Is there any setting/plugin/hack/workaround that will allow me to run Ubuntu with the Gnome 3.x/Gnome Shell desktop while retaining a rectangular 2x2 or n x m workspace grid instead of the default Gnome one-dimensional line-up of workspaces?
Recommended extensions for 3.32+: Workspace Matrix.
Workspace Grid is currently not being updated, but the developer instead recommends Workspace Matrix. Workspace Matrix has nice previews of the workspaces in the displayed switcher and a lot of tweakable options.
It holds the same benefits over Frippery Panel as Workspace Grid did (see below).
For 3.20: The extension Workspace Grid does the job. It is works flawlessly with 3.20.
Two benefits over Frippery Bottom Panel (which work well, cf. this answer) are:
1) No hacking required to remove the bottom panel.
2) In the overview, the grid structure is shown as the chosen two-dimensional grid. With Frippery Bottom Panel, The overview continues to shows a single strip of workspaces.
Pre-GNOME-Shell 3.10: With a combination of two extensions, it is possible. The downside is that you will have a bottom bar.
My blog post explains various ways on how to do this, including getting rid of the bottom bar (included below).
For 3.10 - 3.20: Go to extensions.gnome.org and find Frippery Bottom Panel. Install it. This will give you a bottom bar. Clicking on the right side will give you an option to disable dynamic workspaces and allows you to set number of rows and columns.
The cleanest way of getting rid of the bottom bar is by editing
and on line 6, change the height to
-3pt. Save the file. To activate the effect, GNOME-Shell must be restarted, so reboot, log out and in or restart GNOME-Shell by pressing
Alt+f2, enter the command
r and press
Credit goes to Brian McSweeney.
I was actually looking at this today, and the short answer is no. A hacky workaround is to have a gnome-panel running, with the
workspace-switcher applet on it. This applet provides a setting for number of rows of workspaces, so you can create a grid layout.
I used to have a hack that was a daemon running in the background, which would handle this for me, so I wouldn't need the workspace switcher applet. It doesn't work any more though. However, I'll be rewriting it soon, so that it works again with GNOME 3.x, and using dconf/gsettings. It will only be configurable from editing the settings directly using the gsettings command line tool, or dconf-editor, though.
You can get a 1X1 workspace grid using the new WorkspaceBar extension I wrote. I will look into adding a 2X2 option if people want it. It would be small little buttons to fit on the panel.