How to Set Up Desktop Launchers in Ubuntu

“Launchers” are icons that can be clicked to launch programs. On MacOS and Windows, you probably think nothing of them. They just appear. In certain Linux distros, this isn’t the case. If you recently downloaded a new program to run on your Linux machine, and are thinking “What do I click on to start this program? Where is my Desktop icon?” and are confused because there is no obvious file to click on to start the program that you just downloaded, this will be helpful for you.


This is a launcher icon for Processing on the Desktop.


These are launcher icons in the sidebar on Ubuntu 12.04.

The “Create Launcher” application is what you will use to create a launcher icon for your program. This application used to be easy to find, but is much more hidden in recent Ubuntu versions.

Go in the terminal and copy/paste this:
gnome-desktop-item-edit Desktop --create-new

This will cause the “Create Launcher” dialog to pop up.
*For “Type”, choose “Application”
*For “Name”, type in a nice name for your program. This is the name that will show up under your icon.

*For “Command”, click the “Browse…” button and navigate to the location of the program that you want to execute. It will likely be in /home/(wherever you saved your tarball)/processing-021/processing or something like that.

*For “Comment”, leave it blank or whatever.

*Click the picture of the bouncy spring thing, and browse to an image file to be the icon image. (Most tarballs have an icon image in there somewhere. Otherwise just google a related-looking image, download it, and browse to that image.)

*Click “OK” and you’re done! An icon will appear on the Desktop, and you will be able to drag it into the sidebar where all of our future members and students can easily find it.

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