How do you create a custom application launcher in Gnome Shell?

I have a local Eclipse installation that I'd like to be to quickly launch. So I created a symlink to the eclipse binary and placed it on my desktop. If I open a terminal, cd to ~/Desktop and run ./eclipse it starts Eclipse perfectly. However, if I click the Eclipse icon on my desktop, and choose run, nothing happens.

Alternatively, I wouldn't mind being able to search for Eclipse on the "Activities" screen, but I can't find any documentation on adding or registering custom applications.


Try to create a eclipse.desktop file under /usr/share/applications (or ~/.local/share/applications or directly in ~/Desktop) with the following content:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Eclipse IDE

You can choose another category, too. For additional information:

  • 8
    Thanks. The only problem I ran into, which the docs don't mention, is that the file has to be executable if you place it in ~/Desktop. Otherwise it just shows up as an ordinary text file and isn't launchable or rendered with the right icon.
    – Cerin
    Mar 12 '12 at 17:35
  • 4
    You might find that you need to restart gnome3 for this to take effect, especially the icon. If so, run Alt+F2, type r in the box, and press enter.
    – mlissner
    Nov 18 '15 at 23:33
  • 1
    Your application may require a working directory, use Path=/path/to/eclipse/working-dir.
    – psiphi75
    Apr 18 '17 at 4:39

Although creating your own launcher by hand is a valid solution, my preferred one is to go through alacarte and create a new entry on the menus, then it will appear as a launcher.

  • 6
    Thanks, I could not believe my eyes that to add a simple entry in my modern Desktop environment, i needed to create a 10-lines text file in a hidden directory in my home folder, by hand. This should be the winning answer. Jul 6 '17 at 22:45
  • Once you've created a new launcher in the menu, you can search for it in the activities screen and then drag it to your panel.
    – CodeKid
    Jul 29 '17 at 16:00
  • @CodeKid Yeah that's what I meant :)
    – m0skit0
    Jul 31 '17 at 8:39

In newer Gnome versions Comment and Terminal sections become mandatory so minimal .desktop file is now:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Sample Application Name
Comment=A sample application

If you want a list of custom launchers you can access from the panel you could use the MyLauncher extension. MyLauncher Gnome Shell Extension


The easiest way I have found to create launchers using a full-featured GUI is vie MenuLibre, which is in the Ubuntu repositories. It will hold your hand through the process and allow you to create a custom launcher in a fast and straightforward manner, as long as you know where your resources reside (binary location, icon location, working directories, etc). Alacarte does not work reliably for me.


If you want proper shortcut, then do following:

  1. go to /usr/share/applications
  2. coppy one of the *.desktop files to this location with the name you intend to use as application name;
  3. adjust the executable path
  4. adjust the icon path 5! check carefully for all the places in this file where old references are, and edit them to your needs.
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