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

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The Linux desktop is made to be one of the most efficient interfaces on the market. No matter if you’re using GNOME KDE Plasma, or Cinnamon, your work and personal experience will be one of ease. But when you’re using one of these environments for the first time, you could find yourself a bit lost trying to do simple tasks.

One such task is finding apps you have open. How you do this will depend on which desktop environment you use (and even then, each environment will have multiple methods for success). Let’s take a look at how to find your open apps on three of the most popular desktops available for Linux: GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon.

Version Information

For this article, we’ll be demonstrating with GNOME 3.26.4, KDE Plasma 5.15, and Cinnamon 4.0.9.

GNOME

As GNOME makes finding running apps much less obvious, we’ll start here. There are two ways of locating running apps with GNOME: The Activities Overview and a keyboard shortcut. With applications opened and minimized (which means they are open but not visible on your desktop), click Activities in the top left corner. This will open the Activities Overview, which shows thumbnail versions of all your minimized (open) applications.

Screenshot of the GNOME desktop with the Activities button highlighted.

To bring one of those minimized applications to front and center, simply click on the thumbnail of the application you want to work with and you’re good to go.

Screenshot of the GNOME Activities Overview.

The next method for finding those open (minimized) applications in GNOME is by using a keyboard shortcut. For those that don’t know, a keyboard shortcut is a combination of keys that are used simultaneously to perform an action. The action in question here is to cycle through your currently open apps. The keyboard keys used for this are the Alt key and the Tab key. So to cycle through your minimized applications, press and hold Alt and then tap Tab until the application you want to use is in focus. Release both keys and the app will return to the desktop, ready to use.

Screenshot of the GNOME minimized apps keyboard shortcut.

KDE Plasma

The KDE Plasma desktop makes things much simpler (and familiar). With the KDE Plasma desktop, you have a panel at the bottom of the screen (much like what you have with Windows 7 or 10). When you have open apps minimized, those apps will be seen in the panel. All you have to do is click one of those minimized apps to bring it back to the desktop.

Screenshot of the KDE Plasma desktop with minimized applications.

If you’re not sure which app is which, hover your cursor over the app icon (in the panel) to reveal a thumbnail of the app. Once you find the app you’re looking for, click on the icon to bring it back, front and center.

Screenshot of KDE Plasma minimized app thumbnail.

Like GNOME, KDE Plasma also 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 and then tap Tab until the application you want to use comes into focus.

Screeshot of the KDE Plasma minimized apps keyboard shortcut.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon functions in 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 in question (without having to first find them in the desktop menu). Even if there isn’t a quick launcher for an app pinned to the panel, a minimized app will also appear in the panel. Because of this, Cinnamon adds a subtle indicator to inform you which apps are open. That indicator comes in the form of 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 back to the desktop, simply click its app icon in the panel.

Screenshot of the Cinnamon desktop open app incidator.

Cinnamon also offers the ability to view a thumbnail of each minimized app. Hover your cursor over an app icon in the panel and, if the app is open (but minimized) the thumbnail will open to give you a quick glimpse. If you’re still not sure what the app is, move your mouse to the thumbnail and the app will appear on the desktop. Move the mouse away from the thumbnail and the app will go back to its minimized state. Click on the minimized icon and your app will return, ready to be used.

Screenshot of the Cinnamon minimized app thumbnail.

Of course, not to be outdone by GNOME or KDE, Cinnamon also makes use of the same keyboard shortcut. Press Alt on your keyboard and then tap Tab to cycle through the minimized apps. If, while cycling through the minimized apps, you pause on one of the apps, a thumbnail will appear to give you a better view of the app in question. Release the keys and they app you’ve paused on will open, ready to serve.

Screenshot of the Cinnamon minimized app keyboard shortcut.

Easy App Location

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