How to Create Desktop App Launchers in Linux

Open those apps quickly from the Linux desktop

If you prefer to make the desktop a quick access launch point for applications, most of the popular Linux desktops allow you to create application launchers on the desktop. With these in place, you have fast access to open your favorite apps. Here's how to add desktop application launchers in three popular Linux desktops: GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon.

Instructions in this article use GNOME on Ubuntu 19.04, KDE Plasma on KDE Neon, and Cinnamon on Linux Mint.

GNOME

It used to be easy to add a desktop application launcher in GNOME, now it's a bit cumbersome (although not challenging). You won't manually create a launcher using a text editor. Instead, install the GNOME extension Desktop Icons, install the GNOME Tweak Tool and enable the Desktop Icons extension, then add the launcher.

Install the GNOME Extension Desktop Icons

  1. Open a web browser, then go to the Desktop Icons extension page.

  2. Move the toggle switch to the On position.

    Screenshot of installing the Desktop Icons extension.

    If you don't see the ON/OFF toggle switch, install the GNOME Shell integration extension and the native host connector.

  3. If prompted, select Install.

  4. Close the browser.

Install the GNOME Tweak Tool and Enable the Desktop Icons Extension

  1. Open the Ubuntu Software Center.

  2. Search for Tweaks.

  3. Choose GNOME Tweaks.

  4. Select Install.

    Screenshot of installing GNOME Tweaks.
  5. When prompted, type your user's sudo password.

  6. Allow the installation to complete.

  7. Open the GNOME Tweaks tool. Open the Dash, type tweaks, then select the Tweaks icon.

  8. Select Extensions, then turn on the Desktop icons toggle switch.

    Screenshot of enabling the Desktop Icons extension.
  9. Close the Tweaks tool.

Add the Launcher

To add a launcher for the Firefox web browser, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Nautilus file manager.

  2. Select Other Locations.

    Screenshot of the Other Locations section of Nautilus.
  3. Select Computer.

    Screenshot of the Computer location in Nautilus.
  4. Navigate to usr > share > applications.

  5. Right-click the firefox.desktop file, then choose Copy.

    Screenshot of copying the launcher from within Nautilus.
  6. Close Nautilus.

  7. Right-click the desktop, then select Paste.

    Screnshot of pasting the launcher to the desktop in GNOME.
  8. Right-click the new icon, then select Allow Launching.

    Screenshot of enabling the Allow Launching feature.
  9. You can now launch the application from that launcher.

KDE Plasma

The KDE Plasma desktop makes this process easier. From the KDE Plasma environment, follow these steps to add a launcher to the desktop, for example, for Firefox:

  1. Open the KDE Plasma menu (located in the lower-left corner of the desktop).

  2. Right-click the Firefox icon, then select Add to Desktop.

    Screenshot of adding a launcher in KDE Plasma.
  3. You can now launch the application from that launcher.

Cinnamon

The Cinnamon desktop takes a similar approach to that of KDE Plasma. With a few quick clicks, you can add a launcher to the desktop. Here's how to add a launcher to the Firefox web browser:

  1. Open the Cinnamon menu (located in the lower-left corner of the desktop).

  2. Select the Internet category in the middle pane.

  3. Right-click Firefox Web Browser.

  4. Choose Add to desktop.

    Screenshot of adding a launcher to the Cinnamon desktop.
  5. You can now launch the application from that launcher.

Remove Launchers

Removing launchers from the desktop is the same for all three environments. To do this, right-click the launcher you want to remove, then select Move to Trash.

Removing a launcher from the GNOME desktop.

Add As Needed

When you want to make your Linux desktop as efficient as the environment you migrated from, adding application launchers to the desktop is a great way to make this happen. If you prefer a desktop filled with launchers, add launchers as needed, so your Linux desktop works in a way that suits your style.