I have an older Netbook with a small monitor and would like to set up a new OS. (Haven't used it for a while)

Before I was quite happy with Ubuntu/Gnome 2 which allowed to spread a window over two virtual screens. Especially when I had to edit pictures or write something this was quite useful because I could keep the menu and some rarely used options in the upper screen and work in the one below.

Since Gnome 3 this is not possible any more and I refused to update it. Now a year has passed and I'd like to use the netbook again but setting up an entirely new OS.

Some experiments with LXDE or XFCE failed unfortunately. Does any one have an idea what could work?

  • I'm confused. Do you want to spread a window over two monitors (i.e. two REAL screens)? Or do you want two virtual screens, only one of which is shown at a time, both showing different parts of the same window (in which case I don't understand what you mean by “below” — is that because you want a pager that shows the two virtual screens arranged vertically)? Oct 8, 2015 at 23:24
  • Two virtual ones. I created 2x3 screens and put the upper part of the program on screen 1,2 or 3 and the lower part on screeb 4,5 or 6. Usually the screens were arranged in rows.
    – Qohelet
    Oct 9, 2015 at 0:09

1 Answer 1


Some window managers set up a virtual desktop that's larger than the physical screen. At any given time, you see a viewport onto that large desktop. A window can be larger than the screen, and panning over the viewport lets you pan over the window. I think this is the feature you're looking for. It's fallen into disuse somewhat: most modern environments instead have workspaces that are conceptually disjoint and where a window is only present on a single workspace. But the feature still exist in many window managers. I'll mention a few.

Vtwm was the first widespread window manager with a virtual desktop feature. It used the viewport concept. Vtwm is still available, but if you're used to modern window managers and destkop environments, Vtwm will probably feel hard to use (in particular, it uses focus-follows-mouse, not click-to-focus) and look ugly.

Fvwm is a very configurable window manager. It can be used with GNOME. It offers both viewport-type virtual desktops (a rectangular arrangement of screen-sized viewports, with windows being able to span multiple desktops) and workspace-type virtual desktops (independent workspaces, with windows on a single workspace). You can set the number of viewports with the DesktopSize command. You can navigate between viewports and set the viewport coordinates to a fractional value. The FvwmPager module provides a visual pager to move between desktops. For your ~/.fvwm2rc:

DesktopSize 2x3
Module FvwmPager 0 0

Sawfish is an extremely configurable window manager, limited only by your ability to write Lisp code. It can be used with GNOME. It offers both viewports (called viewports) and independent desktops (called workspaces). The pager add-on provides a visual pager to move between viewports and workspaces. For your ~/.sawfishrc, to use viewports:

(setq viewport-dimensions (cons 2 3))
(move-viewport 0 0)
(require 'pager)

An alternative approach with Sawfish would be to show the same window on multiple workspaces, at different positions. Sawfish supports this, although I'm not sure if the functionality is exposed in the default interface. (I use sawfish, but with a heavily customized interface.) Workspaces are conceptually organized on a line (but you can configure the pager to show them on multiple rows) and are usually set up to be created dynamically.

  • Wow, that seems to be what I was looking for. Today in the evening I'll to install it and see. Sounds good. Many thanks in anticipation
    – Qohelet
    Oct 9, 2015 at 10:05
  • Took a little longer, the netbook had some issues. Many thanks!
    – Qohelet
    Nov 8, 2015 at 0:22

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