with fixed viewport" section we can add a series of rules that'll force the applications to launch in the selected workspace.

You can specify these rules using the application name, its title, etc. From experience, it seems to me that using the application title is both easier and more robust that using the application name.

That's all, if you use any other way to quickly switch through applications and/or use another method for organizing your applications, please share it with all of us via the comments.

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