How can I add new programs to the launcher (or the dock in Ubuntu 17.10 and later) in Ubuntu?


2 Answers 2


To add applications to the Dash (then you press the windows key), Go to ~/.local/share/applications and create your .desktop files there.

For example:

  • Open Nautilus (also called Files (the file manager))
  • Browse to ~/.local/share/applications (ctrl + h to show hidden folders/files)
  • Right click and choose create empty document
  • Name the file testing.desktop
  • Enter in a valid desktop contents (sample below)
  • Save it and now that entry will show when you press the windows key under applications.

A much easier way...

sudo apt-get install alacarte

Then run alacarte and create menu entries as you like. They will show in the unity launcher.

Sample desktop file (from sublime text 2)

#!/usr/bin/env xdg-open  

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Sublime Text 2
# Only KDE 4 seems to use GenericName, so we reuse the KDE strings.
# From Ubuntu's language-pack-kde-XX-base packages, version 9.04-20090413.
GenericName=Text Editor
Icon="/opt/Sublime Text 2/Icon/48x48/sublime_text.png"
Icon[en_US]=/opt/Sublime Text 2/Icon/128x128/sublime_text.png

[NewWindow Shortcut Group]
Name=New Window
Exec=subl -n
  • 3
    By "Launcher Thingy (then you press the windows key)", do you mean the dash?
    – iBelieve
    Nov 30, 2012 at 21:15
  • 6
    Yes...... That's what i said dash (hunts for the edit link)
    – coteyr
    Nov 30, 2012 at 21:20
  • 11
    Here is a link to more details about creating desktop files: help.ubuntu.com/community/UnityLaunchersAndDesktopFiles.
    – iBelieve
    Nov 30, 2012 at 21:28
  • 7
    Easier and hard are opnions. I find editing the .desktop files eaiser.
    – coteyr
    Aug 7, 2016 at 3:51
  • 5
    So much hassle for something that should be built into the OS GUI. Reason why people don't want to try Linux.
    – JohnyTex
    Mar 18, 2020 at 18:32

Just launch the application you want to attach to the Unity Launcher or Ubuntu Dock; right click the icon and depending on your version of Ubuntu select the method below.

On Ubuntu 17.10 and later (with GNOME 3)

Select "Add to Favorites":

(click to enlarge)

Alternatively, click the "Show Applications" icon, browse to the icon of the program you want to add, right click the program icon and you will see the option "Add To Favorites". Selecting that option places the icon in the dock.

You can also drag applications directly from the Dash (or the 'Show Applications' list / 'Activities' overview) into the Ubuntu dock.

Before Ubuntu 17.10 (with Unity 7)

Select "Lock to Launcher":

enter image description here

  • 3
    There's a wrinkle here for applications that run in a terminal (e.g. iPython), since they appear in the launcher as a terminal rather than with their own icon. However, you can simply drag the icon from the dash into the launcher.
    – Ned
    Sep 12, 2013 at 11:04
  • I tried this trick but when I closed the application, the launch button disappeared from launcher and I have to start my application from the terminal again. Please help.
    – Marta Cz-C
    Jul 29, 2014 at 11:18
  • 3
    this fails on Ubuntu 18.04 Mar 4, 2018 at 13:37
  • 13
    The only thing I see on Ubuntu 18.04 is a window list and Quit when I right-click. May 17, 2018 at 17:13
  • 6
    In Ubuntu 18.04, the location of the application launcher needs to be known by Gnome for the "Add to favorites" button to appear. With this in mind, the procedure to add an application to the launcher is as follows. First create a .desktop file for the application using gnome-desktop-item-edit ~/Desktop/ --create-new. Then move this .desktop file into either /usr/share/applications or ~/.local/share/applications, which are the two locations Gnome will look for applications. If you run the program and right-click on its icon in the dock, the "Add to favorites" button should be available.
    – anon1802
    Sep 21, 2018 at 13:29

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