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May 7, 2004
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Linux for Windows Users #8

The Linux (Multiple) Virtual Desktops Unleashed

Part I: Overview

If there were no other reason to switch from Microsoft Windows to GNU-Linux, the Linux Virtual Desktops would be more than reason enough to make the switch.

Mike Angelo -- 7 May 2004 (C) -- Page 1


Article Index

Preparing graphics for your Web pages, e-mail, and photo albums

The Gimp is a great and free digital photograph and digital-image editing program to use for preparing graphics for your Web pages, e-mail, and albums. You also can use the Gimp to create graphics for your Web pages and e-mail.

For more about the Gimp please see our overview of the Gimp article and three Gimp tutorials listed below. These Gimp articles should give you a pretty good feel of Gimp 2.0.

How to Use GIMP for Photo and Image Editing:

#1: Basic Photo editing, cropping, scaling, brightness, and contrast

#2: Intro to layers, text and patterns

#3: Framing Photos and Images

To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

Perhaps one of the most interesting and useful of the so-called Linux secrets is the multiple desktops feature -- more correctly, the Linux Virtual Desktops. If there were no other reason to switch from Microsoft Windows to GNU-Linux, the Linux Virtual Desktops would be more than reason enough to make the switch.

Of course, the Linux Virtual Desktops are no secret to experienced Linux desktop users. However, it's likely that most MS Windows users are not aware of the Linux Virtual Desktops. It's also likely that many novice Linux users are not aware of the Linux Virtual Desktops either.

Having Virtual Desktops is much like having up to sixteen different computers in one. You can open one or more programs in each virtual desktop. If you like, you can arrange your virtual desktops by activity. The Linux Virtual Desktops feature is tremendously useful and handy.

For example, let's say that you use your computer to surf the Web, correspond via e-mail, listen to MPEGs, write reports, edit and print digital photographs, create and edit Web pages, and so forth. You can set up a virtual desktop for each one of these activities. Then as you move from one activity to another, you merely have to move from one virtual desktop to another -- no need to minimize, restore, and maximize programs as you must do with Microsoft Windows.

Until you install GNU-Linux and start using the Linux Virtual Desktops, you just will not be able to appreciate fully how convenient, efficient, and user-friendly are virtual desktops.

Perhaps the best way to explain the Linux Virtual Desktops to you is to show you with pictures. So here is a combination tour of, and tutorial for, Linux Virtual Desktops. Today in this Overview of the Linux Virtual Desktops it will be more tour than tutorial. In Part II coming shortly, it will be more tutorial than tour.

The screen shots are based upon the KDE desktop running in Mandrake Linux 10.0. However, other GNU-Linux desktops such as GNOME also include the Linux Virtual Desktops feature. So do other Linux distributions.

Starting the Linux virtual desktops tour

To start, please take a look at Figure 1, below. It shows the GIMP 2.0 opened in the KDE 3.2 desktop running on Mandrake 10.0, Community Edition. In this desktop, the GIMP Toolbox, Tool Options dialog, Layers dialog, Brushes dialog, and Navigation dialog are opened in the left portion of the KDE desktop shown in Figure 1. Three image-editing canvases are opened in the right portion of the KDE desktop shown in Figure 1. That's eight panels altogether -- a full desktop. Incidentally, these three images are Figures 3, 4, and 5 of this article.

As you can see from Figure 1, all these windowpanes opened in Figure 1 pretty much take all the available desktop space. In Microsoft Windows, if you wanted to open more applications and windowpanes, you would have a very cluttered desktop -- because you would be stacking the application windowpanes on top of each other.


Figure 1. The GIMP 2.0 opened in the KDE 3.2 desktop running on Mandrake 10.0.


However, please feast your eyes on Figure 2, below. There you will see the GIMP dialogs and image canvases diagrammatically laid-out on one of four virtual desktops, desktop 4. There also are three blank virtual desktops shown in Figure 2, desktops 1, 2, and 3. Please hold that thought.


Figure 2. The KDE Desktop Pager showing the GIMP opened in virtual desktop 4.


Figure 3, right, shows a portion of the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE (K Desktop Environment) desktop and taskbar (K Panel).

Figure 3. A portion of the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE desktop and taskbar. Please notice the four, box-like icons to the left in the taskbar. They represent the four virtual desktops shown in Figure 2, above.
Please notice the four, box-like icons to the left in the taskbar at the bottom of Figure 3. They are numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Each of those four box-like icons represents a Linux Virtual Desktop -- corresponding to each of the four virtual desktops shown in Figure 2. By default, the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE desktop configures four virtual desktops.

In Figure 3, the only application opened is the GIMP, which was used to take the Figure 3 screen shot. Thus, virtual desktop icons 1, 2, and 3 appear empty. Desktop icon 4 shows an application opened in it. That's represented by the little rectangle in that desktop icon. The overall color of desktop 4 is white because desktop 4 is the focal desktop -- the desktop showing on your monitor screen.

Figure 4, on page 2, shows the default Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel in the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE desktop. It shows four desktops configured. That is the default Mandrake 10.0 configuration.


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