I've got a couple programs that I compile myself to use newer/different versions than are in the repos, and I've managed to get the dash and other parts of the desktop to recognize them by modifying my
~/.profile, but it's obviously not picking up the icons, too.
I've tried adding .desktop files to
~/.local/share/applications, but they're still not being used. I guess I probably want to add my libdir (
~/.opt) to Unity's overall environment, but I'm not sure if that's the right direction.