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I've switched on using i3 on my Linux laptop. I'm usually using only the laptop's internal monitor (display eDP1), but when I'm at work I tend to connect a secondary monitor to my computer's HDMI port (display HDMI2). So far, I've made this work fine by adding these commands to my i3 config file:

# use workspaces on different monitors
workspace "1: P1" output eDP1
workspace "2: P2" output eDP1
workspace "3: P3" output eDP1
workspace "4: P4" output eDP1
workspace "5: P5" output eDP1
workspace "6: S1" output HDMI2 
workspace "7: S2" output HDMI2
workspace "8: S3" output HDMI2
workspace "9: S4" output HDMI2
workspace "10: S5" output HDMI2

# add HDMI monitor when connected
exec --no-startup-id xrandr --output HDMI2 --right-of eDP1
bindsym $mod+m exec --no-startup-id xrandr --output HDMI2 --auto --right-of eDP1

In other words, when I connect my HDMI display I just press Mod+M to get i3 to detect it, place it right of my primary display, and delegate 5 named workspaces (6-10) to it.

Here's the problem: At home, I have another monitor that I can connect with VGA (display DP2). I can run the xrandr command above to place this display to the right of my primary display as well, but I can't get the workspaces to be assigned to this display by default, unless I replace the rules I already have for my HDMI monitor. I would like both these workspaces to work the same no matter which monitor I use, so this is not an option.

TL;DR Is there a way to assign workspaces to two different displays, depending on which display is connected (assuming they never will be connected at the same time)?

18
+50

You can't assign multiple outputs to single workspace, see: https://github.com/i3/i3/issues/555

So the only way is to change i3 config dynamically. You could assign to hotkey script that will be doing 2 things: changing monitor outputs with xrandr and moving workspaces with i3-msg:

xrandr --output DP2 --auto --right-of eDP1
i3-msg "workspace 6, move workspace to output DP2"
...
i3-msg "workspace 10, move workspace to output DP2"

With above script you will move 6-10 workspaces to DP2 and end up staying on workspace 10.

Update 2019: Multiple outputs assignment was implemented starting from v4.16, see https://i3wm.org/docs/userguide.html#workspace_screen. Now you could use them like that:

workspace "6: S1" output HDMI2 VGA
2

According to the user's guide, syntax:

workspace 1 output eDP1
...
workspace 6 output HDMI2 VGA

should work.

Or you may define primary output on your machines, if not set (xrandr --output <output> --primary), and use this syntax:

workspace 1 output primary
...
workspace 6 output secondary

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