I apologize for the wider screenshots than normal, but since this is a dual monitor question/problem, it's necessary...

Recently my computer has decided that when I switch workspaces, anything on my second monitor is considered "universal", as in, it stays on all workspaces. As indicated by the arrows, the screen itself does not actually alter at all. Previous behaviour had apps on both screens jumping between workspaces.

Hangouts app in primary monitor

Hangouts app in second monitor

Not really much of an issue for me. Just more of a curiosity and giving someone a heads up if it is indeed a bug of some sort. If I want to keep an app from jumping workspaces, I keep it on the right hand monitor....it's kind of handy actually. But figured I would mention it.

  • You can try the gnome-tweak tool.
    – Ini
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 17:41

4 Answers 4


This is intentional for the reasons you pointed out. At the moment we can't have independent workspace switching. The window manager sees multiple displays as one big workspace in Luna. This can be frustrating because one of the big benefits of having another display is to have a place for things you always want to see like documentation or chat or your email. So in Freya, we made the compromise of making the primary monitor the only one with workspaces. That way you can use the multitasking view to switch between active apps on one display and not have it get rid of an app you wanted to stay put on that second display.

Eventually, we'd like to be able for each display to have its own set of workspaces. That seems like it would be the most flexible. We've still got a ways to go on making sure the multi-display experience is really great. But this change is one thing that we think makes it a little nicer.

  • 3
    Frankly, I don't see the point of having two different set of workspaces for each monitor ... and what with 3 or 4 monitors, 3 or 4 workspaces ? When I switch workspaces, I am expecting everything to change on all my monitors ... otherwise, there's no point of workspaces. If I want a specific application to always stay on screen, there's an option for that (Always stay on visible workspace), and that's the way to do it. This should be at least an option that could be easily turn off/on from the parameters (and not with dconf or gesttings). Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 10:31

You can change this behaviour either in dconf editor:

org -> gnome -> mutter and uncheck the box " workspaces-only-on-primary"

or if you do not have installed dconf-editor you can use following terminal commands:

gsettings get org.gnome.mutter workspaces-only-on-primary to check the current setting. Probably it is "true".

gsettings set org.gnome.mutter workspaces-only-on-primary false to make the settings. Now workspace should contain all monitors.

  • Thanks, new to linux based OS, but I really don't understand why Devs cannot put such a things to the OS settings. Looking on the post above I do undrestand that this is a feature, but I think a lot of people will like to have them enabled on all monitors. Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 19:52
  • 1
    Ok, after first try I didn't saw it, but now I do understand "Why they didn't set an option?". In win+s option (workspace viewer) you will not be able to see windows on second monitor using this hack. Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 20:17

This appears to be a change in behaviour between Luna and Freya. I recently installed Freya on a new disk after using Luna for a couple of years and I find myself missing the Luna style workspace. If I drag an app to a particular workspace, I expect it to stay there and only there. That was the default bahaviour in Luna. In Freya it appears to be as you explain very well and that defeats the purpose of multiple workpaces.

Personally I would consider this a bug, but it may have been an overlooked design feature from Luna's desktop implementation that didn't make its way (yet?) to Freya. In my view, all attached displays should be part of a unified desktop and considered a single workspace.


I'm trying ElementaryOS and this was one of things that called my attention. I'm still have problem finding some configs and have to "hardcode" some.

I think that the world is very big and each one has it's own needs. The Elementary OS makers should understand that if an option (like this) is present, there should let the user to choose which behavior is best for him.

Please, put more options to the user, and choose your defaults.

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