How to make launching apps easier in GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon

Your Linux desktop can be as efficient as you need

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You’ve decided to give Linux a try, but you’re finding the desktop a bit less than efficient. One reason this could be the case is the launching of applications. In certain Linux desktops, this task might seem less efficient than you’re used to. In other cases, the process of launching apps isn’t even obvious.

Let’s take the mystery and complexity out of this process. We’ll be working with three of the most popular Linux desktops: GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon.

Version Info

I’ll be demonstrating the login process using Pop!_OS 18.10 for GNOME, Mageia Linux 6.1 for KDE Plasma, and Linux Mint 19.1 for Cinnamon.

GNOME

We’ll start with GNOME, as it happens to be the desktop environment that veers farthest away from the standard. If you log into the GNOME desktop, you’ll find very little that is familiar (especially if you’ve only ever worked on either the Windows or macOS desktops).

Screenshot of the default GNOME desktop.

Click Activities (upper left corner) to reveal what is called the Activities Overview. Within the Activities Overview is the GNOME Dash. On the Dash you’ll find launchers for applications. You can click any one of those icons to launch the app in question.

Screenshot of the GNOME Dash.

But what if the app you want isn’t on the Dash? There are two ways to find (and launch) the app. With the Activities Overview open, type the name of the app and it will be listed under the search bar. Either click the icon (using your mouse) or use Enter on your keyboard. The app will launch and you’re ready to go.

Screenshot of launching an app from the GNOME Applications Search.

The second method is to open the Application Overview. To do that, click on the Application Overview button to reveal your installed apps. There are two tabs you can click:

  • Frequent - which lists the apps you’ve opened the most.
  • All - which includes all of your installed apps.
Screenshot of the GNOME Applications Overview button.

To make this even easier, you can add apps to the GNOME Dash. These are called Favorites. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Applications Overview.

  2. Locate the app you want to add to the Dash.

  3. Right-click the app in question.

  4. Click Add to Favorites.

    Screenshot of adding a launcher to Favorites.
  5. The app is now added to the Dash.

KDE Plasma

With the KDE Plasma desktop, things get significantly easier. The default KDE desktop looks quite familiar, but it doesn’t do the user much to make opening apps quick.

Screenshot of the KDE Plasma desktop.

To launch an app from the KDE desktop, click the Menu button (bottom left corner of the desktop) and, from the resulting menu, click Applications. Navigate through the menu to find the application you want to open and you’re ready to work.

Screenshot of the KDE menu button.

Fortunately, KDE makes it far easier to launch an application. From that same menu, you can add a launcher to either the desktop or to the panel. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Menu button.

  2. Click Applications.

  3. Locate the app you want to add.

  4. Right click the app you want to add.

  5. Select either Add to Desktop or Add to Panel (Widget).

    Screenshot of adding app to the KDE Desktop and Panel.
  6. Enjoy your new app launcher.

Click on either the Desktop launcher or the Panel launcher (depending on which you’ve added) to open the app.

And that is how you make launching apps easier in KDE.

Cinnamon

The Cinnamon desktop offers a fairly traditional approach, one that most users will be instantly familiar with. Out of the box, there are already desktop and panel launchers ready to use.

Screenshot of the Cinnamon desktop.

At the bottom left corner of the desktop, you’ll find the desktop Menu. Click that menu to reveal a simple list of applications that can be launched. The menu includes:

  • Favorites - The far left pane of the menu which includes app launchers you can add by dragging them from the right pane. These launchers will always be here for quick access.
  • Categories - This is the middle pane, which offers a list of app categories.
  • Apps - The far right pane lists apps that belong to the category you’ve selected.
Screenshot of the Cinnamon menu.

To add an app launcher to the Favorites pane, do the following:

  1. Open the Menu.

  2. Locate the app to be added.

  3. Click and drag the app to the Favorites pane.

To add an app launcher to the desktop, do the following:

  1. Open the Menu.

  2. Locate the app to be added.

  3. Right click the app launcher.

  4. Click Add to desktop.

    Screenshot of adding an app launcher to the desktop.
  5. The app launcher should now be visible on the desktop.

To add an app launcher to the Panel, do the following:

  1. Open the Menu.

  2. Locate the app to be added.

  3. Right click the app launcher.

  4. Click Add to panel.

    Screenshot of adding an app launcher to the panel.
  5. The app launcher should now be visible on the panel.

A More Efficient Desktop

By learning how to easier open applications, you have made the GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon desktops more efficient. Hopefully this will go a long way to ease your fear of using Linux on the desktop.