My Ctrl+Alt+Arrow key fails to switch my workspace, but this is only true if

  1. NumLock is on
  2. I press Ctrl followed by the Alt key
  3. I'm using the left Alt key
  4. I'm logged in as me (as opposed to a guest)

Any help debugging this weird behavior would be greatly appreciated. It's a pretty frustrating little bug that gets in my way at least 20 times a day, and it's so strange that I would really just like to understand how it could be happening, although I wouldn't mind just fixing it with some kind of keybindings/unity/compiz reset. I just need some pointers on how to achieve this reset. Thanks!

  • I have almost the same problem in 13.04. It's working only in guest mode with Ctrl + Left Alt + Arrow keys (nothing to do with NumLock). Jun 9, 2013 at 9:29
  • Did you try turning it off and on again? Workspaces, that is. i.imgur.com/3MNKZ3F.png
    – duxk.gh
    Jun 9, 2013 at 21:23
  • I didn't try toggling it through that menu. I was thinking it's a keybinding problem, since workspaces works fine, it doesn't get triggered by a very specific key sequence.
    – Noah
    Jun 10, 2013 at 18:55

6 Answers 6


I've solved it by enabling Desktop Wall in CompizConfig Settings Manager:

Desktop Wall - CCSM

  • I had Desktop Wall enabled. I tried toggling it to no effect.
    – Noah
    Jun 10, 2013 at 18:54
  • @Noah For me this worked. Jun 10, 2013 at 19:06
  • This worked for me as well. Sep 20, 2013 at 13:20
  • I had to disable the shortcuts in Window Management after installing CompizConfig Settings Manager.
    – geneorama
    Mar 19, 2015 at 6:34
  • It also works in 15.10
    – Cysioland
    Jan 21, 2016 at 20:39

In my case, the problem had to do with a conflict between the Desktop Wall plugin and the Grid plugin. After I invoked Compiz Config Settings Manager (CCSM), and I unchecked and checked Desktop Wall, CCSM gave me the option of disabling the key bindings of the Grid plugin that conflicted with Desktop wall. To be safe, I disabled the Grid plugin. My Ctrl+Alt+Arrow keys are working fine now.


I've you've come here (like me) for the title alone (Ctrl+Alt+Arrow key doesn't switch workspaces) then additionally to other answers here, try increasing the SIZE of your desktop:

Compiz > General settings > "Desktop size" tab > if it's 1x1, increase it

Credit to Uchiha Madara's comment in another question.


I had a similar problem running on a virtual machine and it turned out that VMWare Workstation was capturing Ctrl +Alt +Left/Right to switch between active virtual machines.

In WMWare Workstation > Virtual Machine > Preferences > Hot Keys, I changed the hot key combination to Ctrl+Alt+Windows Key.


Have the same problem since today. This bug? https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity/+bug/1212987

It seems that only (compiz Config Settings manager) CCSM is able to change workspaces from now on. - general options - Unity plugin

The Unity Tweak tool doesn't do anything since today. It shows the wrong amount and changing it doesn't do anything.


I ended up deleting anything in my home that sounded like a gnome or unity thing (.gconf, .gnome2, .kde). It obliterated all my unity settings, but it fixed the problem. I'm still curious to know how I could have done a more targeted fix.

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