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How to Create, Enable, Switch and Configure Workspaces

If you’re looking to learn how to use workspaces in Ubuntu 18.04 and above, this is the guide for you. We’re confident that you’ll start feeling like a real workspace ninja before you even finish reading it.


Even though Linux is often considered the least user-friendly of the three most popular operating systems, it was the first one to introduce multiple desktops, also called workspaces. 

This feature is a great example of how open-source software can indeed provide a user-friendly interface as well as improve the user’s productivity and workflow.

The Workspace Sidebar

Up to Ubuntu 16.04, the launcher bar had a workspace switcher tool that was used to preview all of them at once. You could’ve then selected the workspace that you wanted to make active or just drag and drop open apps between them. 

This changed since the release of Ubuntu 18.04 when a workspace sidebar was introduced on the right side of the screen.

To display this sidebar, you can press the Super (Win) key or left click on the Activities button in the upper left corner of the screen (see image below).


Now that you see the workspace sidebar, you hover over it with your pointer to display it entirely (see image below).


You will immediately notice that a new workspace is waiting for you just beneath the first one, by default. To select it, left-click its preview screen, which will make the second workspace become the active one. 

You can now open a new app on that workspace and easily drag and drop apps between the workspaces by dragging them to the sidebar.

Additional workspaces

At this point, you’re probably wondering how to add a new workspace.

To add a workspace, drag and drop a window from an existing workspace onto the empty workspace in the workspace sidebar. This workspace now contains the window you have dropped, and a new empty workspace will appear below it. As long as you have a window open in the last workspace, a new one will appear at the bottom automatically (see image below).


Cycling Between Workspaces

Another way of cycling between workspaces is by using one of the following shortcuts.

  • Ctrl + Alt + Up Arrow / Down Arrow
  • Ctrl + Alt + Super + Page Up / Page Down

This opens a simplified view of workspaces in the middle of the screen, as opposed to the sidebar on the right (see image below).


Closing a Workspace

To remove a workspace, simply close its existing windows or move those windows to another workspace. This rule doesn’t apply to the last workspace since one empty workspace is always added to the bottom of the sidebar for convenience.

Configuring and Using Workspace Shortcuts

To speed up and simplify the user’s workflow, a dozen useful shortcuts were added for better workspace management.

These shortcuts can be used to easily navigate between workspaces as well as move windows between them.

Don’t like the default workspace shortcuts? That’s ok; you can change them to meet your specific needs. 

Just go to Settings > Devices > Keyboard and set the shortcuts that you prefer (see image below).


Final Words

You should now have a clear understanding of how Ubuntu workspaces function.

We covered several ways of managing workspaces and their windows, using shortcuts for a faster workflow, and explained what changed from earlier versions of Ubuntu in case you were used to them.

If you are experiencing any problems addressing this issue, give us a call today at 800.580.4985, or open a chat or ticket with us to speak with one of our knowledgeable System admins!

About the Author: Nicholas Conner

Nicholas is a full-time Linux enthusiast and a part-time mystic. Half of his time is spent on working with servers, while the other half is reserved for connecting with nature and people. Providing great customer support is his signature way of contributing to the world.

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