I want to have two completely different instances of Chromium, each with its own icon, so that:

  1. There are two taskbar buttons, and...
  2. ...two entries in the window switcher (Ubuntu 18, GNOME)
  3. They are easily distinguishable by icon/color
  4. I can Alt+Tab between these two instances, and Alt+` (key above Tab) among windows within an instance

How can I do that?

Solutions I've considered:

  1. Different profiles - doesn't satisfy the requirements because all Chromium windows, from all profiles, get lumped under the same taskbar button and window switcher entry.
  2. Install Chrome Beta and Chrome Dev. These aren't exactly Chromium, and I prefer the open source Chrome.
  3. Install Chromium beta/dev. That might work, but the PPA seems maintained by an apparently random developer, who isn't affiliated with Google. If the builds get compromised, the security implications are serious. Also, I prefer the stability of Chromium, and the beta/dev builds tend to be less stable.
  4. I've copied /usr/lib/chromium-browser to /usr/lib/chromium-browser-2 and created a local shortcut ~/.local/share/applications/chromium-browser-2.desktop pointing to it, with a separate icon. That showed a separate icon in the Dash, but when launching it, it opened my existing Chromium profile, and the window still got lumped with the existing Chromium windows. Looks like the executable must be actually different in some way?

4 Answers 4


What worked (cobbled together from the various answers and comments - thanks!) was to create a .desktop file in ~/.local/share/applications with a few tweaks:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Chromium Browser 2
GenericName=Web Browser 2
Comment=Chromium Alternate
Exec=/usr/lib/chromium-browser/chromium-browser --user-data-dir=/home/dandv/Chr2 --class="Chr2"

Make sure to replace /home/dandv/ with your home directory. Using ~ did not work.

The tweaks I applied to the .desktop file were:

  1. Add --class="SomethingLikeChr2" to the Exec= line
  2. Add StartupWMClass=SomethingLikeChr2 to the [Desktop Entry] (use the same unique value as above; apparently this is what makes a separate window, that won't get lumped in with existing Chromium windows
  3. Add --user-data-dir=... to the Exec line, due to this Chromium bug.


task switching among two different Chromium instances


I was inspired by the other answers, but I discovered that we only need to set --class and --user-data-dir options for Chrome's executable.

So I wrote a script to make this automatically and if you want to try (don't worry, it won't perform any action before you confirm -- unless you use --force), just run:

bash -c "$(curl -fsSL "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/felipecassiors/dotfiles/master/scripts/create_alternative_chrome_shortcut.sh")"

If you want to know more about it, take a look here.

The only caveat is that since it uses --user-data-dir instead of --profile-directory, the new Chrome instance will act like a fresh new. This is needed because of this bug.

In the end, you'll end up with something like this:

Check GIF here.


The easiest way I know of is using the More Tools -> Create Shortcut. From there it will create a .desktop entry that you can customize the icon and you can go to chrome://apps to modify settings like opening as a window.

  • 2
    Creating multiple .desktop launchers with different icons most probably won't solve OP's problem, at least in case of GNOME shell. There will be multiple launchers with separate icons in the applications list and 'Activities' overview. But once you launch multiple windows from different profiles, all of the open windows will be grouped together under one icon as OP mentioned.
    – pomsky
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:38
  • Well, I know it works in KDE and they are effectively treated as completely different applications with different entries into the taskbar / latte dock and when using ALT+Tab. I use it for Spotify and a few other web apps. Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:41
  • +1, that's really useful in KDE. I used to create .desktop files with different window manager classes manually before. Unfortunately, the windows are still grouped in the task switcher.
    – danzel
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:58

The WMClass seems to have no authority when it comes to Chromium... I came up with this abomination (personal opinion... I'd just like for it to work with sh :) ) It has a few tricks, but is pretty robust for two windows.. The script sets individual classes for the opened chromium windows (not profiles, even though that is what I am after) You could specify further windows too, but they have to be manually added by adding more "specificprofile1" along with the corresponding function.. Maybe someone could make it have more.. logic!

# chromium-start.sh $1 
# e.g. put: 
# chrome-start.sh "Profile 1" to .desktop Exec=
# wmctrl -o 1366,0 ; chromium-browser %U --profile-directory=Profile\ 2 & sleep 3; wmctrl -o 0,0

# $1 = Profile folder name


#2nd Chromium profile
specificprofile1="Profile 1"

echo "starting Chromium"
echo "args: " $1
echo "Profile name: " $profilename
echo "Specific profile: " $specificprofile1

# Just setting Chromium scaling variable, because of course Google Devs don't care about no fractional scaling on linux

# Check if Chromium window with the specified class already exists
# Also allows using icons as "taskbar" switches (clicking icon takes to corresponding Chromium Window)
if wmctrl -l -x | grep "chromium-$profilename"
echo "Chromium Window exists, moving focus to it"
wmctrl -x -R chromium-"$profilename"
echo "true"

# Check if 2nd profile $specifiedprofile1 has been started yet or not. The WMCLASS(es) has to have been set correctly...
elif [[ "$specificprofile1" == "$profilename" ]] && [[ ! "`wmctrl -l -x | grep chromium-"$specificprofile1"`" ]]
    # TODO: Nesting
    if [ "$specificprofile1" == "$profilename" ]
    echo $specificprofile1 "equals" $profilename
echo "#2 Chromium Window for $specificprofile1 does not exist"
# wmctrl moves to specific position of desktop (1366 means moving to the following workspace since my resolution is 1366x768)
# Be careful if using sleep timing, since the command needs to have enough time to execute to have the window in the correct workspace
wmctrl -o 1366,0
chromium-browser  --profile-directory="$profilename" --force-device-scale-factor=$scale_var %U &
# https://askubuntu.com/a/626524/654028
# Set's the chromium window which was opened latest to have a custom class, since Chromium doesn't care about the --class= flag...
# It has it's limitations, but should be robust enough for most use... Has not been tested long term.. Something probably could reset the WM_CLASS again
# xprop -id "$(wmctrl -l -x| grep "chromium-browser" | tail -n 1 |awk '{ print $1 }')" -f WM_CLASS 8s -set WM_CLASS "chromium-browser.chromium-$specificprofile1"

# Alternative method for checking if a window with specified class exists
# xprop -id "$(wmctrl -l -x| grep "chromium-$profilename" | tail -n 1 |awk '{ print $1 }')" | grep -o "WM_CLASS(STRING) = ".*"" | grep -o '".*"' | tr -d '"'

# https://stackoverflow.com/a/19441380/5776626
while [[ ! "`echo $winrep | grep -l "Map State: IsViewable"`" ]]
    winid="$(wmctrl -l -x| grep "chromium-$profilename" | tail -n 1 |awk '{ print $1 }')"
    # print $winid
    winrep="$(xwininfo -id $winid | grep -o 'Map State: IsViewable')"
    # print $winrep
    sleep 0.75
    xprop -id "$(wmctrl -l -x| grep "chromium-browser" | tail -n 1 |awk '{ print $1 }')" -f WM_CLASS 8s -set WM_CLASS "chromium-browser.chromium-$specificprofile1"
# sleep 3

# Move Window directly to workspace (#2 with 1366x768 resolution x = 1366), optionally comment out wmctrl -o 1366,0
# wmctrl -v -i -r $winid -e 0,1366,0,-1,-1

# sleep 5
# Move back to workspace #1
wmctrl -o 0,0

elif ! wmctrl -l -x | grep chromium-"$profilename"
echo "#3 Chromium Window $profilename does not exist"
wmctrl -o 0,0
chromium-browser  --profile-directory="$profilename" --force-device-scale-factor=$scale_var %U &

# https://askubuntu.com/a/626524/654028
# ....
# sleep 3

while [[ ! "`echo $winrep | grep -l "Map State: IsViewable"`" ]]
    winid="$(wmctrl -l -x| grep "chromium-$profilename" | tail -n 1 |awk '{ print $1 }')"
    # print $winid
    winrep="$(xwininfo -id $winid | grep -o 'Map State: IsViewable')"
    # print $winrep
    sleep 0.75
    xprop -id "$(wmctrl -l -x| grep "chromium-browser" | tail -n 1 |awk '{ print $1 }')" -f WM_CLASS 8s -set WM_CLASS "chromium-browser.chromium-$profilename"
wmctrl -o 0,0
# xprop -id "$(wmctrl -l -x| grep "chromium-browser" | tail -n 1 |awk '{ print $1 }')" -f WM_CLASS 8s -set WM_CLASS "chromium-browser.chromium-$profilename"


Printing gives errors (deprecation warnings..):

Unescaped left brace in regex is deprecated, passed through in regex; marked by <-- HERE in m/%{ <-- HERE (.*?)}/ at /usr/bin/print line 528.

For debugging you can use the following to print out the errors when using actual icons: https://askubuntu.com/a/664272/654028 (# The Manual alternative)

awk '/^Exec=/ {sub("^Exec=", ""); gsub(" ?%[cDdFfikmNnUuv]", ""); exit system($0)}' chrome-ws2.desktop

while loop bugs out, probably because of looping interval

Error: no such file "at while function"
xwininfo: error: -id requires argument
xprop: error: Invalid window id format: .
xwininfo: error: -id requires argument
xprop: error: Invalid window id format: .
xwininfo: error: -id requires argument
xprop: error: Invalid window id format: .

Also when clicking a corresponding .desktop icon too fast (before the custom class has been set ?), a new window will be opened..

(quite) Sometimes when starting from both Chromium too fast (~<3s), the class of the previously opened window gets reset to chromium-browser.chromium-browser.. Then you can expect the icons to have swapped around or other unexpected behavior.

  • WMClass worked fine for me (see my answer above). I'm still using the method described there. Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 19:30
  • What is your wmctrl -l -x output? I have been able to change the class of the Window launched first with the WMClass method, but not the one after it.. The 2nd Chromium window will have the same class as the first. Only solution I've found is to manually modify the class after the window was opened...
    – rkantos
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 11:52
  • For the two instances of Chromium, it's 0x03000006 0 chromium-browser.Chromium-browser $HOSTNAME gnome shell - How can I start a separate instance (not profile) of Chromium, with its own icon? - Ask Ubuntu - Chromium\n 0x04200001 0 chromium-browser (/home/dandv/Chr2).Chr2 $HOSTNAME Inbox ... Gmail - Chromium. Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 7:36

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