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.

6 Answers 6


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: categories available.

  • 12
    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
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 17:35
  • 5
    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
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 23:33
  • 2
    Your application may require a working directory, use Path=/path/to/eclipse/working-dir.
    – psiphi75
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 4:39
  • it seems like the executable path (when the file is under ~/.local) can be relative (to home directory), but the icon path must be absolute..
    – Line
    Commented Apr 4 at 11:09

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.

  • 8
    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. Commented Jul 6, 2017 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.
    – MathKid
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 16:00
  • @CodeKid Yeah that's what I meant :)
    – m0skit0
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 8:39
  • I've added a blog post on what is the exact name and how to use it.
    – kissu
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 12:31
  • 1
    The link in this is dead and takes you to Lifewire's home page. Suggest removing or updating the link, it looks sus. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 21:11

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.


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


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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