HOWTO: Configure Multiple Virtual Desktops in KDE?

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Sun, Dec 11 - 1:25 pm EDT | 13 years ago by
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KDE Panel
I think that most distros come with multiple desktops already set up. The ‘default’ seems to be four desktops, although you can generally set that to whatever you’d like. I find that three is optimum for me, but I usually stick with four because the pager on my task bar looks better with four squares on it vice three.

We need to define two things before we start.

Virtual Desktops are multiple instances of a desktop that you can switch between. Each desktop has a full set of configurable features including wallpaper and layout. You can switch between multiple desktops using the Control+F1 (and F2, and F3, etc up to the number of desktops you have configured).

The pager is the panel applet on the KDE (and Gnome) panel that shows the tiny little virtual desktops and allows you to switch between them using a mouse. Arguably, this is an easier way to switch desktops than using the Control+Fx key combinations, however the pager is not required.

So, then – there are two steps: Configure the virtual desktops and add the pager to the KDE panel. I’m not running Gnome at the moment, so I can’t supply details on how to do this in Gnome. If any readers out there are using Gnome and want to tell us how to do it, I’m sure other Gnome users would appreciate it!
Virtual Desktops KDE
NOTE: I have not installed KDE 3.5 yet. Directions may change in 3.5.

Configure the Virtual Desktops (KDE 3.3 and 3.4)

Navigate to the KDE Control Centre and select Look & Feel -> Desktop -> Multiple Desktops. Move the slider on top of the right pane to select how many virtual desktops you would like. By default, the desktops your create will be named Desktop 1, Desktop 2, etc. You can rename them in this screen if you’d like something more descriptive.

There is a checkbox on the bottom of this window that is labelled Mouse wheel over desktop background switches desktop. I’ve tried this option on and off, but can’t figure out what it does. If you know, let me know :)

Click the OK or Apply button. Now you have multiple desktops which you can access by using the Control+Fx keys. If you’d like to be able to access them via your mouse, then continue onto the next section.

Add the Pager to the KDE panel

Once you’ve created your desktops, you can use the KDE panel pager applet to move between them. To add the pager applet to the KDE panel, right-click anywhere on the panel. Select Add -> Applet -> Pager. The default pager that show up is a big line of little desktop squares. I’ve always found that this takes up too much room, so I right-click on the pager somewhere and select Show -> Rows -> 2. That makes a nice square with four desktops in it which looks better to me. There are lots of options to play with and they will produce different results depending on how many desktops you have. Play around and find the configuration you like.


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  • Randy

    “There is a checkbox on the bottom of this window that is labelled Mouse wheel over desktop background switches desktop. I’ve tried this option on and off, but can’t figure out what it does. If you know, let me know.”

    You should be able to switch through all of your desktops with a turn of the wheel. Just like if you put your mouse over the pager and roll the wheel, you will move between the desktops.


  • Jon

    Ya know, I tried that a hundred times and it never worked so I gave up. I tried it again after reading your comment and it worked.


  • R_Scott Harrington

    Apparently in Gnome, the Desktop Pager is known as the Workspace Switcher. Right-click on the Switcher, choose “Preferences”, and add up to 32 workspaces.

    These steps taken from RH Fedora & EL 4 Bible, Negus.

    Hope this helps,


  • Jon

    Thanks, Scott! I was actually running a Live CD with Gnome just last night, but I totally forgot to check.

  • Dave

    I’m using KDE with 12 workspaces and want to be able to have the option to place certain applications on only 3 workspaces while having others placed on various others. The only option available to me is to have an application either on all or only one desktop – this is a pain since in CDE I could have this option available to me. Any suggestions please

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