6 Ways to Open a Ubuntu Application

In this guide, you will discover a number of different ways to open an application using Ubuntu. Some of them will be obvious and some of them less so.

Person launching Firefox app on Linux
Lifewire / Brooke Pelczynski

Not all applications appear in the launcher, and not all of them appear in the "Dash." Even if they do appear in the Dash, you might find it easier to open them in other ways.

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Use the Ubuntu Launcher to Open Applications

Screenshot of the Ubuntu Launcher

The Ubuntu Launcher is on the left side of the screen and contains icons for the most commonly used applications.

You can open one of these applications simply by clicking it.

Right-clicking​ on an icon often provides other options such as opening a new browser window or opening a new spreadsheet.

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Search the Ubuntu Dash to Find an Application

Search The Ubuntu Dash Screenshot

If the application doesn't appear in the launcher the second quickest way to find an application is to use the Ubuntu Dash and to be more specific the search tool.

To open the dash either click the icon at the top of the launcher or press the super key (signified by the Windows icon on most computers).

When the Dash opens you can simply search for an application by typing the name of it into the search bar.

As you start typing the relevant icons that match your search text will appear.

To open an application click on the icon.

For a more advanced approach of finding a program, or if you can't find your application in the Dash, check out our breakdown of how to use the 'which' command to find a program.

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Browse the Dash to Find an Application

Browse The Ubuntu Dash Screenshot

If you just want to see which applications are on your computer or you know the type of application but not its name you can simply browse the Dash.

To browse the Dash click the top icon on the launcher or press the super key.

When the Dash appears, click on the little A symbol at the bottom of the screen.

You will be presented with a list of recently used applications, installed applications and dash plugins.

To see more items for any of these click the see more results next to each item.

If you click to see more installed applications you can use the filter on the top right which lets you narrow the choice down to single or multiple categories.

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Use the Run Command to Open an Application

Run Command Screenshot

If you know the name of the application you can open it quite quickly in the following way,

Press Alt+F2 to bring up the run command window.

Enter the name of the application. If you enter the name of a correct application then an icon will appear.

You can run the application either by clicking on the icon or by pressing Return on the keyboard.

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Use the Terminal to Run an Application

The Linux Terminal Screenshot

 You can open an application by using the Linux terminal.

To open a terminal press Ctrl+Alt+T or follow this guide for more suggestions.

If you know the program's name you can simply type it into the terminal window.

For example, firefox

Of course, some applications aren't graphical in nature. One example of this is apt-get, which is a command-line package manager. 

When you get used to using apt-get you won't want to use the graphical software manager anymore.

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Use Keyboard Shortcuts to Open Applications

Keyboard Shortcuts Screenshot

You can set up keyboard shortcuts to open applications with Ubuntu.

To do so press the super key to bring up the Dash and type "keyboard."

Click the Keyboard icon when it appears.

A screen will appear with two tabs:

  • Typing
  • Shortcuts

Click the shortcuts tab.

By default you can set shortcuts for the following applications:

  • help browser
  • calculator
  • email client
  • terminal
  • web browser
  • file manager (home folder)
  • search
  • HUD

You can set a shortcut simply by selecting one of the options and then choosing the keyboard shortcut you wish to use.

You can add custom launchers by clicking the + symbol at the bottom of the screen.

To create the custom launcher enter the name of the application and a command.

When the launcher has been created you can set the keyboard shortcut in the same way as the other launchers.