How to make alt-tab show windows from all desktops in Lubuntu


I usually keep one or a couple of similar programs running at each desktop. On the Mac, I use 9 Spaces that I alt-tab or ctrl-arrowkey to and from, but when using 4 desktops in LXDE on my netbook, alt-tabbing doesn’t show me all my programs, but only the programs running on the current desktop. Of course, I could alt-scroll to the right desktop and then alt-tab if there are more than one program running there, but it seems a bit too complicated.

While trying out some distros that had openbox in virtualbox, I discovered that there is a way of alt-tabbing across all desktops. This method will work in any Linux distro that uses the LXDE desktop environment and/or the openbox window manager, if the version of openbox is 3.4 or higher. (Lubuntu, LXLE, Debian LXDE, Mint LXDE, Semplice, #!…)

1. Open ~/.config/openbox/lubuntu-rc.xml (Either use PcManFM, rightclick and choose “show hidden” when in your home folder, then double click the .config folder, double click the openbox folder, then double click lubuntu-rc.xml or open a terminal and write leafpad ~/.config/openbox/lubuntu-rc.xml and press enter.) In other distros this file might be called lxde-rc.xml or just rc.xml.
3. Scroll down to the “keybindings for window switching” section and find “keybind key=”A-Tab”
4 Change the text so it looks like this:

<keybind key=”A-Tab”>
<action name=”NextWindow”>
<keybind key=”A-S-Tab”>
<action name=”PreviousWindow”>

4. Save
9. Open a terminal and type “openbox -reconfigure and hit enter. Hopefully, you will now have a working alt-tab between all desktops. (Thank you Peppa, for the tip! 🙂 )

If it doesn’t work or if you get an error message when trying to use OpenBox configuration manager, it might be because you didn’t remember to delete the backslash (/) after “action name=”NextWindow”, so that the later “/action” breaks the syntax of the XML file.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for this nice tutorial, it is exactly what I was looking for.
    You must not logout and login for to take effect. A “$ openbox –reconfigure” updates the configuration directly.

    Thank you

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