Ubuntu 20.04: Workspaces and Multiple Monitors

2022.08.22 Update: As of Ubuntu 22.04 this is default behaviour (yes … that’s the correct way to spell that word). If you’re running Jammy go to Settings > Multitasking > Multi-Monitor > “Workspaces on all displays” you’ll be all set! (Thanks to folks in the comments for mentioning this).

I have Ubuntu running on as many systems as I can (Windows seems to be going down the tubes … this tube and this tube are the primary reasons I switched).

Back to the topic at hand, if you’re using Ubuntu 20.04 and want to use multiple workspaces with multiple monitors, the default behavior is to only switch workspaces on your primary monitor. This is less-than-helpful.

Enter one of my favorite add-ons for Gnome, Gnome-Tweaks. You can install it by opening a terminal and typing (thank you alin for your comment regarding the need to add the universe repo!) :

sudo add-apt-repository universe
sudo apt install gnome-tweaks

Then launch it by typing gnome-tweaks in the terminal or by hitting your “super” (ie. Windows) key and searching for “tweak”.

Once it’s open, click on “Workspaces” on the left and check “Workspaces span display” under the “Display Handling” header … that’s all there is to it!

15 thoughts on “Ubuntu 20.04: Workspaces and Multiple Monitors”

  1. By default my Ubuntu couldn’t locate the package. I had to go to Software & Updates and then enable “Community-maintained free and open-source software”, so that the package could be located on apt install.

  2. Thanks Alain.

    That tweak allows us to have a workspace span all (3, in my case) monitors. I’m looking for a way to be able to have independent workspaces locked to EACH monitor. You can do this on a Mac. On one screen I would use the two-finger Magic Mouse sideswipe to quickly flip between workspaces that had different documents, on another screen would be workspaces with rendered pages and on my middle screen I could quickly flip between workspaces with different code editors..
    It was the equivalent of having 9 screens on three monitors, and I want to go back to that place, but I want to do it in Linux 🙂

    1. Hey Paul,
      Did you find a solution to your issue? I too want to achieve the same, and unable to find any solution.

  3. in order to install gnome-tweak-tool on ubuntu 20 you have first to add universe repository to your system:
    sudo add-apt-repository universe

  4. Seems to be enabled by default now with a Multi-Monitor option showing both alternatives in the Settings -> Multitaksing section. Alternatively, activate directly in the terminal with the following command: gsettings set org.gnome.mutter workspaces-only-on-primary false

    1. You are correct … the nice thing about 22.04 is that this is now default behaviour. If you go to Settings > Multitasking > Multi-Monitor you can select “Workspaces on all displays” now. I’ll put a note at the beginning of the blog post to note this change.

      1. The problem is that switching between workspaces then happens on both monitors. If you do the keyboard shortcut to switch to the workspace to the left, both monitors switch to the workspace to the left. Is there something to overcome that?

        1. Excellent question. I don’t believe there’s a way to do that. If you select “Workspaces on primary display only” you can use the primary on your second monitor and switch between primary/secondary workspace on your primary monitor (not sure if that’s helpful though). I’ve been on the lookout for a more customizable windows manager for a few years now and have had little success.

  5. Thanks for the tips! I’m on 20.04 and changing the Workspaces setting in GNOME Tweaks got me sorted! I honestly can’t imagine this not being the default so it’s good to hear that things have changed.

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