Changing workspaces via scrollwheel on desktop is problematic, especially when using touchpad

Bug #147230 reported by Jon Leighton on 2007-09-30
This bug affects 13 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
One Hundred Papercuts
compiz (Ubuntu)
Nominated for Karmic by Mat Tomaszewski

Bug Description

With desktop effects enabled I can switch to a different workspace by scrolling my mouse wheel when on the desktop - each "click" of the mouse wheel goes to a new workspace, in a continuous circle. When using my touchpad, touching the right hand side of it emulates a mouse wheel. The difference is that the touchpad's "mouse wheel" doesn't have "clicks". This means that when I switch workspace, it is very difficult to go to exactly the one I want using the touchpad as it will often detect multiple "clicks" and I can end up back on the one I was on.

One way to alleviate this might be to no switch workspaces in a circle, but to only switch up to the last one in one direction - to get back from that the user would have to scroll the other way. This would solve my problem was I only have two workspaces, but if a user had four workspaces it would still be difficult to get to numbers 2 and 3. Maybe the touchpad just needs to be less sensitive?

Changed in compiz:
importance: Undecided → Wishlist
IC Raibow (wiz) wrote :

Can confirm on both of my dell laptops. I think right decision would be disable wheel-scrolling by default. Because it's really annoyng and unexpected behavior for unprepared users. Another one is to lower "wheel" sensitivity to require more than one click (and more firm drag) to trigger switching.

Paul Martrenchar (pmartrenchar) wrote :

Using the cube, the sensibility of the touchpad is good, you can change desktop with it with no problem.

Using the plan (don't know the real name of the pluging, I use the french version of compiz), the sensibility is way too high to use the touchpad.

Changed in compiz:
status: New → Confirmed
Sam Brightman (sambrightman) wrote :

Compiz does not seem to be respecting the initiate condition for viewport switching with a touchpad. It it supposed to be button2 (middle?) by default. I don't know what this means for the touchpad, but if I add the Control key modifier I still see the viewport switching occurring without pressing it. This compounds the problem of ridiculous sensitivity - I can accidentally scroll viewports by dragging horizontally across the middle of the touchpad if I catch enough of the edge where vertical scroll takes place and (presumably) also move very slightly up or down. As you can imagine, this occurs quite often when moving the mouse around the desktop. I think it's very surprising and confusing for new users, and no less annoying for more experienced ones.

Changing viewports on scroll is unexpected, and literally nauseating for many people.

Yesterday, I was watching a friend play around with her new installation of Jaunty (first time Linux user) when she accidentally scrolled her mouse with her cursor over her desktop. Viewports started changing very rapidly, and the desktop effects were so intense that she literally put her hand in front of her face to block the screen and turned in her chair to look at the floor.

I think that we should disable viewport switch on scroll, for trackpads and all other mice.

Ted Gould (ted) wrote :

I understand how it can be confusing. But I was shocked to hear that at Dave Richard's talk during the GNOME Usability hackfest how users stopped maximizing windows because they wanted to leave a little area of the desktop available for switching desktops using the scroll wheel. Now, that's fail on more than one level, but I think that it does show that "normal users" may enjoy the feature in some cases.

Perhaps it should be disabled by default, but elevated to one of the settings in the simpler compiz configuration tool. In fact (and perhaps I should open another papercut) all of the key commands for things like Expo should be displayed in that tool so that they're atleast discoverable in some way, however obscure.

Travis Watkins (amaranth) wrote :

Zoom In/Out and Expo are exposed in System->Preferences->Keyboard Shortcuts, the place where desktop-wide keyboard shortcuts belong. :)

Mat Tomaszewski (mat.t.) wrote :

I agree that the trackpad/scrollwheel switching should be disabled. Some users not familiar with the concept of workspaces may invoke it accidentally and lose their context completely. Other users will simply find it annoying.

Changed in hundredpapercuts:
importance: Undecided → Medium
status: New → Confirmed

I'm also +1 on turning that off. We put a workspaces applet on the lower
panel at present, don't we?


Changed in compiz (Ubuntu):
status: Confirmed → Triaged

I think that the trackpad/scrollwheel switching could be placed on workspaces applet. Is a good idea?

Robert Ancell (robert-ancell) wrote :

As noted in duplicate bug 175986 this behaviour is not the same as Metacity

summary: - Workspace switching via touchpad works badly
+ Changing workspaces via scrollwheel on desktop is problematic,
+ especially when using touchpad
Mat Tomaszewski (mat.t.) wrote :

I think there is a common agreement that this option needs to be switched off by default.

Changed in hundredpapercuts:
importance: Medium → High
Jeffrey Baker (jwbaker) wrote :

It should be noted that certain applications have dead areas, over which a scroll event will cause the desktop to flip even though the application has the focus. An example is the suggestions area at the bottom of the Banshee music player. Whether this is a bug in banshee, mono, or gtk+, I don't know. But I do know that it's one way users are introduced to this unexpected "feature".

To expend on the "dead areas" mentioned by the previous poster, it often happens on panel separators (fixed or resizeable).

Emilien Klein (emilien-klein) wrote :

I vote to have it disabled by default.
New users that I have introduced to Ubuntu get really lost the first time that they scroll the mouse on the desktop (which is often an undesired scroll, nobody thinks about scrolling to change the workspace when they don't even know what this workspace thing is...)
It should however be simple to activate, as I am sure that people that have grown accustomed to using it will be very vocal about having it disabled.

This is obviously one of the advanced uses of the desktop, you can always change workspaces by clicking on the lower right mini-workspaces. That way you can still start using the different workspaces.

Martin Albisetti (beuno) wrote :

Agreed. I use workspaces very heavily, and this feature has only confused me rather than making it easier.

Phil (pmagnone) wrote :

Wheel-based switching should be disabled by default. Most new users will move the mouse out of their way when browsing the web, but when they start to scroll down the page, they switch workspaces instead. It's a very disconcerting behavior and they won't know where their work/windows went.

If it's not disabled outright, then perhaps it should be changed so that the scrolling only works when a window is not selected and the mouse is hovering over the desktop. That way, people can still use the behavior if they want, but it won't scroll workspaces if the person is trying to scroll down in a selected browser window.

Saivann Carignan (oxmosys) wrote :

I linked a branch to propose again the patch that I attached in duplicate bug 175986 for intrepid. I suggest to merge it in the karmic branch now that we have +1 from sabdfl if the final decision from ubuntu team is to disable it.

positivek (anonyhole) wrote :

I suggest that decision on the action for this bug should only consider the behavior regarding scroll-wheel over the desktop and should disregard the (buggy) behavior of scrolling over "dead zones".

The "dead zones" bug, mentioned by Jeffrey Baker on 2009-06-15, is actually already reported here:
Bug #277195 (Mouse scroll wheel moves between desktops when over parts of application windows)

As suggested there by Lightbreeze ( ), these are separate bugs. Clearly, though, turning off scroll-wheel desktop switching would only _hide_ the effects of that bug until a user turned it on somehow.

seanh (seanh) wrote :

+1 for disabling it, new users don't know what workspaces are, they are simply confused when they do a tiny mouse-wheel scroll over the desktop by accident and all their windows disappear. Even as someone who understands what is happening I find that this feature often makes me switch workspaces accidentally. It's annoying.

I also think that moving the mousewheel when over the workspacea panel applet should be disabled. You should have to actually click on a workspace in the panel applet to go to it. That way you are not confused because you clicked on something and you went there, the applet now indicates where you are, and the workspace switching animation helps too. Just follow metacity on this.

OT I think the story about someone becoming nauseated is telling, the default desktop effects in Ubuntu are still over the top, they should be toned down.

Lightbreeze (nedhoy-gmail) wrote :

Well, metacity does allow scrolling through the workspaces with mousewheel over the panel applet.

The Wind Blows (zachanimerulz) wrote :

I just have middle click on edge setup to change workspaces.

This makes it very easy to figure out because it shows that your working with an extension of the desktop and so forth.

Example when i middle click on the very left side of the screen it will switch the desktop one space to the right.
Then the same applies to the right side of the screen except the movement is to the right.

The only sacrifice is that the very edge of the screen is stuck with the compiz doesn't allow pass through bug on the very edge of the screen. The good part about this is the single edge pixel is never used by programs and such. So the bug feels irrelevant anyways and is never run into, infact it helps prevent accidental clicks when bumping the mouse to the side and such.

enb (elitenoobboy) wrote :

I also vote to have this disabled by default, as long as an appropriate menu option is created to turn it back on (somewhere other than the compizconfig settings manager, which isn't installed by default), so that users who have previously used to using it aren't frustrated by not having it anymore. Either in system > preferences or perhaps in the preferences option from the lower right desktop switcher context menu.

Øyvind Jensen (jegerjensen) wrote :

As pointed out by Lightbreeze, metacity does allow scrolling through the workspaces with mousewheel over the panel applet. But, it is still a bad idea, please don't follow metacity on that.

This is a fundamental usability problem:
1. It is fairly easy to accidentally scroll the mouse wheel, especially on a laptop.
2. If the effect is dramatic, the user will get confused and annoyed.

The unexpected switching through multiple desktops is equally confusing no matter where the mouse pointer happens to be located. Since the desktop switcher applet occupies the edge pixels, it is in effect infinitely large, and accidental scrolling through desktops happens annoyingly often (for me at least).

This bug report has a lot in common with bug #39328, which is about scrollwheeling through the window list. Technically they are separate bugs, as they apply to different components, but they should be regarded as instances of the same usability problem.

The Fiddler (stapostol) wrote :

Another vote for changing the default behavior to not scroll on mouse wheel. The effect is easy to trigger accidentally and the result is positively nauseating.

jollywollup (jollywollup) wrote :

I'm a relatively new Ubuntu user, and I really like the idea of 100 paper cuts to iron out usability issues. This mouse-scrolling issue can be displeasing on my laptop. If the mouse pointer strays just a little bit into the desktop while I'm scrolling through Firefox for example, then desktop 1 and 2 will flash about 10 times. It's not too big an issue and I know I can adjust it, but for less computer-savvy users I imagine this can be frustrating.
Short version: another vote for not scrolling desktops with the mouse wheel, unless the user decides to set that themselves.

Sashin (sashin) wrote :

As far as I've experienced this, it's not especially a problem on Laptops it's ONLY a problem with laptops. Since installing ubuntu, I've been using it all the time and it's made me more productive since it's really fast.

Maybe when you add desktop effects it should check what kind of mouse input you have and based on that leave it off or turn it on?

Vish (vish) wrote :

+1 for disabling as default

ktulu77 (ktulu-highwaytoacdc) wrote :

Yes, I have also this problem. It should be disabled for laptop and desktop computers because scrolling on the desktop can be done by beginers and what happens is strange for them.

Alessio Gaeta (meden) wrote :

+1 for disabling as default as per comment 14

i don't think it should be disabled by default, but that the user should understand what's happening. As a long date user, i like the feature and not to have to configure it, but i understand how strange it may seem.

So a good idea (to my mind), would be to first lower sensitivity by default for a scroll wheel on the desktop, and to secondly have an animation with arrows that appear when changing. The arrows may be used to show the number of workspaces (as many arrows as workspaces) or may be included like on a mac in the representation of workspaces

my 2 cents

Proposed solution: disable workspace switching on scroll.

See bug 150443 for a patch to disable scrolling and enable with a gconf setting.

Przemek K. (azrael) wrote :

I'm for disabling it too.
Even the advanced users are getting annoyed by that (me included).
Workspace switching by using scroll should happen only over the workspace switcher.

Sebastien Bacher (seb128) wrote :

duplicate bug #150443? that would be nice to have sent upstream too

Bryce, I saw your package, but it's without the gconf schema (It wasn't in the original patch because I don't know how to add it). Could you help me add it or if you could add it to your debdiff?

Bryce Harrington (bryce) wrote :

Marcus, sure, I can stick it in if you want to draft what the description should say.

Actually I'd like to see the gconf keyname to be the same as in bug #39328 to make it coherently. But haven't got any response there.

But a description could be; "If true, scrolling over the workspace area switches to the next/previous workspace"

English is not my native language so feel free to change as you see fit.

The bug calls for disabling compiz viewport switching when scrolling over the desktop, not disabling workspace switching when scrolling over the workspace gnome-panel applet. Bryce, your patch appears to fix the latter, correct?

It looks like there is confusion with bug #150443.

To close this bug, scrolling with the cursor over the desktop should not cause workspaces to switch.

On Wed, Jul 01, 2009 at 09:46:43PM -0000, David Siegel wrote:
> The bug calls for disabling compiz viewport switching when scrolling
> over the desktop, not disabling workspace switching when scrolling over
> the workspace gnome-panel applet. Bryce, your patch appears to fix the
> latter, correct?

Correct, however I can't claim any credit for the patch, I just reviewed
and packaged the one that was posted to the other bug. You had said
there was already a patch for this bug, so I assumed you meant that one,
but if there's a better one point me at it.

I don't hack on compiz much myself, so if a new patch needs done against
compiz, I may not be the right guy for this papercut.

Saivann Carignan (oxmosys) wrote :

Bryce : Did you review my branch? It's actually one way to disable this, and it does not need to change the source code, only default gconf configuration.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) wrote :

This bug was fixed in the package compiz - 1:0.8.2-0ubuntu14

compiz (1:0.8.2-0ubuntu14) karmic; urgency=low

  * debian/compiz-gnome.gconf-defaults:
    - Disable switching between desktop with mousewheel over desktop background
      as this options is too easily launched by mistake, especially on laptops
      with touchpads. (Saïvann Carignan, LP: #147230)
    - Set /apps/compiz/plugins/move/allscreens/options/constrain_y to false
      by default to be consistent with metacity (LP: #221698)

 -- Robert Ancell <email address hidden> Fri, 03 Jul 2009 17:09:04 +0200

Changed in compiz (Ubuntu):
status: Triaged → Fix Released
Saivann Carignan (oxmosys) wrote :

Thank you!

Emilien Klein (emilien-klein) wrote :

Yes, thanks for fixing this paper cut!

Bowmore (bowmore) wrote :

I really do want this feature using the mousewheel to switch between desktops, so how do I reenable it after I install this fix? Some gconf-setting too? Would appreciate a description here if there is a way doing so.

AFAIK, you just need to re-enable the "Desktop Switcher" plugin through
compizconfig-settings-manager (please correct me if I am wrong).

Saivann Carignan (oxmosys) wrote :

Exactly, this can be enabled at any time in ccsm in the "Viewport switcher" section, "Desktop-based Viewport switching" tab by enabling "Move next" and "Move Prev", choosing Mouse Button 4 and Mouse Button 5

The fix only disable the option by default, but does not prevent user to enable it.

Bowmore (bowmore) wrote :


> The fix only disable the option by default, but does not prevent user to enable it.

Activating Button4 or 5 just lasts for a second or two and then gets disabled again. However, other combinations like Ctrl+Button5 work. I can do with that but I think it should be possible to reset those to previous defaults.

habtool (clive-wagenaar) wrote :

 #49 Bowmore wrote on 2009-07-07:

Activating Button4 or 5 just lasts for a second or two and then gets disabled again. However, other combinations like Ctrl+Button5 work. I can do with that but I think it should be possible to reset those to previous defaults.

I can also confirm that I cant re-enabled it in Karmic, button 4 & 5 wont stick.

Bowmore and habtool: I reported bug #414170 about that issue (I just ran into it myself).

nanotube (nanotube) wrote :

disabling workspace switch when scrolling on desktop is one thing (and i think is just fine), but disabling when scrolling on workspace switcher is quite another.

that's what the workspace switcher is for - switching workspaces. i use the scroll method to switch workspaces in the workspace switcher all the time. it makes sense, and is very convenient. please don't remove that.

Robert (poofyyoda) wrote :

Disabling one of the most powerful and work enhancing features is just pure stupid IMO. I can't believe this has gone through, it just completely disrupts my work. If this is removed by default then there should be a configuration utility also available by default which compiz-config is not. This also relates back to the removal of the custom effects from the visual effects tab, which used to fetch the necessary package. Now that was usability, and the constant trimming of these nice usability functions is turning this distro into a static and dull user environment, which is exlusively catering to noob users and creating a rift for users with any technical skills, and making the experience boring.

"disabling workspace switch when scrolling on desktop is one thing (and i think is just fine), but disabling when scrolling on workspace switcher is quite another."

that is a known bug in compiz which prevents scrolling on the workspace switcher, and now there is no way without configuration to change workspaces with the mouse wheel which is one huge step backward in usability and many accustomed users are not going to be happy :(

Saivann Carignan (oxmosys) wrote :

poofyyoda : While I understand your frustration, speaking about this here won't be helpful to anybody as it is a bug report and it is just spamming subscribed people, asking for changes in ubuntu and/or feature, is the appropriate place. Having this feature enabled by default created a usability bug for many users as it was too often launched by mistake due to the desktop taking the whole screen and touchpad scroll which is very sensitive. Having it disabled fixes that problem, but it does not prevent users to enable this functionnality at need. And there is patches and work to make the desktop-switcher applet work exactly in the same way then under metacity (GNOME), so what you are requesting is already in development.

>> This also relates back to the removal of the custom effects from the visual effects tab

It was not removed, just install simple-ccsm.

Brad Jensen (bradwjensen) wrote :

After enabling View Port Switching with my Scroll Wheel (buttons 4 & 5) in Karmic, how do I get this feature to only work when the mouse is over an empty desktop area?

Right now it switches even when the mouse is hovering an application, like Firefox..

Brad Jensen (bradwjensen) wrote :

I figured it out on my own, finally... Turns out I had to disable buttons 4 and 5 in the Desktop Wall > Bindings, and turn on buttons 4 and 5 in Viewport Switcher > Desktop-based Viewport Switching.

Franko Burolo (fburolo) wrote :

Interesting request, and I see it was accepted in Karmic...
I have been always using GNU/Linux on a laptop, and I now I am writing from my second one ever since. So it's been about five years on two different laptops with (synaptics) touchpads, with various distros (mostily Ubuntu), and always using scrollwheel workspace changing (in KDE, Gnome, Xfce and e17). I have never experienced any annoyance about that, and I use the touchpad very often. I have never had the feeling my touchpad was too sesitive or anything. I have to drag my finger through the whole lenght of my right-side-scroller to change through more than one workspace in a single shot. And, considering the fact I almost never scroll through the whole lenght, I have never had problems with that. Actually, I liked the feature very much. And I found it very frustrating to have lost it with Karmic. But I can understand that some touchpads are maybe more sensitive than any touchpad I have ever used with Linux.
I solved the issue for myself after about an hour of searching through various options around Gnome and CCSM. And it was not really fun...

It really is a minor issue, I don't deny that, but it was the other way, too. So, what I was thinking about. They solved this One Hundred Paper Cuts request, for the happiness of a part of the user base. But, will this now cause an opposite request for Ubuntu 10.4 (or whatever will be the release day)? I can see on various forums that there is a respective other part of the user base, that liked that issue, even with touchpads.
No matter what is the default setting, the best solution would be a more obvious and easy to find way to enable/disable that feature. Should I write about that on Brainstorm?

Travis Watkins (amaranth) wrote :

You seem to be asking for scrolling on the workspace switcher, which is not what this bug was about. That's actually which has yet to be fixed.

Michele (mikelito) wrote :

@ robert: since I guess you used heavily this feature while using a mouse
(on a laptop it was really unbearable), I suggest a solution which might be even better
than the old behaviour: if your mouse has "horizontal scroll" by tiltable scroll-wheel
(most of recent Logitech mice, for example, have it), you can bind "Button6" and "Button7"
to viewport switching. This way, you don't even need to have some desktop exposed,
you can flip viewports lightning-quickly.
Since I think the horizontal scroll feature is generally not very useful, I wonder wheter
this behaviour could be even be enabled by default....

habtool (clive-wagenaar) wrote :

@Michele (I am in Fedora 12 at the moment, don't shoot me ;) )

Did a quick test on the "Button6" and "Button7" idea in Fedora-12.
It did work, but I still needed to do it over a exposed desktop.
It would not work if the cursor was over an application window.
I will test in Karmic tomorrow and advise if it works differently there allowing the use over an application window etc.

Was a great tip though, so thanks.

Franko Burolo (fburolo) wrote :

@Travis. No, I am talking about switching by scrolling on workspace, wich I use very much, not on workspace switcher, which I don't use at all...

joy23 (shakespear-joy) wrote :

This could be a late entry but i would like to add the below

Another solution would be to assign hot keys to workspaces
i.e. suppose
Alt + 1 goes to first workspace
Alt + 2 goes to second workspace
... and so on
This could result in maximum of 9 (unlimited may be) switchable workspaces.
Switching between them would be a breeze.
second solution is to triple click desktop and drag to next/previous workspace.

Also another solution targeted towards tablets is swipe to next/previous workspace
 another solution could be swipe diagonally to bring up workspace viewer and select the required workspace.

Implementing the above i suppose am not qualified enough :-)

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