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I have read here that this utility for creating desktop launchers was removed starting in Ubuntu 19.10. I have Ubuntu 20.04, and I took the single-file program from a 18.10 install, and put it in /usr/bin/ of 20.04. Now the program works again. Was this program removed from Ubuntu distros for security reasons or another reason such as developers recommend that users create .desktop launchers a different way?

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Being sarcastic. GNOME Shell developers have new fresh vision of the desktop. This desktop does not include desktop shortcuts in the traditional manner. Users should find or write some extension to get it working as before. The desktop experience had never been simpler than now.

The gnome-desktop-item-edit executable came from gnome-panel package which was the last chance to get GNOME FlashBack working as it was in 12.04 LTS. For now gnome-flashback session is very buggy and less functional.

The desktop in GNOME Shell session is controlled by gnome-shell-extension-desktop-icons (instead of Nautilus) with very limited functionality too.

Two above moments make gnome-desktop-item-edit existence useless.
So it was removed from gnome-panel with version 3.32.


Also you way want to read more about all this:

Possible action may be removal of GNOME Shell from the system and installation of normal desktop instead (like MATE, Xfce, KDE and so on).

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    N0rbert thanks! I think the devs should include gnome-desktop-item-edit as at least a stand-alone program until they can replace it with something else that can perform its functions. – CompNeuroDev Aug 8 at 0:38

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