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Whenever I search for an item using dash it knows the default way of opening it. However if I drag a file into the launcher it can't be added, even if it is executable. For example if you would like minecraft to show up you will have to add a custom launcher, or if you use dash to find a pdf file, you can double click it and it opens evince however you cannot drag it into the launcher.

The animation surrounding this behavior suggests that this was done by design. Why is this useful or necessary? Is it a bug?

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I suspect it's neither a bug nor a design necessity, but rather the lack of maturity. As you may know, Unity is new, and therefore somewhat lacks in the fields of integration and customization. –  mikewhatever Oct 29 '11 at 20:28
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I would say it is by design - the space in the launcher is quite limited, adding there files, as opposed to programs would not make much sense - people have many thousands of different files on their computers, adding the ability to pin a few does not solve the general problem with finding files. Making it easy to find any file using Dash is a much better decision IMO - Unity Dash tries to address that. It also shows your recent files first.

Also, consider how the launcher would look if you pin more than one PDF file, for example - the buttons have no text, only icons. That would be highly confusing.

In your example with minecraft - it's not exactly an executable, it's a .jar file which is opened with java program - "java -jar minecraft.jar" - so, in a sense, it can be seen as a data file which can be "viewed" with java, the same as pdfs are viewed with evince.

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I just find it counter intuitive that the launcher should prohibit me to put files there because it is messy, and I am aware that I am telling java to run the .jar file so technically it is in the same camp as the pdf file, but it really does make sense to put it in the launcher. Ofcourse it is the same case with any other virtual machine or interpreter, and I imagine one could come up with many other cases. I think this distinction is arbitrary and some times hinders usability... –  HaskellElephant Oct 29 '11 at 21:19
    
@HaskellElephant: How would you address the problem with 10 jar files or 10 virtual machines pinned in the launcher, all having the same icon and no text? There typically just one program in the system with a unique icon but many files. Creating a custom launcher is a way to tell "this particular jar file is a special one, in fact it's a program and I want it pinned in the launcher" –  Sergey Oct 29 '11 at 21:40
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