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Custom Application Launchers in Linux

Just a small howto for creating new application launchers in ubuntu, and I guess other similar distros. These will typically automatically show up in your start menu or launchers.

Simply create a <application>.desktop file in the ~/.local/share/applications/ or /usr/share/applications/ folder. <application> can be whatever.

At work I use the following desktop entry as a shortcut to open up an editor for our documentation. Here’s an example file:

[Desktop Entry]
Exec=code code/docs/

The following is copied for reference from

Version is the version of this .desktop file.

Name is the name of the application, like ‘VLC media player’.

Comment is a phrase or two describing what this program does, like ‘Plays your music and videos files’.

Exec is the path to the executable file. The full path to the executable file must be used only in case it isn’t in any of the paths specified in the $PATH variable. For example, any files that are inside the path /usr/bin don’t need to have their full path specified in the Exec field, but only their filename.

Icon field is the icon that should be used by the launcher and represents the application. All icons that are under the directory /usr/share/pixmaps don’t need to have their full path specified, but their filename without the extension. For example, if the icon file is /usr/share/pixmaps/wallch.png, then the Icon field should be just ‘wallch’. All other icons should have their full path specified.

Terminal field specifies whether the application should run in a terminal window or not.

Type field specifies the type of the launcher file. The type can be Application, Link or Directory, but this article covers the ‘Application’ type.

Categories field specifies the category of the application. It is used by the Dash so as to categorize the applications.

Some other very good references:

Published Mar 5, 2018

Security Engineer with a dash of software. Originally from Stockholm, now in Berlin. I like to hack things.