Gnome 3, multiple monitors and desktops

Today I tried to install Debian Wheezy on a Lenovo X220, in preparation for the upcoming release.

It generally went well, with just a couple of incompatabilities:

  • the wireless card requires some firmware in non-free
  • the fan seems to be constantly on at a low speed

Generally though, the install went very smoothly. At that point, I booted up and greeted by the new Gnome 3 desktop, which is where my troubles started. It seems that the fonts are fairly poorly rendered, either far too small or far too large. There doesn’t appear to be any way of changing workspaces using the keyboard. [edit: ctrl+alt+arrows works] Using a second screen placed above the first produces some… interesting effects with moving windows around, as can be seen at

The result is that I’ve gone back to using XFCE. It seems to actually work well, which is kinda important when trying to be productive.

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11 Responses

  1. jordi says:

    Changing workspaces: Ctrl-Alt-↓/↑.

  2. jordi says:

    Ah, and moving windows across workspaces: Ctrl-Alt-Shift-↓/↑.

  3. Mart says:

    I always used gnome, and didn’t like gnome3. I started xfce and found it was a bit old. I started to use kde and like it, it look modern.

  4. Julian Andres Klode says:

    Ctrl + Alt + Up or Ctrl + Alt + Down changes workspace. A second screen is most likely only tested right to the built-in one, as the general layout is:

    Workspace 1 External Monitor
    Workspace 2 External Monitor
    Workspace 3 External Monitor

    That is, the external monitor is on the right side, separate from workspaces, and workspaces are positioned below each other on the left side. If you put your external monitor above the built-in one, you might just end up confusing GNOME 3’s workspace management.

  5. “There doesn’t appear to be any way of changing workspaces using the keyboard”

    FYI, it’s Ctrl+Alt+up/down. You start in the top workspace, and empty workspaces cease to exist, except that there is always one empty workspace at the bottom.

    (It’s the same keys that it would have been in GNOME 2 if you used more than one row of workspaces, but the default in G2 was one row, so you probably never used those keys.)

  6. Evgeni Golov says:

    Hey Neil,

    my X220 got thinkfan installed 5 minutes after the first boot and has been much quiter since :)
    Funnily, I have no problems with the fonts. And changing workspaces: ctrl-alt-↓/↑ :)


  7. Tomeu Vizoso says:

    I heard that Federico has done quite some work on multi-monitor support in gnome-shell during this cycle.

  8. Neil McGovern says:

    Seems that the workspace switching thing works, but I think having screens above/below each other is confusing things mightily!

  9. ssam says:

    you can just stick with GNOME2 which still works fine (and has some features that i miss on xfce). Only because the gnome devs decided to make gnome3 names clash with gnome2 names (thanks guys), someone had to grab all the code, and rename it all to MATE.

  10. Brian Churchwell says:

    Enabling RC6 and ASPM will quiet down the fan. From my /etc/default/grub:
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet pcie_aspm=force i915.i915_enable_rc6=1 i915.i915_enable_fbc=1″

    The fan noise is the only thing I don’t like about the X220.

  11. Jon says:

    I use my ext monitor above my laptop screen (physically that is), I hadn’t thought about it before but I could appreciate that if you used two screens side-by-side then the workspace management being horizontal could be confusing. It’s a shame that, identifying that, they’ve just swapped confusing for one group of people for confusing for the other, rather than try and resolve the problem. Are we vertically-stacked screen people that unusual? I mean, it rather follows HCI guidelines (ext display at eye-level, laptop keyboard at elbow-level)

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