How to Find Open Apps in GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon

Don't let minimized apps trip you up on GNOME, KDE Plasma, or Cinnamon

The Linux desktop is one of the most efficient interfaces on the market. Whether you use GNOME, KDE Plasma, or Cinnamon, your work and personal experience are one of ease. But when you use one of these environments for the first time, you may get lost doing simple tasks.

One task is finding the apps you want to open. How you do this depends on which desktop environment you use (and each environment has multiple methods). Here's how to find open apps on three of the desktops available for Linux: GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon.

Instructions in this article use GNOME 3.26.4, KDE Plasma 5.15, and Cinnamon 4.0.9.

Woman peeking out of round opening in coloured wall
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

GNOME

There are two ways to locate running apps with GNOME: The Activities Overview and a keyboard shortcut. With applications opened and minimized (which means apps are open but not visible on the desktop), select Activities in the upper-left corner. This opens the Activities Overview, which shows thumbnail versions of minimized (open) applications.

Activities heading

To display a minimized application on the screen, select the thumbnail of the application you want.

Minimized applications

The next method to find open (minimized) applications in GNOME is to use the keyboard shortcut, Alt+Tab. The action cycles through your currently open apps. Press and hold Alt, then press Tab until the application you want to use is in focus. Release both keys, and the app returns to the desktop and is ready to use.

Selecting a minimized application

KDE Plasma

The KDE Plasma desktop makes things simpler (and familiar). The KDE Plasma desktop has a panel at the bottom of the screen (much like Windows 7 or 10). When open apps are minimized, those apps appear in the panel. All you do is select a minimized app to bring it back to the desktop.

Minimized app in KDE Plasma

If you're not sure which app is which, hover the cursor over the app icon (in the panel) to reveal a thumbnail of the app. Once you find the app, click the icon to display it on the desktop.

Thumbnail for a minimized app in KDE Plasma

Like GNOME, KDE Plasma offers a keyboard shortcut to cycle through minimized apps. The keyboard short is the same as that found in GNOME (Alt+Tab). Press and hold Alt, then press Tab until the application you want to use comes into focus.

The KDE Plasma minimized apps keyboard shortcut.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon functions in a similar fashion to KDE Plasma. One minor difference is that, out of the box, Cinnamon includes quick launchers on the panel. These quick launchers are pinned apps that can be clicked to open the app (without having to find it in the desktop menu).

Even if there isn't a quick launcher for an app pinned to the panel, a minimized app also appears in the panel. Because of this, Cinnamon adds an indicator to inform you which apps are open. That indicator is a horizontal line below the app icon. Any icon in the panel with an indicator means the app is open and minimized. No indicator means the icon is a quick launcher (and the app is not open). To bring an opened app to the desktop, press its app icon in the panel.

Indicator in a minimized app

Cinnamon also offers the ability to view a thumbnail of each minimized app. Hover the cursor over an app icon in the panel and, if the app is open (but minimized), the thumbnail opens to give you a quick glimpse.

If you're not sure what the app is, move the mouse to the thumbnail to display the app on the desktop. Move the mouse away from the thumbnail to return the app to a minimized state. When you click the minimized icon, the app returns, ready to be used.

Preview for a minimized app in KDE Plasma

Cinnamon also makes use of the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut. Press Alt on the keyboard, then press Tab to cycle through the minimized apps. If, while cycling through the minimized apps, you pause on an app, a thumbnail appears to give you a better view of the app. When you release the keys, the app you paused on opens.

The Cinnamon minimized app keyboard shortcut.

Easy App Location

These three popular Linux desktop environments make it easy to find your open apps. Whether you want to do it by the click of a mouse or a keyboard shortcut, those apps are a simple action away from returning to work.