I've been using Ubuntu 19.10 for 3 weeks. I had to install Thunderbird manually because the profile migrating from my Mac is for version 68.4.2, one release ahead of the repository available in Ubuntu Software. After the manual install Thunderbird doesn't show up in the Applications grid and must be launched from Terminal. Instead of typing every time, I would prefer to have a persistent icon/favorite in the Dock or a launcher on the Desktop.

I followed these instructions to install Thunderbird 68.4.2:


To launch Thunderbird, now I have to enter "~/thunderbird/thunderbird" in terminal to launch the script that launches Thunderbird. So, I started following directions to create a launcher on the Desktop and learned that recent Ubuntu versions really don't make this easy at all. I already had Gnome Tweaks installed, then enabled the Desktop Icons extension in Tweaks and downloaded a png icon. I followed instructions on several webpages/forums with no success. This one was pretty helpful in explaining a few Ubuntu roadblocks, but it's still not working on my computer:

gnome-desktop-item-edit: command not found on Ubuntu 19.10

Example of the file I created in ~/local/share/applications/ and copied to ~/Desktop and marked as executable in properties:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Why are shortcuts so obtuse when they are so useful

It shows up as a generic file on the desktop, but doesn't work. Rebooted, doesn't work. Double-clicking on the generic icon does nothing and the custom icon does not show.

Is my syntax wrong? I've tried some variations like full paths for Exec and Icon, but no dice. Is the basic thing of a launcher for a script an impossible ask in 19.10?

One workaround I see is to activate PPA for Mozilla, but it doesn't seem sensible to activate installing betas when I want to use a legit Thunderbird release version that hasn't quite crept into the master Ubuntu repository yet. If I do enable PPA for Mozilla, I don't know if I'd have control to only update Thunderbird this one time, then disable PPA. I don't plan to update Thunderbird again once the icon is working.

Thank you and please accommodate my low fluency in Linux by spelling things out.

  • Replace "~", the shell expansion symbol for /home/<yourlogin> by the actual path. These desktop files may not support the shell expansion symbol.
    – vanadium
    Feb 9, 2020 at 12:09
  • I replaced the ~ as you suggested in ~/.local/share/applications/ and ~/Desktop , then rebooted. The file on the Desktop is still a generic icon and nothing happens when double-clicked, or right-click>open.
    – Notabot
    Feb 9, 2020 at 16:07
  • To work as a desktop icon, you may need to set it executable.
    – vanadium
    Feb 9, 2020 at 17:15
  • OK, I tested some things myself: I also have 19.10, so it should work.
    – vanadium
    Feb 9, 2020 at 17:23
  • Some progress, but not solved yet. Now when I double-click the .desktop file in .local/.... and Desktop it asks if I want to run in terminal, run, or display. Run does nothing, run in terminal does nothing, display opens it in a text editor. Double-clicking the generic icon on the Desktop opens it in a text editor. Still no icon. Here is my current .desktop file contents. [Desktop Entry] Name=Thunderbird Exec=/home/myusername/thunderbird/thunderbird Type=Application Terminal=false Icon=/home/myusername/thunderbird/icons/thunderbird-desktop.png NoDisplay=false
    – Notabot
    Feb 10, 2020 at 2:57

4 Answers 4


First condition of course is to create a valid desktop file. Put your desktop file in the hidden folder .local/share/applications in your home folder. Within seconds, you should be able to find it automatically in the Applications Overview or by searching for it. If you can launch the application from there, the desktop file is OK.

You then could also place it on the Desktop. To that aim, copy it in the "Desktop" folder in your home folder. It should now appear on your desktop, however with a generic icon. Right-click the icon and select "Allow launching" to turn it into a working application launcher on your desktop.

  • I did place the .desktop file in .local/share/applications, but it has never shown up in Applications Overview. I can search for it and it shows the file, but among files not Applications. And still no icon on the desktop.
    – Notabot
    Feb 10, 2020 at 1:52
  • Also, the generic icon on the desktop is labeled "thunderbird.desktop" instead of "Thunderbird" as specified in the .desktop file.
    – Notabot
    Feb 10, 2020 at 3:04
  • Solved, see below.
    – Notabot
    Feb 10, 2020 at 3:32

Solved it! I went back to the help file in the second link in my original question and installed alacarte with sudo apt install alacarte, which places the Main Menu application in overview. I used the Main Menu GUI to create a working shortcut with icon. Then I compared the .desktop file I generated with Main Menu to my failed artisan file.

Since ~/thunderbird/thunderbird launches a script, apparently one has to set Terminal=true. The Main Menu-generated .desktop also did not include a NoDisplay value.

Here is working syntax for a .desktop file for a manual install of Thunderbird in Ubuntu 19.10:

[Desktop Entry] Name=Thunderbird Exec=/home/username/thunderbird/thunderbird Comment=Made with Main Menu sheesh Terminal=true Icon=/home/username/thunderbird/icons/thunderbird-desktop.png Type=Application

To place a persistent Thunderbird-launching icon in the dock, I searched for it in Applications Overview, right-clicked and selected "Add to Favorites". Clicking the dock icon now launches the script, which places a transient Thunderbird icon at the far end of the Dock until I quit the application. As a longtime Mac user I'm used to arranging applications in my Dock to reflect use frequency, so I'm happy to finally have a persistent Thunderbird icon near the beginning of the Dock.

Thank you for helping and I hope this thread helps someone else in the future.


FYI if you downloaded and extracted Thunderbird 78+ from the website directly, the icon is now stored at your_thunderbird_folder/chrome/icons/default/default256.png instead of your_thunderbird_folder/icons/thunderbird-desktop.png

My ~/.local/share/applications/thunderbird.desktop file is:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Email, contacts, calendar, tasks, feed rss reader, chat, and groupware app.

For me for Thunderbird 91 on 18.04 LTS it worked this way:

Add Thunderbird.desktop in .local/share/apllications the Thunderbird.desktop sintax is :

[Desktop Entry]
Icon=/usr/share/icons/your icon name.png

Copy your preferred downloaded icon into /usr/share/icons.

And it worked right away without any shutdown.

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