How to Add App Launchers to Linux Taskbars

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

Adding an app launcher to your Linux desktop of choice is a relatively easy task. Most Linux desktops are a modern and user-friendly platform. An app launcher provides a one-click start for applications without the desktop menu. It's a more efficient way to open applications. Here's how these launchers can be added to three popular desktop environments: GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon.

Information in this article applies to 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 have a taskbar. There are, however, two ways around this (one of which depends on the other).

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

GNOME desktop on screen

With the Activities Overview open, the Dash is at the left edge of the screen. On the Dash are app launchers, called Favorites. Click any favorite, and it opens the associated application.

GNOME Favorites on a desktop screen

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

GNOME on a desktop screen showing 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, then click Add to Favorites.

    GNOME on desktop screen showing LibreOffice Writer as a Favorite
  4. The new launcher is added.

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

To make this more efficient, add an extension called Dash to Dock. This tool creates a desktop dock from the Dash, so your favorites are always available without opening the Application Overview.

To add Dash to Dock, follow these steps:

  1. Open a web browser and go to the GNOME Extensions Site.

  2. Click the Click here to install browser extension link.

    GNOME Extensions site in a web browser
  3. When prompted, click Allow.

    GNOME Extension tool in a web browser
  4. Click OK to complete the installation.

  5. In the search bar, type Dash to Dock.

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

    Installing Dash to Dock from the GNOME extensions website
  7. Click the On/Off toggle switch so it's in the On position.

    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.

GNOME desktop on screen showing Dash to Dock

KDE Plasma

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

  1. Click the KDE menu button.

    KDE menu button shown on screen
  2. Select the app you want to add as a launcher.

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

    App launcher on the KDE panel
  4. The app launcher is now on your panel.

Cinnamon

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

Cinnamon app launchers shown on screen

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

  1. Click the menu button in the lower-left corner.

    Cinnamon desktop menu button shown on screen
  2. Select the app you want to add to the panel as a launcher.

  3. Right-click the app entry, then click Add to panel.

    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 makes for an 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.