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My system is built around my 71 year old father (who is a recent, and very supportive Linux user now).

He doesn't have any need for multiple desktops and I find that having too many things on the panel can be a bit confusing for him.

Is there any way to completely disable workspaces / as well as remove the icon from the panel?

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Please vote for bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/997322 –  Roman Ivanov Jul 15 '12 at 18:39
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3 Answers

  1. Disabling multiple workspaces:

    • Using GConf Editor, change the value of the /apps/metacity/general/num_workspaces to 1.
  2. Removing the Workspace Switcher from the Launcher:

    Remove and Rearrange

    So to make this changes you need to edit one file. First to be safe make a backup:

(for 11.04 & 11.10)

sudo cp /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml-backup

when you screw up something just:

sudo cp /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml-backup /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml

(for 12.04)

sudo cp /usr/share/unity-2d/shell/launcher/Launcher.qml /usr/share/unity-2d/shell/launcher/Launcher.qml-backup

when you screw up something just:

sudo cp /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml-backup /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml

Now for removing items from the Launcher:

(for 11.04/11.10):

gksu gedit /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml

scroll down to line 104, there you will see:

(for 12.04)

gksu gedit /usr/share/unity-2d/shell/launcher/Launcher.qml

scroll down to line 104, there you will see:

Component.onCompleted: {
    items.appendModel(applications);
    items.appendModel(workspaces);
    items.appendModel(visiblePlaces);
    items.appendModel(devices);
    shelfItems.appendModel(trashes);

items.appendModel(applications); = applications in launcher
items.appendModel(workspaces); = Workspace Switcher
items.appendModel(visiblePlaces); = Files & Folders and application button.items.appendModel(devices); = mounted drives (NTFS) + flash drives etc.
shelfitems.appendModel(trashes); = Trash

You can remove these items by deleting their lines or you can rearrange items by moving lines up or down.

Source

It should be noted that the second step is editing actual code and not a configuration file and thus any changes will be overwritten the next time you install a unity-2d update.

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Great answer above by the way. Thank you. To simplify things a bit you can reduce the workspaces from the terminal by:

    gconftool-2 -s /apps/metacity/general/num_workspaces --type int 1

and alter the configuration (remove the workspace launcher from the Launcher by:)

    sudo cp /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml{,.bck}
    sudo sed -i '/items.appendModel(workspaces)/d' /usr/share/unity-2d/launcher/Launcher.qml

Yes this will get reset anytime that the package unity-2d-launcher gets updated.

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There is an easier workaround now, as described in the bug regarding this issue in Launchpad (thanks to @Romanlvanov for the link by the way)

As explained by Jon Hanna in that bug:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ikarosdev/unity-revamped 
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Restart the system and open ccsm, go to Ubuntu Unity Plugin switch to the Experimental tab and turn off Show "Expo Icon" in the launcher.

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