• Ubuntu
  • gedit

How to Create Desktop Launcher

1. Create icon image

Let’s make .icons directory at /home/<user-name> with following commands.

$ mkdir ~/.icons && xdg-open ~/.icons

If .icons folder opens, put the icon image in it like below.


2. Create .desktop file

The second step is to create .desktop file for your applications then edit it. It has to follow some predefined formats. But you don’t have to worry about it at all. I’ll show you the precedures step by step and even the examples.

First, let’s move to /usr/share/applications and make .desktop file with following commands.

$ cd /usr/share/applications && gedit <application-name>.desktop

Customize the code

Change <application-name> to your real application's name.

Then gedit editor window will open and you have only to type the followings. If done, just save it.

  • Sample .desktop file
[Desktop Entry]
Name=Sample Application Name
Comment=A sample application
Categories = Application Category

  • Line by line explanation
Line Description
[Desktop Entry] The first line of every desktop file and the section header to identify the block of key value pairs associated with the desktop. Necessary for the desktop to recognize the file correctly.
Type=Application Tells the desktop that this desktop file pertains to an application. Other valid values for this key are Link and Directory.
Encoding=UTF-8 Describes the encoding of the entries in this desktop file.
Name=Sample Application Name Names of your application for the main menu and any launchers.
Comment=A sample application Describes the application. Used as a tooltip.
Categories= Application Category Categories the application belongs to.
Exec=application The command that starts this application from a shell. It can have arguments.
Icon=application.png The icon name associated with this application.
Terminal=false Describes whether application should run in a terminal.

  • Exec variables
Add... Accepts...
%f a single filename.
%F multiple filenames.
%u a single URL.
%U multiple URLs.
%d a single directory. Used in conjunction with %f to locate a file.
%D multiple directories. Used in conjunction with %F to locate files.
%n a single filename without a path.
%N multiple filenames without paths.
%k a URI or local filename of the location of the desktop file.
%v the name of the Device entry.

  • My example(e.g., QGroundControl)
[Desktop Entry]
Exec=/home/daniel/files/qgroundcontrol/ %f

Tips for Desktop Entry Specification

See Desktop Entry Specification for official specifications for .desktop entries and that page also includes a link to Registered Categories.

3. Make .desktop executable

The third step is to make .desktop entry executable. The following command will do it.

$ sudo chmod +x /usr/share/applications/<application-name>.desktop

All the steps complete. If the setting isn’t applied, reboot the system then check it out.