After clicking the Workplace Switcher the screen froze and no desktop could be selected. I could still type commands in a terminal window even though the workspace could not be selected. No key combination worked to select a desktop. Alt-F4, Ctrl-alt left/right, etc.

This is a 2x2 workspace, usually with lots of windows open. Clicking on the icon on the taskbar then selecting the workspace to go to (because alt-tab / ctrl-alt-tab is annoying and unpredictable) usually works well.

Other than Raising the Elephant, a soft boot, or a hard boot, is there another way out of this when the workplace switcher is frozen on Ubuntu 16.04? A key combination or other method perhaps?

There was nothing in journalctl that seemed to be related to this freezing event.

Ubuntu workplace switcher frozen

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    Since you have to ask, you will most likely encounter other issues if you proceed. Considering that you have shell access, you could always kill X and restart it, but restarting the system would be the best solution. I suggest you take a look at your system logs for indications of a problem which would concur with the freeze to hopefully correct the cause. Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 6:26
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    Did you try killing Compiz? In my experience, it's what causes Ubuntu's default interface to freeze and killing it often resolves the freeze. To do that, log in on a text console (press Ctrl+Alt+F1) or over the network, and run pkill compiz. Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 21:33
  • Yes, Ctrl-Alt-F1 certainly fixes it. I suspect it will fix just about anything, in the same way a screwdriver can fix just about anything. In this scenario it is an acceptable answer. It at least gets you to a prompt. I'd like to kill Compiz..
    – Underverse
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


When this happens the Ctrl+Alt+F7 or F8 may not work. Opening a Ctrl+Alt+F1 and using the following command fixes the problem:

unity  &> /dev/null & disown 

This also works well if it is possible to type in a terminal window.

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