I semi-frequently experience what seems to be a minor yet very annoying bug when using the workspace switcher, starting in 14.04. I had never noticed this in earlier releases of the OS.

Essentially what happens is I get temporarily stuck in the workspace switcher screen (what shows after clicking the "Workspace Switcher" icon) displaying the 4 different workspaces. Normally you would just click one of the workspaces then ubuntu zooms back in on that workspace for you, however clicking the workspaces seems to do nothing when I am hung up.

This seems to happen only some of the time when I am using the workspace switcher to move an open window, say a nautilus file manager window to another workspace.

I have found that frantically pressing esc and/or the windows button at least 10 or 20 times eventually takes me back to a single workspace view. Also that if that mouse is moved every time I press the windows button the window I was moving in between the ws borders will be updated in position on the screen otherwise it will not move on the ws switcher screen.

How can I prevent this from happening?

  • If this is supposed to be a question, you should ask one, and if it is a bug report, it will probably receive more attention if reported the usual way
    – fifaltra
    Apr 11, 2015 at 11:41
  • 1
    Something similar happened to me today. Things got stuck as if I was dragging a window between desktops. Although it isn't a fix, pressing ALT + ESC got it 'unstuck'.
    – cavpollo
    Mar 21, 2016 at 21:31
  • If this is a regular issue for you, have you tried moving an active window to another workspace by using the combination Shift+Ctrl+Alt and one of the direction keys (up, down, right or left) according to preference?
    – graham
    Jul 16, 2016 at 9:50
  • This happens to me frequently in 16.04 LTS as I drag an application from one window to another. It is so frequent that I try to avoid doing that because it is more likely than not.
    – SDsolar
    Apr 25, 2018 at 17:32

5 Answers 5


Alt+Enter does the trick hope it helps you

  • 4
    Worked for me on 16.10. Oct 22, 2016 at 16:07
  • This should be the accepted answer!
    – Blairg23
    Oct 27, 2016 at 3:27
  • 2
    yes , it really does it but why it is happening at the first place , can u tell me ?
    – Bhawin
    Feb 5, 2017 at 7:19
  • I have not experienced this issue on 16.XX, I still utilize workspace switching frequently but for me at least, this problem was only existent in the 14.XX releases
    – John Dream
    Feb 22, 2017 at 16:37
  • to me it happened in 16.04 and most probably because I was running a process that was taking all 4 cores and ram and swap may be ram is the issue. Jul 2, 2017 at 22:12

Exact same problem happens with 16.04 LTS. Moving active windows inn the Workspace Switcher very often causes the GUI to hang, with Unity grayed-out. The windows can still be seen to be updating (and my cron jobs use espeak to talk to me) so I know the underlying system is still running.

Here is one clue as to why: It seems to happen most often when the window between workspaces is being updated a lot, such as a FileZilla window during a transfer, or even the System Monitor.

To recover, just press Alt-F1

This causes it to jump immediately to one of the four workspaces. Seems to pick the workspace that contains the upper-left corner of the application that was being dragged.

Afterwards, everything works normally again.

  • Tested successfully in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on two systems with this issue.
  • Alt+F1 = Lifesaver. Thanks.
    – copper.hat
    Sep 10, 2019 at 20:31

I was having this problem. Seemed to have found a workaround by:

  1. Install unity-tweak-tool
  2. workspace settings -> restore defaults

Note that turning the workspace switcher off and setting the number of workspaces to 1 did not work. Windows would get moved off screen and become inaccessible. Thankfully the "restore defaults" seems to work.

  • 3
    WARNING!!! This caused my desktop environment (Ubuntu 16.04) a big mess. The launcher and the taskbar disappeared. I couldn't fix this problem and I had to move to a new user.
    – mustafa
    Jun 23, 2016 at 11:33
  • I tried editing the title of this question to include 16.04 but that edit got rejected. In my experience it happens a lot more often in 16.04 than it used to in 14.04
    – SDsolar
    Apr 26, 2018 at 1:21

not sure if this is a complete answer as to the behaviour, but what worked for me was to have a key bound to workspace switching using Ubuntu Tweakor compiz. When I get stuck and cant use the mouse to get out, I simply use the hotkey to get out.

This seems like a better workaround than having to reset all the parameters every time (besides, Im not sure how you could try and reset something if you are stuck in the preview mode)

  • what is the hotkey to get out?
    – mustafa
    Jun 23, 2016 at 11:34
  • I had it set to something custom. (Shift & end) I am not sure what default is. You could just restart your machine go into compiz and set a custom binding for yourself. if it ever happens again then at least you will be able to escape Jun 23, 2016 at 20:41
  • 1
    @mustafa alt + enter Sep 27, 2016 at 18:07

Giving my thoughts here, I was facing this issue today (only one of my 2 monitors really switched workspaces). Using GNOME Tweaks, under "Workspaces", I just needed to select the "Workspaces span displays' and all worked up fine

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