How to Add Application Shortcuts on Ubuntu Desktop

In this quick tutorial, you’ll learn how to add application shortcuts on the Ubuntu desktop and other distributions that use the GNOME desktop.
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A classic desktop operating system always has icons on the ‘desktop screen’. These desktop icons could include the file manager, the trash bin and the shortcut to various applications.

While installing applications on Windows, some programs ask if you want to create a shortcut on the desktop. That’s not the case on Linux, though.

But if you are a fan of this feature, let me show you how you can add desktop shortcuts to your favorite applications on Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.

Adding Desktop Shortcuts in Ubuntu

a screenshot of desktop shortcuts on ubuntu

Personally, I prefer the Ubuntu launcher for application shortcuts. If I use a program frequently, I add it to the launcher. But I know not everyone has the same preference, and a few people prefer shortcuts on the desktop.

Anyway, let’s see the simplest way of creating an application shortcut on the Ubuntu desktop.

This tutorial features Ubuntu 22.04 LTS with GNOME desktop. It may work on other distributions/desktop environments with GNOME, but you will have to try that on your own.

Step 1: Locate the .desktop files of applications

Go to Files → Other Locations → Computer.

a screenshot of the other locations menu in ubuntu

From here, go to the directory usr → share → applications.

You’ll see icons of several Ubuntu applications you have installed here. Even if you don’t see the icons, you should see the .desktop files that are named as application.desktop.

a screenshot of the applications folder under the usr directory on ubuntu

Step 2: Copy the .desktop file to the desktop

Now, all you have to do here is to look for the application icon (or its .desktop file). When you find it, either drag-drop the file to the desktop or copy the file (Ctrl+C shortcut) and paste it on the desktop (Ctrl+V).

a screenshot showing the method for copying a .desktop file to the desktop screen on ubuntu

Step 3: Run the desktop file

When you do that, you should see an image file style icon on the desktop instead of the logo of the application. Don’t worry, things will be different soon.

You just have to right-click on the .desktop file and click on “Properties”. In here, allow the file execution permission.

a screenshot showing how to allow executing file as program on ubuntu

Now, if you right-click on the file, you will find an “Allow Launching” option. Select it, and you will see that the file has turned into an application shortcut.

Next, you can double-click it or right-click on it to hit open to launch the application.

a screenshot showing how to allow launching of apps from a desktop shortcut on ubuntu

I believe you like the application shortcuts this way, don’t you?

Troubleshoot for Flatpak apps

For users of Flatpak apps, the method is slightly different. The .desktop files are located elsewhere. You can follow this path instead:

First, Go to Files → Other Locations → Computer.

Next, navigate your way to the app directory of Flatpak:

var → lib → flatpak → app.

Thereafter, go into the folder for the app of your choice.

Finally, head into current → active → export → share → applications.

a screenshot of a .desktop file for the flatpak version of firefox on ubuntu

You will find the .desktop file for the app in there. Subsequently, just follow the instructions from 'Step 2' onwards as shown above.


Even if you don’t like a certain app shortcut on the desktop, you can just select it and delete it. It will delete the shortcut, but the application will remain safely in your system.

I hope you found this quick tip helpful, and can now enjoy the application shortcuts on Ubuntu's desktop screen.

💬 If you have questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below.

About the author
Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash

Created It's FOSS 11 years ago to share my Linux adventures. Have a Master's degree in Engineering and years of IT industry experience. Huge fan of Agatha Christie detective mysteries 🕵️‍♂️

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