How to get different wallpapers on each workspace in Ubuntu?

I am sure you have always used to think if it is possible to have different wallpapers on different workspaces in Ubuntu using GNOME. Isn’t it? Don’t worry I have a tip for you, and it is very simple too.

  • You have Ubuntu 8.04 running. (Though it should work with 7.10 as well. But I haven’t tried it.)
  • You have installed CCSM. Check under System ->Preferences if Advanced Desktop Effect Setting is there.
  • For better results you have Avant Window Navigator installed. (Else you won’t be able to use any shortcut on your desktop.)

If you have set up all that then it should be pretty easy for you. Just follow the following steps:

  1. Go under System> Preferences > Advanced Desktop Settings
  2. Select Desktop Cube >Appearance > Background images
  3. Desktop Cube
  4. Click New under background images and add all the images you want as background.
  5. Desktop Cube - Appearance
  6. Alt + F2 to launch the Run Terminal.
  7. Enter gconf-editor and hit Run.
  8. gconf-editor
  9. Go under apps > nautilus > preference
  10. Nautilus
  11. Deselect ‘Show Desktop’.

That’s it. You are all set. Check all the workspaces. You should have the images you selected as wallpapers on these. Cool…


You will notice that you can’t right-click on the desktop and all your existing desktop shortcuts are gone. But don’t worry they are not gone. You will have to go under Places > Desktop to see all the thing you kept on original desktop. Going forward if you save something on desktop they will also appear on that location only. This is one thing you will have to sacrifice if you want to have different wallpapers on each workspace.

But hold on…there is a good news for you if you enabled Avant Window Navigator, then all your shortcuts should be there.  Enjoy different wallpapers on all your workspaces. Did you like it?

Desktop with AWN
I would like to see your screenshot with all the workspaces as I have shown here. Or if any other customization you did to achieve better results, drop a comment here so that others also can learn from you.

Keep reading Technomania for more tips and tricks on Ubuntu, Linux and Open source community updates. You can subscribe to the feed or receive email as and when I update anything on this blog.
Anurag Bansal

92 thoughts on “How to get different wallpapers on each workspace in Ubuntu?

  1. Heya! This was just what I was looking for! Works great! Except for the fact that even with Avant I cannot get my desktop icons back, and can’t seem to make any new ones. Though, this could all be to the fact that I’m a real Linux n00b.

    Thanks for the tutorial! :>

  2. hey the reason that u dont have ur desktop icons and shortcuts is because this isent ur desktop its just a picture like when u unclick
    show desktop then that means ur not showing desktop as in u just see a picture theres acctually a way to make ur desktoop another folder but i cant remmebre how

  3. Unfortunately I don’t have “Background Images” in ccsm Desktop Cube >Appearance section. Can you advise how to install it? Thanks.

  4. I also have the same problem as that of seafarer.There is no “background images” section.Please help.thanks

  5. I followed your manual but i only get my first wallpaper on each side of the cube.
    And i still have my icons on the desktop – even with “show desktop” disabled. Hope you can help me

  6. For anyone who does not have the Desktop Cube >Appearance section, just go to Utility > Wallpapers. I think they changed it around with the new Compiz update.

  7. This is sweet. I’ve looked at some threads on this and quite a few seem dumbfounded. I don’t care about the desktop icons, but I am a bit sad that the panel transparency no longer shows the wallpaper behind it.

  8. HELP..please..I disabled the desktop but now when i go to enable it again the desktop doesnt reappear – ive restarted and still no love. and also, dunno if this may help but when i did put the different backgrounds on there was one which always stayed black, ie. nothing there

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  14. hi,

    I tried it with ubuntu 8.10, it doesn’t work.
    and I tried to show my desktop icons again checking the show desktop in nautilus preferences, but my desktop doesn’t come back.

    how can I bring my desktop icon back?


  15. Ubuntu 8.10 does allow this desktop tip with Compiz Fusion. Desktop items will still appear in “desktop” folder. It would be a neat hack to do this tip and still allow items visible on the screen desktop. Make a shortcut to “desktop” folder on your panel or dock, saves a couple steps. Cheers!

  16. Somehow it didnt work. It was because I had already had wallpaper checked on the compizconfig settings. it actually made all of my workspaces that picture. I unchecked it and followed all the steps from the beginning and it didnt work.

    Any advice?

  17. @Laura
    Just repeat step 10 to 11, over and over again… I had the same issue, but like someone said before, repeating the open gconf-editor+select+close, about 5 or 10 times, solved the problem!

    • Is the point to just keep re-opening gconf-editor, or should I shut the terminal window off and restart that every time, too? I’ve selected/deselected “show desktop” ten times, no dice. Also, you have it as “gconf-editor+select+close. Does “select” mean to go through the process of checking then unchecking each time, or is it more like gconf-editor+select+close+gconf-editor+deselect+close, etc?

  18. i’ve deselected the “show desktop” options from gconf, and set 4 picture for the cube on ccsm… but the changes don’t appear. what do you think??

  19. @riz: did you add the wallpapers to the “Utility” -> “Wallpaper” tab? The instructions really should be updated for Ubuntu 8.10 so that people would know how to do it (or they should read all the comments).

    • @Marko – If I don’t have “Wallpaper” under the “Utility” tab, what do I check instead? If it depends upon my Ubuntu Version, I think it’s LucidLynx 10.0.4 but I’m not sure. My options for checkable boxes seem to be…

      “Mouse Position Polling”,
      “Regex Matching”,
      “Resize Info”,
      “Scale Addons”,
      “Session Management”,
      “Title Bar Info”,
      “Userspace File System”,
      “Videoplayback” and,

      Sorry to put you on the spot like this, and thanks for any info you can give. =)

  20. Oh, it works.. you didn’t say on that article to change the image bg on utility > walpaper

    it seems that ccsm on ubuntu 8.10 has a lil differences

  21. To get your desktop back, set show_desktop (under apps/nautilus/preferences) to true (checked), exit that window and run “nautilus” (without quotes) in terminal and enjoy your icons again! 😀

  22. this thread has been so helpful. i have 8.10 so wasn’t able to figure out the thing mentioned in other posts.. but the thing that we can do it by going into utilities>wallpaper really helped… cheerz 🙂

  23. Hey Guys, is there a way to get the four wallpapers and still have the transparancy (for things like taskbars and conky) work?

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  25. i am running 9.04 ubuntu and my compiz doesn’t give the option to change my background like that. it only gives me cube caps and sky dome. what do I do?

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  27. This doesn’t work in Jaunty. The desktop cube doesn’t even have an option for backgrounds. Only Cube caps and Skydome. Does anyone know how to do this in Jaunty?

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  29. No problems but the first picture on the list displays as my “cube cap”, not a wallpaper, and none of the other pictures appear at all. My original wallpaper still covers all. I did follow the steps, disable my wallpaper, and my icons and right-click ability did go away. If you have any suggestions please email me at Just getting the obligatories out of the way, I am not new to linux but I am also not a technical user of it so much of the lower level workings I do not claim to understand.

  30. i dont like this it doesnt work with 9.1.0 and it kinda screwd up my comp …i cant see icons on my desktop even with show desktop on…
    i un-clicked it then re-clicked it and it was just like if it was still un-clicked

    please help

  31. @DragonDon

    You’ve got to go under System -> Preferences -> CompizConfig Settings Manager. From there, just click on “Utility” on the left side of the window, then “Wallpaper”. Add the images in order that you desire, and it will work.

  32. i have 10.04 and the CCSM is a bit different here as well…. does any one know how do get the desktops to work here??

  33. I don’t have the wallpaper option under Utility, in CCSM (10.4). Is there something needed to download? or any other way to have different wallpapers?

    • Hi All,

      Who are all having 10.04, Open the System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager after that search “compiz” it will show you number of items in that please select compiz-fusion-plugins-extra and select and Apply after that you will see the Wallpaper in the CompizConf Setting Manager under Utility.


  34. Hey, this is great and it worked, but now i want to change them, so i changed the images in the “desktop cube” but it didnt work, please help! thx 🙂

    • Hi,

      If you want to change the Wallpaper, you should go to Utility -> Wallpaper then change the Wallpaper then and there.


      • Utility is under System>Utility>CCSM>Utilities. Problem is, I can’t see “Wallpaper” as an option there. It’s probably just my version or something I left unchecked someplace else, but I’m confused. o.O

  35. i dont find back ground images

    I don’t have the wallpaper option under Utility, in CCSM (10.4). Is there something needed to download? or any other way to have different wallpapers?
    please tell me how ican aplly these 4 wallpapers on my desktop

  36. i dont find back ground images in Appearance after the desktop setting so please tell me another way for applying wallpapers….

    please tell me how ican aplly these 4 wallpapers on my desktop

  37. This isn’t working for some reason, only the top of the cube has one of the wallpapers that i want, the rest are the default wallpaper, how do i change this??

  38. I had to Ctrl-Alt-F1 to the console and back again before this worked properly. Before that, the screen was being corrupted after desktop switches and application switches, not redrawing the screen properly. After moving away form X and back, it works well. It is a bit frustrating not having nautilus handling the desktop as the nautilus context menu is handy.

  39. I enjoyed your post.

    I have tried this on Ubuntu 9.04.
    I was able to get the desktop cubes and avant to work with Compiz.
    But it was all for naught. Once I enabled dual monitor, using ATI driver I was not able to have dual monitors using desktop cubes and avant.

    Also, primary monitor changed and when I edited the xorg.conf directly to change, it set the primary, and then trapped the mouse in the primary monitor.

    So close, but not quite there.

    Any thoughts would be welcome.

  40. I have Ubuntu 10.10. I’ve followed the procedure to the letter but nothing happens. Things just freeze on screen.Fortunately I can still get to gconf-editor to re-check show desktop and it clears up but that just gets me back where I started with one wallpaper.

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  42. For those that do everything and it does not switch over, do not run the gconf-editor as sudo. I was using sudo and nothing would switch. When I ran it simply as gconf-editor it switched immediately.

    • gconf-editor settings will generally apply to the user that it launches under. So sudo probably made it use the root home directory.

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  44. Gave me some issues. Switching desktops through cube didn’t work. Didn’t show additional backgrounds. Rebooted… cube worked, but backgrounds gone, and only skybox showing. Menu’s not refreshing correctly…. I’m sure I’ll figure it out later though. Part of the problem may be that I’m on 10.10. Just a heads up that it may not work perfectly right off the bat.

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  46. It worked nice on LinuxMint 11, with a few adjustments: had to go to CCSM -> Utility -> Wallpaper and add the wallpapers there. It worked perfectly! It would be better if I didn’t have to give up on desktop icons, though.
    Any news on transparent desktop rendering with Nautilus?

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  48. Hi,
    I have done all the setting still i am not getting different wallpaper on different workspace. Actually i installed it earlier at that time it worked but when i switched to ubuntu unity in 11.04 it hanged so i uninstalled it.
    But when i again installed it it is not working

    Do u have any idea.

    Please help

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