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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

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 -- 3 June 2004 (C) -- Page 1


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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

The Linux multiple-desktops feature, more correctly the Linux Virtual-Desktops feature, is tremendously useful and handy. In Part 1 of this Linux Virtual Desktops series, the Linux Virtual Desktops Overview, we introduced you to the Linux Virtual Desktops. There, we noted that 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. We do that and other things in today's Linux Virtual Desktops tutorial.

Multiple desktops are not unique to Linux. Most, if not all, Unix and Unix-like operating systems that implement the X-Window system usually also have the virtual desktops feature. GNU-Linux, of course, is a Unix-like OS.

Third party multiple desktop metaphors are available for the Microsoft Windows platforms, too. A comparison of the multiple desktop metaphors for MS Windows and GNU-Linux is beyond the scope of this Linux Virtual Desktops tutorial. Nevertheless, 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.

In Part 1 of this Linux Virtual Desktops series, the Linux Virtual Desktops Overview, we used the KDE 3.2 desktop running on the Mandrake 10.0 Community Edition to take a tour of the Linux Virtual Desktops. The default configuration there is four virtual desktops. During that tour, we opened seven applications and thirteen windowpanes spread across the default four virtual desktops.

The virtual desktop feature in most GNU-Linux distributions and most Linux desktop metaphors is similar to that in KDE 3.2 and Mandrake 10.0. Thus even though we use the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of KDE 3.2 to demonstrate the Linux Virtual Desktops in this series, these Linux Virtual Desktops articles should pretty much apply to most Linux distributions and desktop metaphors. Actually, novice users of any Unix or Unix-like operating system should find our Linux Virtual Desktops series helpful.

Today in Part II, this Linux Virtual Desktops Tutorial, we will add more virtual desktops to the configuration and open more than the thirteen windowpanes opened in the Part I Overview. We also will organize the arrangement of applications across the virtual desktops by tasks.

If you already have not done so, please read Part 1 of this Linux Virtual Desktops series, the Linux Virtual Desktops Overview, now! That should get up to speed for taking today's tutorial.

Starting the Linux virtual desktops tutorial

Figure 1, below, shows the default Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel in the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE 3.2 desktop. It shows four desktops configured. That is the default, Mandrake 10.0, virtual desktops configuration.


Figure 1. The default Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel in the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE desktop. It shows four desktops configured.


Figure 2, below, shows the KDE Desktop Pager with the GIMP opened in virtual desktop 4.The Gimp was opened first so that we could use it to make the screenshots for this tutorial.


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


Figure 3, below right, shows a portion of the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE (K Desktop Environment) desktop and taskbar. 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. They represent the four virtual desktops shown in Figure 2, above.

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.
Adding more virtual desktops

Let's increase the number of virtual desktops from the default four to fourteen virtual desktops. To do that, open the Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel by alternate-clicking (right-click for right-handed mouse) anywhere on the blank, K-desktop background. That pops-up a context menu. Click the Configure Desktop choice.

That pops-up the Configure Desktop panel that you see in Figure 1. Click on the Multiple Desktops icon to display the Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel.

To change the number of configured virtual desktops, simply move the Number of desktops slider or adjust the number in the input box to the right of the slider. The slider and input box are near the top of the Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel. Please see Figures 1, above, and 4, below.

If you look closely at the menu sidebars in Figures 1 and 4, they are somewhat different. There are many more menu choices in the Figure 4 sidebar than in the Figure 1 sidebar. That's because we got to those screens in different ways.

We got to the Figure 1 screen by alternate-clicking on the KDE desktop. We got to the Figure 4 screen through the K-Menu icon on the taskbar, also called the K-Panel. The K-Menu icon on the taskbar is roughly the equivalent of the Start button on the MS Windows taskbar. Please see Figure 5, on page 2.


Figure 4. The Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel in the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE desktop with 14 desktops configured.


In the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE 3.2 desktop, the K-Menu icon is the gold star in a blue-box icon to the left of the taskbar shown in Figure 5, on page 2. To open the Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel using the K-Menu in Mandrake 10.0, click on the K-menu icon > System > Configuration > Configure your desktop > LookNFeel > Multiple Desktops. Please see Figure 5 and then Figure 4.

The route to the Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel will vary from one version of KDE to another, from one Linux or Unix distribution to another, and from desktop metaphor to desktop metaphor. Usually, the menu icon, whatever it looks like in various implementations of the GNOME and KDE desktops, is at the left of the taskbar.



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