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Xinerama isn’t the best choice for multi-head (multi monitor setups)

May 24th, 2009

Over the last years all major Linux distributions have made “Xinerama” mode the standard for dual- or multi-head display setup, that is: When you have two or more screens, the system treats them as one big display where you can move windows from one monitor to another or even place them “in between”.

That’s precisely what Windows (and Mac OS X) do when you attach more than one monitor, but I prefer the traditional Unix way of creating distinct desktops (on Linux you’ll then call them :0.0 and :0.1 and may even run different window managers or desktops on the separate screens).

However, with the move to Xinerama mode, it has become harder to setup a classical multi-head environment. Some examples: KDE 4 won’t start on two non-Xinerama screens, just ignoring the second monitor. The latest KDE 3 versions also have problems, and when using the “focus follows mouse” behavior for activating windows, weird stuff happens – focus will move to the other monitor when switching virtual desktops (with Ctrl-F1, Ctrl-F2 etc.).

Who’s still using the classical multi-head with separate screens? Any suggestions for making the KDEs work properly with a recent Linux distro? Comments highly welcome…

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