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I recently upgraded from 14.04 LTS to 18.04 LTS Bionic Beaver and I really miss the old, simpler workspace switcher. The 4-way quadrant icon in the Task bar was much easier for me to use and think about, better (for me) than the new Activities -> vertical column of workspaces.

Is there a way to get the old Unity workspace switcher back? I was delighted to find Nemo, which solved my issues with the new Gnome File Manager (versus the old Nautilus in 14.04). I'm hoping there's a similar solution for the workspace switcher too.

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    You can get 2x2 workspace switcher with keyboard shortcuts, but I'm not sure about the "4-way quadrant icon". Alternatively you can still install and use Unity on Bionic.
    – pomsky
    Jun 1 '18 at 22:06
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Gnome Shell can be customized with extensions, so these may partially meet your wishes.

  • You can rearrange workspaces from the vertical layout to the 2x2 layout using the well maintained Gnome Shell extension Workspace Grid. This extension updates the layout of your workspaces in the Shell overview, and adjusts the Ctrl+Alt+arrow keys accordingly.

  • The 4 quadrant icon in the taskbar is not back, of course, but a click on the "Activities" button will bring you to the overview, and thus also to the workspaces.

  • You may complement the experience, if you wish, by adding the extension Always Zoom Workspaces. This extension ensures that the workspace switcher in the overview is always expanded.

With this setup, the functionality approximates that in the old Unity: workspace arrangement and shortcut keys are similar, and you can change workspaces visually with two clicks.

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