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Workspace Grid GNOME Shell Extension

This extension allows you to configure your workspaces in a grid. Inspired by the Frippery Static Workspaces extension. This is what it does:

  • holding the number of workspaces fixed (Frippery Static Workspaces)
  • allowing the user to specify their workspace layout (rows/columns)
  • updating the workspaces display in the overview to reflect the workspace grid layout
  • updating the workspace switcher/keybindings to reflect the workspace grid layout

Note - if you use a bottom panel, Frippery Bottom Panel already has workspace grid functionality (I didn't realise until I finished writing this extension)!

Workspace switcher/keybindings Workspace thumbnails in Overview
Workspace switcher Workspace thumbnails

Written 2012 by
Project webpage: at bitbucket.
Report bugs: on the Issues page at bitbucket.

Other relevant extensions

Combine these extensions with this one or just use these if this doesn't do what you want:

If you use a bottom panel, Frippery Bottom Panel already has workspace grid functionality (I didn't realise until I finished writing this extension)!

If you just want static workspaces and none of this grid stuff, use the Frippery Static Workspaces extension.

If you do not want the workspace thumbnail preview in the overview, use the Remove Workspaces Sidebar extension.

If you want a textual workspace indicator in your panel, use the Workspace Indicator extension.

If you want to use arrow keys to navigate between workspaces in the overview, use the Workspace navigator extension.

If you want a graphical workspace indicator/switcher in your panel (like GNOME-panel's workspace switcher, but without the window previews), see the WorkspaceBar extension. (I am working on a version with the window icons and such but it's still in progress).

Let me know of similar extensions to add to this list.


Available from


  1. Download the .zip file on the Downloads page.
  2. Open gnome-tweak-tool, go to "Shell Extensions", "Install Extension" and select the .zip file.


On GNOME 3.2: edit extension.js and restart.
On GNOME 3.4: use gnome-shell-extension-prefs.

Things that can be configured (along with code snippet for GNOME 3.2 people):

Number of rows/columns in the workspace.

Snippet in extension.js (up the top):

    rows: 2,     // <-- enter the number of rows you want
    columns: 3   // <-- enter the number of columns you want

Whether workspaces wrap around.

When navigating workspaces (via keybindings, scrolling over the workspace thumbnails in the Overview) do you want to wrap around from the start to the end (e.g. going past workspace n wraps back to workspace 1)?

const WRAPAROUND = true;

Workspaces thumbnails sidebar in overview.

This sidebar can get pretty wide if you have multiple columns of workspaces. The sidebar can be collapse to the side of the screen if it becomes too wide so that you then hover your mouse over it to uncollapse it.

The relevant settings:

  • the maximum width the sidebar is allowed to occupy (as a fraction of screen width):

      const MAX_SCREEN_HFRACTION = 0.8;
  • the width at which the sidebar collapses to the side when you open the overview (fraction of screen width):



Version 1.2 (23-05-2013) (on v10 (GNOME 3.2), v11 (GNOME 3.4), v12 (GNOME 3.6), v13 (GNOME 3.8)):

  • Added GNOME 3.8 support
  • Added option to wraparound to the same or the next row (if wraparound is enabled);
  • Removed the ability to drop "between" a workspace to create a new on (as we have static workspaces).
  • When a thumbnail is dragged over another workspace, that workspace has a glow to indicate it is the target.
  • misc. code cleaning, particularly to do with allocating the thumbnails slidebar

For developers wanting to integrate with this extension

If you wish to see if your extension is compatible with this one, these are things you need to know.

Exported stuff

This extension exports a number of constants and functions to an object global.screen.workspace_grid for your convenience. (It isn't particularly good code style as this "breaks the extension barrier" so to speak - extensions are meant to be standalone and modular, but when multiple extensions have overlapping functionalities it makes sense to use another extension's functionality rather than re-implement it in your own).

Note that the Workspace Grid extension must be enabled for this all to work. The global.screen.workspace_grid object contains:

(Exported Constants)

  • Directions = { UP, LEFT, RIGHT, DOWN } : directions for navigating (see moveWorkspaces further down) (NOTE: From 3.6+ just use Meta.MotionDirection.{UP, LEFT, RIGHT, DOWN})
  • rows : number of rows of workspaces
  • columns : number of columns of workspaces

(Exported Functions)

  • moveWorkspace : switches workspaces in the direction specified, being either (Directions.)UP, LEFT, RIGHT or DOWN (see Directions).
  • rowColToIndex : converts the row/column into an index for use with (e.g.) global.screen.get_workspace_by_index(i)
  • indexToRowCol : converts an index (0 to global.screen.n_workspaces-1) to a row and column
  • calculateWorkspace : calculates the index of the workspace adjacent in the specified direction to the current one.
  • getWorkspaceSwitcherPopup : retrieves our workspace switcher popup.

For example, to move to the workspace below us:

const WorkspaceGrid = global.screen.workspace_grid;

I am happy to try help/give an opinion/improve this extension to try make it more compatible with yours, email me :)

Listening to Workspace Grid

Say you want to know the number of rows/columns of workspaces in your extension. Then you have to wait for this extension to load and populate global.screen.workspace_grid.

When the Workspace Grid extension enables or disables it fires a 'notify::n_workspaces' signal on global.screen. You can connect to this and check for the existence (or removal) of global.screen.workspace_grid.


let ID = global.screen.connect('notify::n-workspaces', function () {
    if (global.screen.workspace_grid) {
        // then we can use workspace_grid.rows, cols, etc
    } else {
        // remember, your extension should be able to handle this one being
        // switched on and off! If workspace_grid is no longer here then
        // your code should stop using it.

Further notes

Workspaces can be changed by the user by a number of ways, and the ways this extension overrides are:

  • keybindings (Main.wm.setKeybindingHandler (GNOME 3.2), Meta.keybindings_set_custom_handler (GNOME 3.4)),
  • keybinding with global grab in progress (e.g. in Overview/lg): see Main._globalKeyPressHandler,
  • scrolling in the overview (WorkspacesView.WorkspacesDisplay.controls listens to 'scroll-event'), and
  • clicking in the overview.

For developers wanting to improve this extension:

  • The 'gnome3.2' branch is only compatible with GNOME 3.2. It's meant to be stable.
  • The 'gnome3.4' branch is only compatible with GNOME 3.4 - things like keybinding names have changed since GNOME 3.2. It's meant to be stable.
  • The 'gnome3.6' branch is only compatible with GNOME 3.6. It's mant to be stable.
  • The 'gnome3.8' branch is only compatible with GNOME 3.8. It's mant to be stable [16/05/2013: not yet working]
  • The 'default' branch is currently essentially the 3.2 branch...

Known issues

From GNOME 3.4+ to keep workspaces static we can just adjust some settings:

  • to false
  • org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences.num-workspaces to the number of workspaces

However then you can't drag/drop applications between workspaces (GNOME 3.4/3.6 anyway), so instead of doing that we make use of the Frippery Static Workspace code.

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