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Old 06-08-2013, 06:39 PM   #1
Skaperen
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switching virtual desktops


Maybe the new politically correct term is "workspaces". Anyway, I want to find a better way to do the switching so I can switch faster.

I previously used Slackware 12.0 in mostly a text console mode. That was where I did my coding, and ran ssh+screen sessions to servers I operated. Switching text consoles normally works by pressing ALT+F1 (at the same time, a "key chord"), or Alt+F2, etc. On common distros this went up to F6, and F7 was often an X Server instance. I reconfigured /etc/inittab to make text consoles up to F9, and used F10, F11, and F12 for 3 instances of X server (at the time, to experiment with different video modes). Later on I modified both /etc/inittab and /etc/keymap.default file to extend the number of consoles to 63 total, 60 for text mode and 3 for X Windows. I used X Windows for web browsing and some other graphical purposes. But it was still slow for the heavy demands I used text mode for. I was using Matrox Millennium video cards and SVGATextMode (to get more rows and columns in text mode) back then.

Now computers and video cards are fast enough at things like rapid scrolling and refresh that I cannot distinguish much of different between doing such things in text mode, and doing them in X Windows. At my previous job I ran Ubuntu with Gnome as my office desktop and it was suitably fast. So I configured compiz for 36 virtual desktops, configured it to stop the delay caused by video effects (in my case, I set the sliding time interval to 0), and used 2 side-by-side terminal windows in a little more than half of these virtual desktops for my "coding and server access" space.

Now I'm setting up an all new system at home with Xeon E5-1620 3.6 GHz quad core CPU, 64GB RAM, and NVIDIA GTX 560 with 1GB video RAM, which is more than my office desktop has. I'm going back to Slackware, now 64-bit, using the -current release destined for 14.1. I'm going with Xfce unless there turns out to be a damned good reason to use something else.

Compiz gave me a reasonable way to switch virtual desktops once I had it configured to act quickly (no video effect delays). But this isn't scaling well. The reason is that it is NOT a single step to get from one virtual desktop to another. It's a 6x6 grid and it takes a few steps to get to the other end. Additionally, there seems to be a bug that if I do a lot of rapid switching, especially when the system is very busy with other tasks, like a software build, the various windows in each of the virtual desktops gets shuffled around to OTHER virtual desktops. That always needs a logout and login to fix it, which is a major disruption in my workflow. I fear I have reached the limit in compiz. But I believe it may be better if there was a way to just jump DIRECTLY to the target virtual desktop.

So what I want is to do in X Windows the equivalent of what I did with text mode virtual consoles, and use some "key chord" to make the jump directly. These examples use a "key chord" prefix of Alt+Win to avoid conflicts with key chords that might really switch out of X Windows to a real console. Here are a few:
  • Alt+Win+F1 will go directly to virtual desktop 1
  • Alt+Win+F4 will go directly to virtual desktop 4
  • Alt+Win+q will go directly to virtual desktop 29
  • Alt+Win+p will go directly to virtual desktop 38
  • Alt+Win+a will go directly to virtual desktop 41
While others might want it, I do not personally need any aspect of desktop switching to be visual, other than now showing the virtual desktop I switched to. With compiz now I do have a grid that pops that shows me where I am, because that is important to know how to get to where I want to switch to. But with direct switching, I won't need even that.

Personally, I think this is the simplest form of virtual desktop switching. Some might not like it because it doesn't involve using a mouse to click on something. Others might not like it because there is no cute effect. But it's obvious they can have those things by just choosing to use it that way.

But I'm wanting the simplest form. And it could even be simpler than the key chord mapping I have described. The desktop switch could simply operate in the mode where it only creates virtual desktops when they are first switched to, and simply associate it with that key chord. That way if I have never pressed Alt+Win+k then there is no virtual desktop there. But as soon as I do press Alt+Win+k, then one will be created there. A means to delete a virtual desktop could be an option.

But if I do have to do individual key chord to virtual desktop mapping for a desktop switcher, like I did for the text mode virtual consoles, that's fine. But a nice system would simply allow me to enable the key chord prefix (e.g. Alt+Win, or some other one like Ctrl+Win) as enabled for a set of virtual desktops associated with pressing some other key along with it.

So which virtual desktop switch could do this with Xfce? Or do I need to go back to Gnome for this? Or some other desktop environment. I already know KDE simply cannot do it at all because it has a hard coded limit of 20 virtual desktops (I'm already needing more than the 36 I have now ... I want 60 like I had with text mode virtual consoles).

What is involved with virtual desktop switching? I did this long ago with fvwm, which used a little box in the screen I had to click on (I do NOT want to do it that way now). It appeared to just have a giant single virtual workspace, and moved around in it, and accomplished that by hiding windows and repositioning them.

Please do NOT suggest that I use screen. It cannot do it with any quick single keystroke (to go all the way to another). It can be a problem in desktops where I already do run screen (many of them). It just won't accomplish what I am trying to do.

Can compiz be configured or hacked to do this?

Can the Xfce desktop switcher be configured or hacked to do this?

Is there some other program that would get this job done?
 
Old 06-09-2013, 06:34 AM   #2
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Do you use the 36 different workspaces for 36 different tasks?

Just an idea, but maybe you should check out Activities in KDE?
 
Old 06-09-2013, 07:06 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigg3.net View Post
Do you use the 36 different workspaces for 36 different tasks?

Just an idea, but maybe you should check out Activities in KDE?
Many are related.

So tell me what is the difference between "virtual desktop" and "activities" in KDE. I do know there is a limit of 20 virtual desktops in KDE. But what about activities? Can I set up 60 of them AND have 60 different key chords that each jump directly to a specific activity?

Online documentation that I have found indicates many steps are needed to switch to an activity. That is not good. I need to switch rapidly and instantly. See the few examples in the first post. There would need to be 60 of those, for the 60 or so various key chords using one character around the keyboard, Picking one, with the letter "q" for number 29 (arbitrary), if I press and hold the "Alt" key and the "Win" key and the "q" key, it would immediately switch to virtual desktop or activity number 29.

The actual key chord prefix does not have to be Alt+Win. It could be Ctrl+Win, or Shift+Win, or other combinations ... except that Ctrl+Alt would have to be excluded since it would be used at an even lower layer to switch in and out of X Windows itself.

But I guess this all comes down to what is an "activity" in KDE, in the sense of what mechanism is used to manage it, and how that can be configured, and why this is there considering "virtual desktop".

Edit:

One very essential requirement ... if I highlight/copy text in ONE activity or desktop, I must be able to paste it into another. For example if I am reading documentation in one of them and it has a web hyperlink, I should be able to copy that link (by just highlight it) and switch to another and paste it in there.

Last edited by Skaperen; 06-09-2013 at 07:14 AM.
 
Old 06-09-2013, 07:58 AM   #4
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I think I should have asked this question first: How and why do you need 36 workspaces? Just curious. I think you may have a use case that could be solved in a different perhaps more efficient manner than having so many workspaces.

If these are terminal applications, why not check out a tiling window manager? You can also use tricks in your bash.rc file to indicate which machine you're in by colouring the prompt according to which machine you're logged into, if you SSH into multiple machines at the same time.

Activities are like workspaces+specific tasks+other settings tied together, like having a special "Office" activity which starts LibreOffice, sets a plain desktop etc. KDE is very customizable, but I'm not sure I'm hitting your use case.
 
Old 06-09-2013, 11:35 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigg3.net View Post
I think I should have asked this question first: How and why do you need 36 workspaces? Just curious. I think you may have a use case that could be solved in a different perhaps more efficient manner than having so many workspaces.

If these are terminal applications, why not check out a tiling window manager? You can also use tricks in your bash.rc file to indicate which machine you're in by colouring the prompt according to which machine you're logged into, if you SSH into multiple machines at the same time.

Activities are like workspaces+specific tasks+other settings tied together, like having a special "Office" activity which starts LibreOffice, sets a plain desktop etc. KDE is very customizable, but I'm not sure I'm hitting your use case.
Many web browsers are open on different pages stuff I work on at work. Many are just other stuff like LQ, Slashdot. Lots of pages are on running xterm for many ssh sessions I have active to many server instances, where I'm repeatedly doing SVN checkouts and such. Many others are xterm just monitoring stuff. Many others are development in an editor.

Here's the thing. Other switching methods exist. For example in screen I can switch windows. In emacs I can switch files. In browsers I can switch tables. But none of them are fast. And even if they were, I'd need some kind of uniformity. For example switching from an emacs edit screen to a web browser is not one single action. And none of these switches is a uniform process across all workspaces.

But, it shouldn't matter WHAT I'm doing. The number might matter. But even with the slowdown of a grid structure in Compiz, I'm already confined to the 36 virtual desktops it provides. I was near that level of being confined in the 60 text mode virtual consoles I previously used in an older system where I also ran at least 1 X Windows instance with 40 virtual desktops under fvwm which only provided a click box to switch them (so it was quite slow).

I want something uniform. A common "key chord prefix" like maybe Alt+Win, along with ONE other character elsewhere on the keyboard. I am a "position visual" person, so I can think of things as "being in a place". I might have by email client in "p" and press Alt+Win+p to get to my email. Why not "m"? Well, it isn't the letter I think about, it's where the key is. If I put my email in a position, I remember it well as being THERE, at that PLACE.

A tiling window manager might work ... if it can do Alt+Win+p and get there instantly ... if it can capture all of those key chords coming in from the keyboard. I think fvwm worked a lot like that, except it did not support switching by keyboard at all (a click box on the screen ... something that can't do what I need).

Once I am "there" I have no need to use things like color to see where I am. I'll know where I am. What I need is a means to get there very fast. And I think of THERE as a position. For example I hate my current KVM box which has 4 inputs because they made it with ONE button and a number display. I'd prefer one with 4 buttons and I can think in terms of position and jump to the desired computer directly.

Maybe KDE's "activites" can work. It would just need the means to switch quickly and have at least 60 activities (its limits should be based on how many available key chords there are). I read in some googling on it that it identifies them by GUID ... that should be plenty. But I still didn't find much detail about them. The Wikipedia page for KDE doesn't even mention it. Other pages mention it, but nothing describes how to make instance jumps. None describe the difference between an "activity" and a "virtual desktop". What if I had KDE doing activities AND ALSO range a virtual desktop switcher (not that I would, but this goes to understanding what these things are).

In any case if activities is to work, I need to find a way to make Alt+Win+p or Ctrl+Win+p go to my email, and either Alt+Win+o or Ctrl+Win+o go to my browser that is logged into gmail.

Ideally, I should just need to configure the PREFIX of the key chord as "the switcher" and that combined with any key switches to the desktop or activity associated with that other key, without the need to create one (make it automatic the first time I go there). It should have a configure item to disable putting all the same applications back when I restart (e.g. a restart just gives me 60 blank workspaces). Still, it could be nice to have a means to write 60 different scripts that harden what I want to be set up in each workspace on restart, one script per desktop ... or one script overall with commands that identify which workspace to put that application in.

What can I test out today? I have a KDE based Slackware64-current already installed and ready to boot up (on the same machine that I have an Xfce bsaed Slackware64-current installed on).
 
Old 06-09-2013, 03:26 PM   #6
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BTW, I'm more talkative about things like this because it seems many people can easily misunderstand what it I'm even talking about. Most people's experience with things like virtual desktop is very limited.
 
Old 06-09-2013, 11:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skaperen View Post
Can compiz be configured or hacked to do this?
Yes. But it doesn't work with the Desktop Cube plugin. It's not possible to switch workspaces vertically with the Desktop Cube, only horizontally. However, it can be done with the Desktop Wall and the Viewport Switcher plugins.

Enable both plugins (and disable the Cube), and put a keybinding in the "Number-Based Viewport Switching" in the Viewport Switcher.

For the keybinding I selected F12, so I press and hold F12, type the workspace number and release F12. That changes the workspace instantly. I tried it with a 6x6 grid and it works well.

Other keybindings can be set in the Desktop Wall plugin. By default it uses Ctr-Alt-{Left,Right,Up,Down} to switch workspaces, which I think is quite convenient and fast as well.

Hope that helps.
 
Old 06-10-2013, 04:06 AM   #8
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Have you already tried in Xcfe:
  1. Settings -> Workspaces -> General: Layout. Number of workspaces: 36
  2. Settings -> Settings Editor -> xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts -> xfwm4 -> Custom and adding more workspace_*_key definitions?
IDK how many workspaces Xfce can support (at least 15, as established by using Alt+Ins to add 11 to the standard 4) or whether there's a limit to the workspace_*_key commands but its worth a try
 
Old 06-10-2013, 05:38 AM   #9
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I'm not saying that your use case is illegitimate, every use case is. I'm just trying to attack the use case from a different angle.

If you have a lot of terminals, most of them can be consolidated on 1 screen using an app like Terminator, for instance. So if you needed 10 different terminals open at any give time, put them in terminator. Then you might just need a terminal for a one-off command, in comes Guake (like the console in quake-games).
Picture of terminator here: http://lifehacker.com/5858676/the-be...ator-for-linux (Featured in the last LXF)
Guake: http://guake.org/

This might reduce the number of workspaces needed and thus alleviate the situation.

Last edited by Sigg3.net; 06-10-2013 at 05:41 AM.
 
Old 06-10-2013, 08:04 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skaperen View Post
it seems many people can easily misunderstand what it I'm even talking about.
I understand you perfectly. And your analysis (judging by most of the responses) seems accurate.

Peace.
 
Old 06-11-2013, 11:41 PM   #11
Skaperen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catkin View Post
Have you already tried in Xcfe:
  1. Settings -> Workspaces -> General: Layout. Number of workspaces: 36
  2. Settings -> Settings Editor -> xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts -> xfwm4 -> Custom and adding more workspace_*_key definitions?
IDK how many workspaces Xfce can support (at least 15, as established by using Alt+Ins to add 11 to the standard 4) or whether there's a limit to the workspace_*_key commands but its worth a try
15 would be way too small. Anything less than 36 is regression. I think my current need is for 60.

When I actually try this, it lets me go up to 100.

Now for the second part, I'm lost after getting to "xfwm4". I press "new" and a popup comes up to enter something new. But it never lets me "save". It shows there are 12 jumps already configured (<Control>F1 through <Control>F12). I tried to create one for <Control>Q but it did not let me save. Also, how would I indicate the Windows key? <Win> or <Windows>? Also, is there a way to specify just a left side or right side key? I know X sends them as different codes.

Last edited by Skaperen; 06-11-2013 at 11:59 PM.
 
Old 06-11-2013, 11:50 PM   #12
Skaperen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigg3.net View Post
I'm not saying that your use case is illegitimate, every use case is. I'm just trying to attack the use case from a different angle.

If you have a lot of terminals, most of them can be consolidated on 1 screen using an app like Terminator, for instance. So if you needed 10 different terminals open at any give time, put them in terminator. Then you might just need a terminal for a one-off command, in comes Guake (like the console in quake-games).
Picture of terminator here: http://lifehacker.com/5858676/the-be...ator-for-linux (Featured in the last LXF)
Guake: http://guake.org/

This might reduce the number of workspaces needed and thus alleviate the situation.
Nothing can reduce the number of workspaces. The reason why this is so is that I need to have one single consistent means to switch around ... AND ... not all workspaces are alike. I need "flat selection". If everything I was doing could be done in a terminal (and in days past, that was true ... and I was using Linux kernel text mode virtual console switching among 60 of them. There were 3 more consoles running X, but I was doing very little in X at the time, so the "non-flatness" of having 2 different kinds of switching didn't matter) then I could just use terminator. But now days, what I am doing could involve any of many different things. Terminals still predominate. Web browsers are in many workspaces. But other things are, too (Skype is one example).

Since I am setting up a new PC, this is an opportunity to choose a new terminal program. But I want to set that choice aside for now until I get the desktop switcher figured out. The terminal program simply cannot be part of this right now.

---------- Post added 2013-06-12 at 00:50 ----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diantre View Post
Yes. But it doesn't work with the Desktop Cube plugin. It's not possible to switch workspaces vertically with the Desktop Cube, only horizontally. However, it can be done with the Desktop Wall and the Viewport Switcher plugins.
I don't want the cube. I don't want vertical. I don't want horizontal. I just want to go to the specific intended desktop with no geometrical or orientation sense, no movement, no effects.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diantre View Post
Enable both plugins (and disable the Cube), and put a keybinding in the "Number-Based Viewport Switching" in the Viewport Switcher.
I've never used the cube. I don't see the point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diantre View Post
For the keybinding I selected F12, so I press and hold F12, type the workspace number and release F12. That changes the workspace instantly. I tried it with a 6x6 grid and it works well.
I don't want the 6x6 grid.

The "press and hold" keys would ideally be Ctrl+Win or Alt+Win or maybe Shift with something. But not Ctrl+Alt since that is normally used to get to text mode consoles (out of X) and let's leave that so if we can.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diantre View Post
Other keybindings can be set in the Desktop Wall plugin. By default it uses Ctr-Alt-{Left,Right,Up,Down} to switch workspaces, which I think is quite convenient and fast as well.
I do not want to step through any workspace to get to another. I want to go directly to the target. That means at least as many keyboard keychord shortcuts/bindings are there are workspaces/desktops. See the /etc/keymap.default link from post #1.

Hope that helps.[/QUOTE]
Hopefully it will.
 
Old 06-12-2013, 12:33 AM   #13
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Seeing some existing configuration strings, I found the XML part where this configuration is stored.

So now what I would like to know is what the code for the Windows key is.
 
Old 06-12-2013, 01:22 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skaperen View Post
I don't want the cube. I don't want vertical. I don't want horizontal. I just want to go to the specific intended desktop with no geometrical or orientation sense, no movement, no effects.
You can't use the Cube with Desktop Wall. The vertical/horizontal only refers to the number of viewports configured in compiz. In ccsm, you select a "horizontal virtual size" and a "vertical virtual size", it's just the name of the options.

To disable the geometrical/orientation sense: Desktop Wall -> Viewport Switching -> Wall Sliding Duration : 0

To disable other movement/effects: Desktop Wall -> Viewport Switch Preview -> Switch Target Preview Visibility Time : 0

Quote:
I don't want the 6x6 grid.
You can use up to 960 viewports with the Desktop Wall plugin, a 32x30 grid. When I used the expresion "6x6 grid" I didn't mean a visual/graphical grid of fancy effects or other eye candy, I only meant a number of viewports, nothing more.

Quote:
The "press and hold" keys would ideally be Ctrl+Win or Alt+Win or maybe Shift with something. But not Ctrl+Alt since that is normally used to get to text mode consoles (out of X) and let's leave that so if we can.
The selection of keybinding is done in the Viewport Switcher plugin. I tested with Alt+Win+letter+viewport, Alt+Shift+letter+viewport, and Fn+viewport combinations and they work fine, but the combinations with the Control key just won't work, and I have no clue why.

Quote:
I do not want to step through any workspace to get to another. I want to go directly to the target. That means at least as many keyboard keychord shortcuts/bindings are there are workspaces/desktops. See the /etc/keymap.default link from post #1.
With the settings above it's possible to switch instantly to the different viewports with no visual effects. There are the same number of keyboard shorcuts as viewports. Using the F12 key, I press F12+5 to display viewport #5, F12+368 to display viewport #368, and so on.
 
Old 06-12-2013, 06:25 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diantre View Post
You can't use the Cube with Desktop Wall. The vertical/horizontal only refers to the number of viewports configured in compiz. In ccsm, you select a "horizontal virtual size" and a "vertical virtual size", it's just the name of the options.

To disable the geometrical/orientation sense: Desktop Wall -> Viewport Switching -> Wall Sliding Duration : 0

To disable other movement/effects: Desktop Wall -> Viewport Switch Preview -> Switch Target Preview Visibility Time : 0
For my Compiz setup on an older desktop, I have set things like this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diantre View Post
You can use up to 960 viewports with the Desktop Wall plugin, a 32x30 grid. When I used the expresion "6x6 grid" I didn't mean a visual/graphical grid of fancy effects or other eye candy, I only meant a number of viewports, nothing more.
I still want to not have to think of "how do I get there FROM HERE". I want to know how to get there from wherever I happen to be by using exactly the same keys no matter where I am. Compiz only lets me slide around expect for 10 or 12 it did let me map to key strokes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diantre View Post
The selection of keybinding is done in the Viewport Switcher plugin. I tested with Alt+Win+letter+viewport, Alt+Shift+letter+viewport, and Fn+viewport combinations and they work fine, but the combinations with the Control key just won't work, and I have no clue why.
The Control key may have too many other legacy uses. I would be fine with using the Windows or Alt+Windows key as the initial part of the key chord.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diantre View Post
With the settings above it's possible to switch instantly to the different viewports with no visual effects. There are the same number of keyboard shorcuts as viewports. Using the F12 key, I press F12+5 to display viewport #5, F12+368 to display viewport #368, and so on.
Would that "368" be typed as a stepped sequence of '3' and then '6' and then '8' while holding F12 ? Would I be flapping through viewport 3 and then 36 before getting to 368?

I don't want to think in numbers. Names would be not much better. I think in positions. I am using Ubuntu+Gnome+Compiz now on an older desktop machine I'm trying to move away from. That's where I have a 6x6 grid. I do think in positions on that grid. I do not think in terms of grid number. I don't think of numbers at all with it (even though a number of tools let me move windows to specifically numbered desktops). But this is slower than I want.

So I don't want to type the number for two reasons. One is the extra steps. The other is the thinking mode being less natural for me. I want to hold a key chord (1 or 2 or maybe 3 of Alt, Ctrl, Shift, Windows) and while holding that, press ONE MORE KEY, and instantly be on that desktop or viewport or workspace or whatever we call it ... that is associated with that ONE MORE KEY.

If I used Ctrl+Windows to do this, and typed the number "368" I would flash through viewport 3 then viewport 6 then viewport 8 really fast, and end up on 8. Then, while still holding Ctrl+Windows, I would press the key 'p' and be at viewport 38 ... assuming I mapped 'p' to 38 (I did in my text mode setup of days gone by which 2 of my computers still use).

I think of the keyboard as my "space" with each key of most of the keys as being a position to go to. All the Fx keys, all the digits, all the alphabet, and several other keys (even the space bar) are "places" where the various desktops "are at". Those are the destinations to go to. While holding the magic keys (like Ctrl+Win) pressing these keys immediately goes to that place, or I can roll around on those keys and flash through several of them.

I have found I can get the effect I want in the Xfce keyboard short cuts. Or it seems so based on a few keys it has configured. Nothing more is plugged in that did not already come in Slackware. The next quest is finding how to express the use of the Windows key, and key combinations, using that scheme. It lacks sufficient documentation (only tells how to get to the menu to make changes, not what to put in there for various meanings).
 
  


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