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June 2, 2004
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Linux for Windows Users #8

The Linux (Multiple) Virtual Desktops Unleashed

Part 2: Tutorial

Mike Angelo -- 3 June 2004 (C) -- Page 2


Article Index

Naming your virtual desktops

Please notice in Figure 4, on page 1, that each of the 14 virtual desktops we have configured has an input box with the desktop number on a white background. The two remaining and not configured desktops, 15 and 16, have grayed-out and blank input boxes.

If you look at Figure 4, you should notice that each configured virtual desktop has a number followed by the desktop name. In Figure 4 the desktop names are the default Desktop # names, such as Desktop 3.

You can replace the default Desktop # names with whatever names you please -- more about that further on.

Organizing your virtual desktops

Let's organize our virtual desktops by function or activity. For example, Web browsing is a function. We are going to use virtual desktops 3 and 4 for Web browsing. So let's rename them Web 1 and Web 2.

Please see Figure 6, below. It shows the activity-oriented names that we have assigned to each of the 14 virtual desktops now configured for this tutorial.

E-mail is another important function. Let's set virtual desktop 11 aside for reading and writing e-mail. So, let's rename virtual Desktop 11, Mail.

In Desktop 11 in Figure 7, below, you can see the Desktop Pager iconic representations of the K-Mail e-mail client and a K-Mail mail-composer panel, which have been opened in Desktop 11.


Figure 5. Using the K-Menu icon on the taskbar, also called the K-Panel, to get to the the Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel.


Whether you are a single user on a one-user computer system or a system administrator on a multi-user system, from time to time you will need to do system administration work. Thus in our multiple desktops schema we allocate two virtual desktops to system administration, Desktop 1 and Desktop 14.

Three terminal panels (consoles) are opened in Desktop 1. Two of these are opened in user mode and one in root (system administrator) mode. Please see Figure 7, below.

These consoles take text commands. For you MS Windows users, think of them as being similar to the Run command on the Windows Start Menu or an MS DOS prompt.

Desktop 14 is used for GUI-based system administration tasks. Figure 7 shows the desktop configuration panel shown in Figure 6 opened in Desktop 14.

If you are a Microsoft Windows user, these GUI-based system administration tools would be similar to the tools you find in the Windows Control Panel collection of tools.


Figure 6. The Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel in the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE desktop with 14 desktops configured. Here the names of the virtual desktops have been changed to correspond to our desktop layout schema.


Please remember that you can arrange your virtual desktops any way you wish. You do not have to arrange them the same way we are arranging them.

Whether you are performing system administration tasks or just doing things users do, having a file manager windowpane or two always open and ready to use is handy.

Thus, two instances of the Konqueror file-manager are opened in Desktop 2, the file management virtual desktop in our arrangement. The Konqueror file-manager is comparable to the My Computer and Windows Explorer file managers in Microsoft Windows.


Figure 7. The KDE Desktop Pager showing 15 opened applications and 27 opened windowpanes spread across the 14 configured virtual desktops. If you have 27 windowpanes open in Microsoft Windows, you are going to have a cluttered mess!


KDE's Desktop Pager uses representative icons for the various applications that are opened. For example if you look at the Desktop 2 icons in Figure 7, you will notice one looks like a file folder and the other like a camera. That's because the Konqueror file manager on top currently is displaying a list of directories (folders) and a list of files. In the bottom Konqueror panel, a JPEG, digital-photograph image has been opened directly in the Konqueror file manager. Thus the icon represents a camera.

The Konqueror, World Wide Web browser opened in Desktop 3 is represented by a globe (World) icon in Desktop Pager.

The Gimp opened in Desktop 8 is shown in the Figure 7 view of Pager. Desktop Pager uses Wilber, the GIMP mascot, to represent the GIMP Toolbox and dialogs. However, actual, compacted views of the image-editing canvases are used to represent the image canvases. You can get a better view of the Gimp icons used by Pager in Figure 2 on page 1.

The Linux box used for this article has only a 128-MB hard RAM (Random Access Memory). That limits the number of applications that can be opened at one time. Therefore, only one Web browser session is opened. However, if your computer has more RAM, you could open several browser sessions in Desktops 3 and 4.

For the same reason, no applications have been opened in Desktop 5, our catchall Whatever desktop. Please notice the yellow desktop name and outline around Desktop 5 in Figure 7. That indicates that Desktop 5 is the desktop currently in focus -- the active desktop.

Figure 7 also shows gFTP, a nice Linux FTP client, is opened in Desktop 6. XMMS, a media player somewhat similar to WinAmp, and a Konqueror file manager session displaying music directories and files are opened in Desktop 7. The Gimp is opened in Desktop 8.

For office productivity tasks, OpenOffice Writer is opened in Desktop 9. In the computers-are-fun department, three games have been opened in Desktop 10 -- FreeCell, Mahjongg, and KMines (similar to the MS Windows Minesweeper game).

LinNeighborhood (comparable to the MS Windows Network Neighborhood) is opened in virtual Desktop 12. TOP (a text-based Linux resources and processes monitor) is opened in Desktop 13. The Memory Information panel of the KDE Control Center also is opened in Desktop 13.

Altogether there are 15 opened applications and 27 opened windowpanes spread across the 14 configured virtual desktops in the Figure 7 example. One reason there are more opened windowpanes than opened applications is that there are several instances of more than one session of the same application opened. For example, three instances of the Konqueror file manager are currently opened in Figure 7.

Another reason is that some applications generate more than one windowpane. For example, the Gimp set of windowpanes shown in Desktop 8 in Figure 7 includes the Gimp Toolbox, Tool Options, Navigation dialog, and three image-editing canvas windowpanes.



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