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:

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    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
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    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
  • 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.

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  • 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. – Luis Muñiz 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

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

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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
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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.

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