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browser restore to workspace

Project description

The Problem

On Linux, after a re-login, Firefox and Chrome can restore their previous windows’ contents and positions. However they do not normally restore these windows in the different workspaces/desktops that you may be using.

If the desktop manager implements workspaces by using offsets (wider or higher than the desktop resolution) restoration works as offsets “push” the window to the right workspace on restoration. Such a workspace setup often implies you see a window that you moveover the edge of one workspace show up on the next one. KDE seems to have used such a scheme in the period 2010-2013.

Browsers would need to be EWMH aware, which they currently aren’t.

A partial solution

Browser windows usually have the name of the page visited in the title, which makes instances of the browser windows relatively uniquely identifiable. Based on that, you can save the state of the browser windows in a file, and restore windows with matching titles to the original workspace.

This program will not work correctly if a browser window has the same title on multiple workspaces and only has differing secondary tabs. If two, single tab windows have the same title, they probably point to the same URL, and in that case which one gets restored to what workspace, is less important (unless the history makes a difference).


First, make sure your linux version has wmctrl installed.

You can use pip to install the program:

pip install ruamel.bws

You can also install the configobj library (with pip) and directly download and use the main Python file.


Run bws save to save the current browser windows, bws restore to restore the latest saved setup. Before restoring using bws restore, reopen the browser windows and select [Restore] as necessary.

Chrome needs to be configured to allow restoring by selecting “Continue where you left off”, in the settings menu. Firefox always seems to ask when a crash occured, but you can also explicitly set the preferences to “Show my windows and tabs from last time”

number of saved .bws files

The number of different old configurations saved, can be specified by the --keep commandline option, or in the configuration file. It is set to 10 by default. After saving a file bws compares the new file to the previous one, if the contents are the same, it deletes the new one and touches the previous one. If there are more .bws files than the keep option specifies, the oldest that are in excess of that are deleted.

From the filename of the .bws you can see when it was first saved, and from it timestamp (st_mtime, when bws save was last run.


The program keeps configuration defaults and restore information in (by default) ~/.config/bws in bws.ini resp. *.bws files. Multiple restore settings are kept (which might be a privacy issue for you), and bws list will show you which ones are kept (with a date-time-stamp). bws restore can take an argument to select a specific “save”

The config file allows to expand the patterns that are matched on where /proc/PID/exe points to, to identify the windows for which information needs saving. A minimum number of windows can be specified that are necessary for restoring (in the configuration file or on the commandline; the commandline overrules the configuration file). This minimum prevents saves of browser windows when a single window is open, e.g. the one asking you for confirmation to restore all previously opened windows.


Chrome’s executable used to be called chromium-browser and that is what you find in config files of pre-0.3.3 installations. You might want to upgrade and either remove the bws.ini file (so it will be regenerated), or make the chrome entry read:

basenamestart = chromium-browser, chrome


I run bws from crontab file every five minutes like this:

*/5 *  *   *   *     DISPLAY=:0 /home/anthon/bin/bws save --check

the --check only works if the file specified with --unlock-file exists. This defaults to /tmp/bws.restored (which is usually on a temporary filesystem, so will not be availalbe after restart, thus preventing further saves).

Issuing bws restore removes this unlock file, unless you specify –unlock, which I do on the last run, after Firefox has reloaded all pages, and restoring is complete..

This unlock-file prevents cron from writing save files that will eventually overwrite useful information from before a restart.

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Files for ruamel.bws, version 0.4.1
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