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Define the main screen in Ubuntu Unity dual screen setup 2011-05-13

Posted by claudio in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,

I use a dual screen setup at home. On the left side I have a big lcd screen and on the right the fixed screen of the laptop (on a docking station). The big screen is my main screen, while the smaller screen is for things I like to keep open like mail or an irc session (ssh+screen+irssi).

In this new install, the unity global menu can be found on the smaller screen.This probably makes sense on a lot of setups, but I prefer this icon menu on my main screen as it feel more accessible (it’s physically closer) and it autohides anyway.

I did not find a graphical way to set this up, but editing the configuration file is very easy:

$ vi ~/.config/monitors.xml

or if you prefer a graphical editor:

Press Alt + F2 and type “gnome-text-editor ~/.config/monitors.xml”

Identify you main monitor (name, resolution, etc) and change “no” into:


That’s it.



1. Mark @ The Word Bay - 2011-05-18

Thanks for this tip – yes, for me it’s a HUGE distance to travel with the mouse just to get to the launcher so I really want it on the main screen (hmm, and on the other side of the screen would be good too, but not possible right now, I don’t think).

Still very much in two minds about “Unity”… I HAVE taken a huge productivity hit. I am giving it time, but I don’t have all the time in the world…

2. Maxime Vaillancourt - 2011-05-29

Thanks a lot Claudio! This is an easy, yet very powerful tip.

3. Ole - 2011-10-27

I didn’t know how make the change take effect, but found that this script did the job:
xrandr –output VGA1 –primary

4. Dercio - 2012-02-21

I’ve read the monitors.xml. Its ok. But the unit launch bar still in the second monitor and the programs still initiate there…

I don’t know why…

5. Nick Nikiforakis - 2012-03-06

Thanks! I just hooked up two monitors on my Ubuntu box and your post helped me to choose the primary one that I wanted 🙂 . In order for the changes to take place, I killed (as root) the X process which caused the whole GUI to restart.

6. Mayur Pipaliya - 2013-01-08

I wasn’t able to reflect changes made in monitors.xml.
Tried to change/alter `Displays` values, but they revoked manual alterations/changes made in monitors.xml.

So, This one worked for me : http://www.thetechrepo.com/main-articles/502-how-to-change-the-primary-monitor-in-ubuntu-or-other-linux-distributions , which have `xrandr` as mentioned by @Ole.

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