How to Add App Launchers to Linux Taskbars

How to add app launchers to GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon

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Adding an app launcher to your Linux desktop of choice is a fairly easy task. Most Linux desktops have become shining examples of a modern and user-friendly platform.

An app launcher gives you a one-click start of applications without the desktop menu. It’s a much more efficient way of opening your applications.

Let’s take a look at how these launchers can be added to the three most popular desktop environments: GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon.

We demonstrated using GNOME on Pop!_OS, KDE Plasma on KDE Neon, and Cinnamon on Linux Mint.

GNOME

GNOME is the trickiest of the three, as it doesn’t actually have a taskbar. There are, however, two ways around this (one of which depends upon the other).

The first option is to add the application launcher to the Dash, by way of Favorites. Open the Activities Overview by clicking Activities in the upper left corner of the desktop.

Screenshot of the GNOME desktop.

With the Activities Overview open, you’ll see the Dash at the left edge of your screen. On the Dash are app launchers, called Favorites. Click on any one of those favorites and it will open the associated application.

Screenshot of the GNOME Favorites.

By default, you’ll find a minimum of Favorites on the Dash (usually the web browser, file manager, software center, etc.). At the bottom of the Dash, you’ll find the Applications Overview button which, when clicked, will reveal all of your installed applications.

Screenshot of the Activities Overview button.

To add a new Favorite to the Dash, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Applications Overview button.

  2. Locate the app you want to add as a favorite.

  3. Right click the app launcher and click Add to Favorites.

    Screenshot of adding LibreOffice Writer as a Favorite.
  4. Your new launcher has been added.

Now, when you open the Dash, you’ll see your new app launcher pinned to the Dash.

To make this even more efficient, you need to add an extension, called Dash to Dock. This tool creates a desktop dock from the Dash, so your favorites are always available, without having to first open the Application Overview. To add Dash to Dock, follow these steps:

  1. Open your web browser to the GNOME Extensions Site.

  2. Click Click here to install browser extension.

    Screenshot of the GNOME Extensions site.
  3. When prompted, click Allow.

    Screenshot of installing the GNOME Extension tool.
  4. Click OK to complete the installation.

  5. Type Dash to Dock in the search bar.

  6. When the search completes, click Dash to Dock.

    Screenshot of installing Dash to Dock.
  7. Click the On/Off slider so it’s in the On position.

    Screenshot of the On/Off slider for Dash to Dock.
  8. When prompted, click Install.

You should now see your Dash on your desktop, ready to launch those favorites.

Screenshot of Dash to Dock.

KDE Plasma

Adding launchers to KDE Plasma is significantly easier than it is in GNOME, as KDE Plasma has a more standard panel, ready to be used. To add app launchers to the KDE Plasma panel (called the Kicker), follow these steps:

  1. Click on the KDE menu button.

    Screenshot of the KDE menu button.
  2. Select the app you want to add as a launcher.

  3. Right-click the app entry and click Add to Panel (Widget).

    Screenshot of adding an app launcher to the KDE panel.
  4. The app launcher is now on your panel.

Cinnamon

Adding an app launcher to the Cinnamon panel is just as easy as it is in KDE Plasma. Out of the box, you’ll already find a few app launchers on the Cinnamon panel, ready to be used.

Screenshot of the Cinnamon app launchers.

To add your own app launchers to the Cinnamon panel, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the menu button in the bottom left corner.

    Screenshot of the Cinnamon desktop menu button.
  2. Select the app you want to add to the panel as a launcher.

  3. Right-click the app entry and click Add to panel.

    Screenshot of adding a launcher to the Cinnamon panel.
  4. The app launcher is now on your panel.

A More Efficient Experience

Adding app launchers to your desktop panel will make for a much more efficient user experience. Add launchers for the apps you use the most and you’ll find opening those apps to be considerably faster and easier.