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At work my laptop is set to the right of my external monitor. Not because I like to but because no other configuration is possible. When I need to extend my desktop I always have to select «Extend to the right» (to enable the external monitor with auto-detected resolution) then switch to «Advanced» and manually move the icon of the laptop display to the right of that of the external monitor and press «Apply».

It gets boring when you have to do that on a daily basis. Besides — and I don't know why — the «Mirror Displays» button is disabled. The display selection window shows itself right after I plug in the HDMI cable, which is great. If the desktop was extended before I unplug the HDMI cable, it snaps back to the laptop panel immediately afterwards and that's great too. Therefore I need none of the «External monitor» and «Laptop» buttons.

xfce4-display-settings

All in all, out of 4 buttons on that panel only one is half useful, the other ones not at all.

So aren't there any... plans to add an «Extend to the left» button in xfce4-display-settings? Why arbitrary limit extension to right sides? Are left sides... evil?

  • You mean "At work my laptop is set to the left of my external monitor", correct? – dr01 Jun 17 '16 at 9:48
  • @dr01 No, I did mean the exact opposite: to the right. Had it been to the left, I wouldn't have bothered asking since that's what xfce4-display-settings supports by default... – user86969 Jun 19 '16 at 14:09
2

Try doing this via command line.

First identify the name of your connected primary screen:

xrandr -q 

and let's say it's eDP1.

Then extend your primary screen to an additional HDMI screen situated to the left:

xrandr --output eDP1 --right-of HDMI1

You might have to play with xrandr options a little after doing this.

  • I know about xrand. It's as boring to close the display settings window, go to a terminal and run xrandr everytime I plug the HDMI cable. I've been running xrandr for years until Xfce did automate the process somehow by prompting the display settings as soon as I plug the HDMI cable. – user86969 Jun 19 '16 at 14:14
  • @Nasha - each such command can be added to a .desktop file (and that is especially simple in Xfce - just go on the desktop and create a new launcher) and then add it to the panel, the desktop, or ~/.local/share/applications. - The problem is that the above solution not only extends to the left but makes the left display primary. – user32012 Mar 10 '17 at 23:55
  • it's a bug: bugzilla.xfce.org/show_bug.cgi?id=8328, more here: superuser.com/a/718804/162573 – user32012 Mar 11 '17 at 0:04
2

This is a big old bug - and they don't seem ready to fix it.

In fact there is no extending of the internal primary display to the left in Xfce: extending to the left (as indicated in the other answer - also here - or by other methods like drag&drop in GUIs that allow re-arranging) makes the external display the primary one.

The very term primary gets a different meaning in Xfce: it's just the LEFT part of ONE desktop/workspace that spans on multiple monitors.


Why?

It is related to the way Xfce treats workspaces in relation to multiple display monitors. Xfce always shares the same workspace between different displays from left to right. Making a display the primary one on Xfce simply means showing on that display the left part of one workspace (and the right part on the second display).

I can only understand the difference by comparison with other desktops that I use in other systems.

In the Pantheon desktop (elementary OS) and most other modern desktops extending means that each display has a separate workspace. The primary display has all the controls, while the second display simply takes another workspace, and that is set to the right or left depending on your setting.

In Xfce it's not so. With an extended display connected, I see that the second workspace is not present there, it is accessible only if I scroll for that (according to my Xfce desktop setting): the two displays share the same workspace from left to right (including the panel): the primary is always to the left. Changing the workspace when you have two monitors simply shares the second workspace between the two monitors (while the first workspace becomes absent from all monitors), instead of giving each monitor its own separate workspace.

That is why with the most common configuration of the panel, the left part (the menu button, the window buttons) is on the primary, the right part (notification area, clock etc) is on the second display if the 'Span monitors' option is enabled.

Left (primary) half of the workspace:

enter image description here

Right half of the same workspace:

enter image description here

If the 'Span monitors' option is not enabled, the panel will be present only on the primary left external monitor.

I think that this situation is dependent on the basic configuration of Xfce and cannot be changed without changing that base.


Workaround:

Extend to the left external monitor (which thus becomes the primary) then move all controls - namely the panel(s) - to the right (secondary) internal monitor, making it act as if it were the primary.

  • To extend to the left use a command like xrandr --output LVDS1 --auto --right-of VGA1 --output VGA1 --auto (where LVDS1 is the internal display). It is very useful to add that to a panel or desktop launcher, or associate it with a shortcut.

  • Un-check the 'Span monitors' option and unlock the panel.

enter image description here

  • Drag & drop the panel onto the right (internal) monitor. (If that doesn't seem to work, make the panel vertical then move it, then make it horizontal if that's what you want.)

The panel position seems to be remembered after coming back to this display configuration and after restart.

After the command, the windows go on the external left monitor: to have a quick way to send them to next monitor, see this answer.

  • I'm flagging your post as the answer because you've strictly stuck to the question. Thanks a lot for investigating it. Note however that in my case the left screen (external display) would have to be the primary monitor so Xfce's definition of the primary display is still fit to me as what I want is Xfce desktop with menu on the left, external monitor, with my laptop to the right, as a right-side extension of Xfce desktop. – user86969 Mar 11 '17 at 10:48

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