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viewports and virtual desktops

What's the diff?

With viewports, aka large desktops:

  • Your desktop is bigger than what you see at any given time.
  • The viewport is the screen-size piece of desktop you are currently viewing.
  • You can move around within this bigger desktop in screen-size increments (the norm). You can also smoothly scroll around it, but few WMs support this and few people do it (or want it, I assume).
  • If a window is hanging off the edge of one viewport, its non-visible portion will be visible in the next viewport.
  • You can "stick" a window (as in, "stuck to the monitor glass") so that it remains in the same position regardless of viewport movements.

With virtual desktops, aka workspaces:

  • Each workspace acts as an independent screen with its own set of contained windows.
  • A window can be designated to show up on multiple workspaces, and/or sent around from one workspace to another, usually via a menu option such as "send to desktop 3".
  • Windows do not overlap between workspaces as they do with viewports
  • Workspaces are generally not very spatially oriented, rather they tend to have names or numbers, and are presented as a list.

These descriptions may be a little biased in favor of viewports, since I prefer them. See why viewports rule.

Other explanations

A Viewport is a partial view of a virtual Desktop. Kahakai not only lets you have virtual desktops (to give you the effect of having a bigger screen), it lets you have multiple Desktops, as if you had multiple physical screens. -- From the old kahakai wiki (archive.org)

For more explanation, see the EWMH spec here.

Nick Welch <nick@incise.org> · github