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Bug 48004 - Desktop should be able to have different backgrounds for different workspaces
Desktop should be able to have different backgrounds for different workspaces
Product: gnome-control-center
Classification: Core
Component: Background
Other All
: Low enhancement
: ---
Assigned To: James Sharpe
Control-Center Maintainers
: 13921 47327 102631 103152 131214 133357 138940 142160 143200 165514 308805 425217 544242 546199 570019 601957 (view as bug list)
Depends on: 543596 544178 544223 544241 544242
Blocks: 113640
Reported: 2001-04-08 17:06 UTC by Ryan Muldoon
Modified: 2013-12-16 14:53 UTC
See Also:
GNOME target: ---
GNOME version: Unversioned Enhancement

A cropped shot of four workspaces in compiz with individual wallpapers and desktop handling (28.53 KB, image/jpeg)
2007-03-23 19:50 UTC, Martin Szulecki
mockup (865.23 KB, image/png)
2007-06-08 18:27 UTC, Karl Lattimer

Description Ryan Muldoon 2001-09-10 01:18:25 UTC
One thing that I miss from using Enlightenment (and letting it draw the desktop
background) was that I could select different desktop backgrounds for different
workspaces.  It offers quick orientation cues for where I am.  A secondary
reason is that it increases eyecandy.  If Nautilus could have some means of
having different backgrounds for different workspaces, that would be rather nice.

------- Additional Comments From 2001-04-10 11:37:19 ----

Cool idea.

------- Bug moved to this database by 2001-09-09 21:18 -------

The original reporter ( of this bug does not have an account here.
Reassigning to the exporter,
The original owner ( of this bug does not have an account here.
Reassigning to the default owner of the component,

Comment 1 John Fleck 2002-01-05 04:22:33 UTC
Changing to "old" target milestone for all bugs laying around with no milestone set.
Comment 2 Dave Bordoley [Not Reading Bug Mail] 2002-03-07 04:40:12 UTC
Can someone add a gnome2 keyword for this. It seems that this is a 
commonly requested feature on the nautilus and gnome lists, even 
though i'm not sure it's technically feasible with sawfish?? Maybe 
more thought should be given to this.
Comment 3 Dave Bordoley [Not Reading Bug Mail] 2002-04-19 19:31:18 UTC
*** Bug 47327 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 4 Luis Villa 2002-04-22 06:59:59 UTC
This really isn't a nautilus issue; it no longer sets background (I'm
pretty sure) and doesn't really know about workspaces anyway, AFAIK.
Closing but maybe someone should ask on the lists where this really
belongs [if it belongs at all- I'm sure to a certain extent it is a
crack option.]
Comment 5 Paolo Maggi 2003-01-07 10:10:15 UTC
I don't think this is a crack option and could be very useful in
distinguish the different workspaces. 
IIRC, CDE has it and I see a lot of my colleagues using it.

Read thread
for other comments.

Reopening against libgnome (as suggested by Havoc in

Feature request -> GNOMEVER2.3
Comment 6 John Fleck 2003-01-07 14:13:03 UTC
If this is done, the UI should be done in a minimal friction way, so
that users who do not want different backgrounds don't have to wade
through extra UI complication.
Comment 7 Andrew Sobala 2003-01-07 15:20:11 UTC
What about:

[X] Use the same background for all workspaces

If you don't uncheck that, the BG properties capplet will change all
backgrounds together. If you uncheck it, it will change the background
of the workspace it was launched from.

What happens if you drag the capplet between workspaces?
Comment 8 kz 2003-01-07 15:28:58 UTC
'workspace it was launched from' is undesirable; as you've commented,
moving window among workspaces are common task.

so 'workspace it is running on now' is desirable, I think.
and it must be not so muchly hard to implement than 'where launched
from' for this moment.
Comment 9 Calum Benson 2003-01-07 17:05:09 UTC
A couple of off-the-top-of my head suggestions:

- Rather than doing anything clever when moving the dialog between
workspaces, just make it more explicit in the dialog which workspace
the changes will affect.  E.g. Change the title to: "Background
Preferences - <workspace_name>".

- Or, rather than the checkbox Andrew suggested, have an option menu
that lists all the workspaces, plus one extra "All workspaces" item. 
When opened, it could default to the workspace it was launched from,
as previously suggested.
Comment 10 zmook 2003-01-08 03:20:33 UTC
This is not a crack option.  I miss it enough from Enlightenment
that I just spent three hours trying to figure out how to replicate
it in GNOME/Nautilus/Metacity, only to eventually end up here;  and
I may yet decide to go back.

Different-coloured backdrops are an extremely valuable UI cue for 
remembering where I left various things I was working on.
Comment 11 zmook 2003-01-08 03:23:02 UTC
*** Bug 102631 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 12 Ben FrantzDale 2003-02-25 06:13:38 UTC
I agree on it not being a crack issue. I found this feature of
Enlightenment useful because it made it more clear which desktop was
which. Plus, it makes for more pretty pictures.
Comment 13 Jeffrey Stedfast 2003-05-25 01:39:29 UTC
is this really a libgnome bug?? I don't see what in libgnome would
control the background... I would have thought this to be nautilus,
but I hear nautilus doesn't set the background in gnome 2.x anymore?
Comment 14 Jeffrey Stedfast 2003-05-25 01:45:09 UTC
this is really both a nautilus feature request and a control-center
feature request (says dave camp). reassigning so it gets more
visibility from the appropriate developers.
Comment 15 Andrew Sobala 2003-05-31 20:35:31 UTC
*** Bug 13921 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 16 graeme worthy 2003-08-02 20:38:22 UTC
Jean Schurger <> has created to solution you've all
been waiting for.
Comment 17 Gregory Merchan 2003-11-29 00:31:45 UTC
Havoc recently expressed an interest in "project workspaces".
[The phrase "project workspace" is mine, not in Havoc's blog.]

I don't know if it was mentioned in any of the threads linked
above, but the following idea has been discussed on some channels
and some lists.

The idea is to allow multiple "desktop" folders, with ~/Desktop
as the only default one. Each desktop folder when opened would
create a new workspace with the folder contents as the desktop
contents. There are other fine points of interaction discussed
elsewhere. Relevant to this bug is that the background would
merely be a property of the desktop folder, and so it would be
set in the same way that folder backgrounds are set.

I'll see about drafting a formal proposal sometime next year. I
have too much on my plate right now and this year is almost over.
Comment 18 Elijah Newren 2003-11-29 16:47:43 UTC
*** Bug 103152 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 19 Elijah Newren 2003-11-29 16:50:33 UTC
In regards to "project workspaces", it appears that bug 113640 would
be a duplicate of this bug with some details about how such a thing
would work.

Updating versions and keywords to GNOMEVER2.5.
Comment 20 Andrew Sobala 2003-11-29 16:54:23 UTC
Both bugs look valid. I'm going to do this as a dependency; I'm
finding this a tough call (I gave up yesterday and went to bed :) but
I don't want to close either of them.
Comment 21 Bryan W Clark 2003-12-01 04:22:01 UTC
This is not a "crack option", it can actually give good visual cues to
intermediate/advanced users, so I agree that this isn't something that
should be overlooked.

However, as usability people we really need to protect the new user
from getting confused by this feature.  (Imagine not knowing what a
workspace really is, changing your background setting needs to remain
as easy as it is now for this type of user)  

Calum and Andrew had interesting suggestions for solving this problem.
 It'd be cool to see a mockup of a new design if anyone wants to
attach a screeny to this bug.
Comment 22 Vincent Untz 2004-01-13 12:46:59 UTC
*** Bug 131214 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 23 Steve R. Hastings 2004-01-14 06:05:48 UTC
Hello.  I submitted bug 113640, which was marked as a duplicate of
this bug.  If and when anyone works on this, please read my bug, and
consider my suggestions for how the task switcher should look and work.

Also, I took a look at bug 113640.  I love the basic idea of being
able to have completely different desktops, not just different
appearances.  It would be great to have one desktop with lots of game
icons laid out, another one with web site management tools and
editors, and so on.

P.S. To all GNOME developers: thank you for your work on GNOME.
Comment 24 Steve R. Hastings 2004-01-14 06:11:56 UTC
Er, that's "I submitted bug 131214".  I did NOT submit the other one.
 Very sorry for the mistake.  My suggestions for the workplace
switcher are in bug 131214.
Comment 25 Simon Porter 2004-02-05 16:11:20 UTC
*** Bug 133357 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 26 Rodney Dawes 2004-04-03 15:40:25 UTC
*** Bug 138940 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 27 Tim Herold 2004-05-09 06:31:10 UTC
*** Bug 142160 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 28 sdiconov 2004-07-08 20:33:13 UTC
Please do it!
Comment 29 Vincent Noel 2004-08-10 13:49:08 UTC
*** Bug 143200 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 30 Kevin Duffus 2004-10-24 03:32:09 UTC
i'm awaiting the inclusion of this feature with much anticipation!
Comment 31 Djihed 2004-12-08 02:38:59 UTC
Another vote for having this, I don't understand how it is a crack option and
why it is of low priority
Comment 32 Elijah Newren 2005-01-28 15:53:26 UTC
*** Bug 165514 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 33 Dan Parrish 2005-02-07 05:15:40 UTC
It seems the strategy is just to ignore advocates of this greatly-missed
feature.  It's silly to not have the option of different backgrounds for
different workspaces...Even the term 'workspace' implies that it's an altogether
different "location".  Sorry to get a bit too 'spatial' there.  ;-)
Comment 34 Christian Fredrik Kalager Schaller 2005-02-07 14:32:48 UTC
I don't think the strategy is to ignore the advocates, its more a strategy of
waiting until an advocate comes around with a patch :)
Comment 35 Benjamin LeMasurier 2005-03-14 12:37:56 UTC
I can try to create a UI mockup tonight, anyone still interested?
Comment 36 Sebastien Bacher 2005-06-24 09:04:20 UTC
*** Bug 308805 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 37 Alan Horkan 2005-06-26 15:04:54 UTC
Further to comment #6  
on a point of priciple (kiss) I never use workspaces and would not expect to see
potentially confusing information about workspaces in the Background Preferences
dialog.  Instead I would expect this functionality to be accessed through the
workspace switcher applet somehow, perhaps turn workspace names into Workspace
Properties, name and background being the two properties.  
Comment 38 Super Penguin 2005-07-23 11:31:44 UTC
This is temporary solution:
Comment 39 Kristof Vansant 2005-07-25 21:49:13 UTC
can't we let gnome-settings-daemon do the polling of the workspace swap.
If swap detected then chance background to what is set by the user.

Extention of the configuration GUI will be needed. A combo box with Default,
Workspace 1, Workspace 2, etc. for example
Comment 40 Kristof Vansant 2005-07-25 22:04:08 UTC
seems that we will need to depend on libwnck to detect the change? is this a problem
Comment 41 Pacho Ramos 2006-05-09 12:26:18 UTC
Please add this cool idea ;)

Thanks a lot :)
Comment 42 Karl Lattimer 2006-05-09 19:49:53 UTC
This issue has been around for some time, it is set as Gnome 2.5 and we're on 2.14 already. Can someone update this bug so it makes sense in terms of when it should be done by. Wallpapoz is a good solution IF you're using metacity, I'm using compiz and goddamit I want to have different coloured sides to my cube. I think that bug 113640 is probably the best way to go, I can't imagine how it would be done but it needs to be done! 

I doubt this would be too difficult, if a mean time solution were engineered initially which works with compiz/metacity (dare i say it we would mostly be happy, 113640 is the way ahead but if this bug is closed without an over engineered usability quest then 113640 would become easier as a start has already been made.
Comment 43 Adam Pond 2006-08-05 14:45:09 UTC
Alan Horkan in Comment #37 raised a good point about not wanting to see information about multiple desktops when he only has one, but that can still be achieved with many of the solutions suggested here.

But many people would disagree that the options should not be available on the "desktop background preferences" as this is exactly where most people would look to change the wallpaper. Alan's first comment into consideration when implementing a solution.

I was just about to raise this as an issue in Ubuntu when I found this, so I'd love to see this feature get some focus as would many other people it seems. I'm even tempted to do it myself, but I have 0 hours experience in programming for gnome.
Comment 44 Erkki Lindpere 2007-01-19 19:09:59 UTC
Please up the priority! This has become more relevant when using Beryl/Compiz. In the 3D cube desktop, I see this as a usability issue, not just bells & whistles.

If Linux desktop wants to be technically ahead of the competition, this issue should be resolved. I think the cube is an extremely useful desktop metaphor and could be used to evangelize Linux as the superior desktop solution, but it is a bit noisy without the ability of different backgrounds.

Different desktop icons for workspaces should be supported as well. There's probably a different bug already open for that?
Comment 45 Pacho Ramos 2007-01-19 21:05:03 UTC
(In reply to comment #44)

> Different desktop icons for workspaces should be supported as well.

This could be great :-O
Comment 46 Martin Szulecki 2007-03-23 19:50:50 UTC
Created attachment 85201 [details]
A cropped shot of four workspaces in compiz with individual wallpapers and desktop handling

On today's Novell's Brainshare Friday Session, new compiz features have been demonstrated. (See

You could see nautilus being aware of the different workspaces, drawing individual wallpapers and desktop icons on each workspace.

Since most of the changes become public, I got some hope back that this 6 year old bug might finally get solved upstream in the near future.

As discussed in the comments, I think it is enough to have a very basic dialog (like the current one) to change each wallpaper with one or two extra widgets to relate to the current workspace context. Detecting when there is only one workspace and not displaying those extra options shouldn't really be a hard task.
Comment 47 Xan 2007-03-24 08:55:28 UTC
Please, fix this bug. From 2001 it's open!!. It's too much even if there is a low enhancement. Other wm have it so it's no so dificult to implement

Comment 48 Elijah Newren 2007-04-01 17:56:57 UTC
*** Bug 425217 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 49 Conor Schaefer 2007-06-08 16:40:28 UTC
I'm throwing in my vote on this, too. KDE has been doing this for a while, and this feature was requested in 2001! I agree that now with the Beryl/Compiz fad, the ability to have different backgrounds for orientation is crucial. More power to the people, right? Please consider upping the priority on this "bug."
Comment 50 Karl Lattimer 2007-06-08 18:24:16 UTC
Novell were pimping this at brainshare I think, but there really needs to be some movement on it. 

I think the challenges here are mostly related to the user interface for it, remembering vaguely from one of the previous duplicate threads we have to figure out how the user interacts with each workspace to set the background for it? The options appear to be;
 * you could have a dialog with a list of workspaces (wallpapoz does this)
 * for every workspace the window appears differently and-or...
   * have the window change as its dragged to other workspaces, which is difficult to achieve probably because there isn't a very obvious way of figuring out when a window is moved to another workspace AFAIK.
   * have one wallpaper dialog per workspace. Which means you'd have to stop the user from being able to move the wallpaper dialog because if they do they may end up with two on one workspace which would be very confusing. IMHO easier to implement.

my recent thoughts on this are, with beryl-dbus and the compiz re-merge going on a quarry of options will be available. This simple aspect of the desktop could be taken quite far indeed. I am about to attach a mockup that includes some of these ideas.

All Windows should be minimized when the applet loads it goes fullscreen, and some nice smooth animations on the list of wallpapers would be good too. if possible it would be exceptionally cool that when either the arrows or the thumbnails in the bottom right hand corner would spin the cube when the workspace changes.

Anyway that was just a brain storm, hope it helps.
Comment 51 Karl Lattimer 2007-06-08 18:27:38 UTC
Created attachment 89620 [details]
Comment 52 Thomas D Ahle 2007-06-10 17:17:45 UTC
I was daubing a bit when you said "stop the user from being able to move the wallpaper dialog", but that mockup looks awesome!
Two questions though:
  * How do you remove wallpapers? Move to trash? Remove button?
  * What is that arrow list in the lower right corner meant for?
Comment 53 A. H 2007-10-16 08:33:08 UTC
Great idea, I have been hoping something like this could be implemented for a long time.
Comment 54 Pacho Ramos 2007-12-21 19:19:26 UTC
Looks great :-D
Comment 55 A. H 2007-12-21 22:32:41 UTC
I guess we will have to wait until we are around 60 years old before GNOME developers decide that their users requests and wishes might be worth listening to.

We still have to edit text files to change the colour of text on the panels in 2007!
Comment 56 Thomas D Ahle 2007-12-21 23:03:03 UTC
Well, I think it is good that there are some overall ideas on what amount of settings should be adjustable.
Then if one don't like them there are always the elections.
Comment 57 Michael Gebhart 2008-02-26 21:09:01 UTC
Hi, +1 for this feature request! I guess this is a very important and long missed feature. Would love to have it.

Comment 58 Xan 2008-03-21 10:44:13 UTC
Please, IMPLEMENT THIS FEATURE. Since 2002 to now people request. It's a symptom that people like it and gnome developers should do (in the good sense) what people want.

This is just an option, so this is not excluding decission.
So please,....

Comment 59 Christian Neumair 2008-03-25 10:32:59 UTC
Regarding the feature in general, I do agree that it is very, very desirable. A big step would be if we had better compositing manager interaction (bug 44320), and let the CM draw the background. It could do whatever the user wants, animations, all kinds of images etc. .

Karl (comment 51): I agree that this is a very refreshing UI proposal.
Comment 60 Mike Rooney 2008-03-27 14:49:28 UTC
Just so everyone knows this is listed as a potential 2008 Google Summer of Code (GSoC) project at

Also in regards to Karl's comment mentioned above (comment 51), that is a really neat and fresh GUI idea and I would be more than happy to implement it in wxPython if that can be of any use.
Comment 61 Calum Benson 2008-05-03 00:56:07 UTC
From a GUI perspective, I think the main issue here is that we treat desktop background prefs, workspace switcher prefs, and (soon) the multiple monitor configuration prefs as separate problems.

But of course, they're all inter-related.  I'm just as likely to want a different background on each of my dual screens* as I am on each of my virtual workspaces.  If I have two monitors and four virtual workspaces, that's potentially up to eight different desktop backgrounds I might want to configure.  And I really want to be configuring them all in much the same place and in much the same way, regardless of whether they're real desktops or virtual ones.

So IMHO an elegant solution to this problem is probably going to have to  consider how all those real and virtual desktops that make up your entire workspace might be treated as a more cohesive whole, rather than being concepts that currently lead somewhat separate lives.

* As indeed I do in the office :)
Comment 62 James Sharpe 2008-05-04 16:46:05 UTC
I'm taking this bug on as my summer of code project. I'll be blogging my progress at Feel free to make comments/get in touch with ideas.

I won't be starting work on this for about three weeks, but I'll be starting with making the appropriate changes to support this in libwnck, gnome-settings-daemon and libgnomeui.
Comment 63 Raphael J. Schmid 2008-05-05 13:05:02 UTC
Thanks a lot for taking this on, James - everybody I know who uses GNOME has been waiting for that feature ever since they discovered multiple workspaces...

Good luck and have fun with the implementation! :-)
Comment 64 Rob Adams 2008-05-08 21:31:24 UTC
Make sure you support multi-monitor also; it would be a shame to work on this and not include support for handing wallpaper for people with xinerama/twinview/whatever setups, which is becoming much more common.
Comment 65 James Sharpe 2008-07-23 15:46:44 UTC
I have a short video of this functionality working on my blog at
Comments on the patches in the dependent bugs would be appreciated.
Comment 66 Cosimo Cecchi 2008-08-05 19:05:47 UTC
*** Bug 546199 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 67 Pierre Slamich 2008-11-02 17:23:19 UTC
Are there any problems with the proposed patches or are they ready for inclusion ?
Comment 68 Xan 2009-04-01 18:35:17 UTC
Please, include the patches. The bug is from 2001. Too elder.

Comment 69 Paul McQuesten 2009-04-14 23:47:59 UTC
Please, please, +1.
According to comment #65 the patches have been ready since last summer.
Gnome's adoption rate is not helped by refusing what to most of us seem sensible and usable enhancements.
Comment 70 Raphael J. Schmid 2009-04-15 09:15:24 UTC
+1! Every "normal" user (i.e. girlfriend and such) I know asks for this regularly.
Comment 71 Xan 2009-04-15 09:38:51 UTC
Paul, I think the same.
Comment 72 Raphael J. Schmid 2009-06-25 21:24:06 UTC
Is anybody actively working on getting this included? If the patches have indeed been ready since last summer, what is keeping them from getting them included? What can we do to remove these obstacles, if any?
Comment 73 Christian Bendele 2009-07-04 20:59:27 UTC
I really think having different colors for each desktop/workspace helps organizing ones work better and naviagte between different tasks more efficient.
I also think it would be nice to find a way to do this in gnome or nautilus itself, without a composite manager, compiz or whatever. I'd really like that feature on my notebook for example, which doesn't have the gpu power to make compiz really agreable.
It's unbelievable this has been a feature request for 8 years and it's still not possible.
Comment 74 Michael Monreal 2009-07-04 21:10:58 UTC
I, too, have been waiting for this for quite some time. But with gnome3 / gnome-shell nearing release I don't really know if this feature makes a lot of sense anymore. Sure, on the one hand, telling apart workspaces in gnome-shell is even more important than before. In the other hand, there is no fixed size grid of workspaces anymore and workspaces come and go as needed. How would setting colors be handled in such a case?
Comment 75 Bulat 2009-11-11 23:34:59 UTC
It can be implemented in various ways. We only have to convince developers to do it. :)

First of all there's an idea to have workspaces from the last session automatically re-created and re-populated. At least re-populating it with it's background sounds pretty simple and appealing. :)

And also you can make workspace profiles to create pre-populated workspaces (with backgrounds, applets, windows, etc.). (I don't know whether this idea was discussed and approved/declined by the developers already)
Comment 76 Werner Meyer 2009-11-15 18:45:06 UTC is a duplicate of this one
Comment 77 Werner Meyer 2009-11-15 18:46:21 UTC
*** Bug 601957 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 78 Capt Jettison 2010-01-20 14:06:51 UTC
This feature request is celebrating its 10th birthday soon. If implementing it with current means (developer time, monetary base) is beyond feasibility we (the requesters of this feature) could try and organize some sort of funding for implementation of THIS feature. But we need the developers to let us know if this approach would actually solve the problem.
Comment 79 Kjartan Maraas 2011-01-03 07:45:58 UTC
*** Bug 570019 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 80 Jeremy Nickurak 2011-02-03 18:05:58 UTC
*** Bug 604301 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 81 William Jon McCann 2012-05-04 17:56:01 UTC
I am not sure this makes much sense in the GNOME 3 dynamic workspace model. However, it can probably be implemented as an extension.
Comment 82 Bastien Nocera 2012-05-04 18:06:47 UTC
Closing as per comment 81.
Comment 83 Cosimo Cecchi 2012-05-04 18:28:01 UTC
*** Bug 544242 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***