How to Work with Multiple BeagleBone Desktops

By Rui Santos, Luis Miguel Costa Perestrelo

Linux systems in general allow you to use multiple desktops on the same monitor. Having multiple desktops open is handy for keeping things organized and doing tasks in parallel. There are several ways to change between desktops. For one, you can click the desktop buttons. The blue rectangle is the active desktop. To change to the other one, simply click the gray rectangle.

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On the icons for the desktops, the smaller rectangle shows the windows that are open and where on the screen they are. In this case, all the windows are in the center of the screen, and the second desktop doesn’t have any window open.

Even if you prefer using a single desktop, it’s good to know about the desktop icons on the task bar. If you unknowingly change from the active desktop to the other desktop, and it looks as though all your work has disappeared in the blink of an eye, just click the other desktop icon to return to the desktop where you were working.

The two desktops are completely independent, so you can customize each one, with different icons on the desktop, different shortcuts, and different themes. You can also have a program running on one desktop but not on the other.

This feature can be really, really useful sometimes. For instance, you could use one desktop for work — featuring programming applications, documentation and a few folders with all your scripts — and another for play — featuring programs for media playing and/or some videogames. If you are working on something that requires both research and development, you could use Desktop 1 for all the websites, datasheets, and any kind of documentation necessary and Desktop 2 for writing the code.

To add a desktop, right-click the Desktop Pager plug-in — that’s where the icons for choosing between each desktop are — and choose Desktop Pager Settings from the shortcut menu. A window opens, in which you can choose the number of desktops and assign them names.

To move a running program from one desktop to the other, simply right-click the application’s title bar and choose Send to Desktop from the shortcut menu. You can choose which desktop you want the application to go to, and you can even send it to all desktops. If you drag the application window to either side of the screen, the application is sent to the next desktop.

You can have as many desktops as you want, but don’t push the BeagleBone too hard. Even though it’s quite powerful for its size, it’s still a system with limited resources.