The future of virtual desktops

Hans Chen hanswchen at
Fri Feb 25 14:11:13 CET 2011

On Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 07:18, Martin Gräßlin <mgraesslin at> wrote:

> > What I want to know is the following: Are there any plans or outlines
> > regarding how to proceed with virtual desktop (and activities)? Are they
> > documented somewhere?
> There are no plans to change anything about virtual desktops. As Aaron
> wrote they are orthogonal to activities. So the introduction of activities
> does not change anything about vds.

I don't completely agree and I think this is partly what leads to the
confusion - here you have two different concepts that seem to do pretty much
the same thing (from a user's point of view). Why?

In my opinion there are a few things that currently make it harder to grasp

   - I see virtual desktops (VDs) as subordinate to activities, i.e., each
   activity should have its own set of virtual desktops. Currently VDs are not
   activity aware.
   - There is an option to kind of merge activities and virtual desktops
   ("Different widgets for each desktop"). I know that it was added due to
   popular demand, but now that activities also manage windows I don't think it
   is needed anymore. (Some users are not going to like this, I know.)

Other than such bugs/wishlists that would improve the users' understanding
of activities, we should think about how VDs can be improved (like Nuno's
idea). Previously some people used them as context switchers, but now that
we have activities I see virtual desktops as mainly a way to organize
windows. How to better reflect this? I like the direction GNOME Shell seems
to be going - virtual desktops are automatically added or removed depending
on your windows. See this Brainstorm idea for more information:
(I wrote a comment there but I'll repeat the essential parts here.) This way
activities would be more static context switchers, while virtual desktops
provide a way to dynamically organize windows. It would make it clearer what
different purposes they serve, and when you should use what.

These are just some of my thoughts on the subject. In order to improve the
whole workspace experience, I think it's important that we discuss how
different things should work together and that we think about the bigger

With best regards,
Hans Chen
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