Take the 2-minute tour ×
Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm trying to change the icon of a specific application (Pidgin) in my Ubuntu 11.10 Unity launcher. I have tried searching in the options and in the Compiz settings but could locate no option for changing individual icons.

I can change the theme but that's not what I want.

I am willing to edit configuration files to get this change. It doesn't have to be a UI solution.

share|improve this question
Have a look at this previous question askubuntu.com/questions/6009/where-are-icons-stored –  Mark Rooney Nov 19 '11 at 3:53

6 Answers 6

up vote 36 down vote accepted

For Ubuntu 11.10

The first thing you would need to do is take a .png icon file that you would like to use and copy it to the respective ~/.local/share/icons/hicolor/ directory. This will contain the following directories (which are the dimensions of the icons) : 16x16/apps/ 32x32/apps/ 48x48/apps/

I downloaded a free 16x16 free icon sampler and picked a 16x16 icon called Alien.png

I took the Alien.png file and copied it to ~/.local/share/icons/hicolor/16x16/apps, When you copy yours, you can do that through either the GUI or terminal.

From there you would need do the following in a terminal (you may need sudo to copy this over):

cp /usr/share/applications/pidgin.desktop ~/.local/share/applications/

Next edit the pidgin.desktop file:

vi ~/.local/share/applications/pidgin.desktop

Look for the line that says:


This will need to change to the new icon name without the .png prefix...


Save your changes... Then logout and log back in.

Please let me know if this helps or if you need more assistance.

share|improve this answer
~/ is the same thing as entering /home/<your-username>, just for clarification –  itnet7 Nov 19 '11 at 3:58
Awesome. Great instructions. Just one thing. I had to sudo to copy the file from /usr/share to my local directory. –  recluze Nov 19 '11 at 4:01
Also consider to add a 128x128 icon (in the 128x128/apps/ folder) if you want a nice resolution during alt-tab (which uses slighly larger icons than the dock). Otherwise, excellent tip, thanks a lot ! –  Anto Jan 19 '12 at 13:38
I love Ubuntu, but I'm sorry to say that some simple things like this one really suck... This is definitely not user friendly... Thanks for the detailed description anyway. –  takeshin Feb 25 '13 at 10:01

The way that I did it was go to /usr/share/applications/<whatever app your looking for> then right click to properties click on the icon on the left and select the image that you want to be the icon.

You will have to sudo nautilus to edit the icon. Then just exit and search the program in Unity and it will show up with the selected icon.

share|improve this answer
I think you should rather do 'gksudo nautilus' instead of 'sudo nautilus' (but as I'm not an expert I could be mistaking) –  user138784 Mar 27 '13 at 10:30
thanks this worked perfectly for Firefox Aurora –  mojo706 Aug 26 '13 at 10:02
You could also use sudo -H nautilus –  minerz029 Oct 16 '13 at 11:42

For Ubuntu 12.04

In addition to the excellent answer given by itnet7, I would like to add that in Ubuntu 12.04 I had to also add ~/.local/usr/applications/icons/hicolor/64x64/apps in order for Unity to see the icon.

To resize your custom icon, you can use the excellent imagemagick package.

sudo apt-get install imagemagick

Then run the command mogrify -resize 64x64! myImage.png in order to get your custom icons nicely scaled down to the desired resolutions.

If you run the command below after creating the desktop icon and locked the application to your launcher, it will update unity without a need for a reboot.

unity --replace & 

as described here: application locked to launcher without icon

share|improve this answer

For Ubuntu 12.10

The directory that contains the following directories (which are the dimensions of the icons) has been changed to:


and if you do ls :

128  16  192  22  24  32  48  64  96
share|improve this answer
  1. Install Main Menu (AKA Alacarte) alacarte Install alacarte
  2. Open Main Menu
  3. Click on a program and select Properties in the right menu.
  4. Click on the icon
  5. Browse for your new icon and click Open
  6. Close your programs properties
  7. Close Main Menu

No logging out or reboot required ;)

share|improve this answer

In 13.04 I installed nemo to get rid of nautilus-for-armless-toy. I wanted the icon folder-house in the launcher. I opened ~/.local/share/applications/nemo.desktop with gedit to have a look and found a line icon=folder (no path, no extension ???), so I tried, after a boring search in /usr/share/ for the usual default icon of nautilus which appeared to be called folder_home.png or .svg, I couln't decide. There was a bunch a files with the same name in various folders, so I just changed the line to icon=folder_home and after logoff/logon the icon was changed. Just a kind of undocumented basic things that make ubuntu a geek OS and not for normal human. Deleting a laincher is NOT an action that will break a system, so why not allow right-click full control management ???

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.