When I open the dash in 11.04, I get two rows of icons. The first row contains 'lenses' that take me to lists of applicaitons/files; the second row opens specific applications - Browse the Web, View Photos, Check Email, Listen to Music.

Is there any way to change what programs the icons in the second row point to? (If I were to add new lenses, do they also appear, and can I change the order?) So far it seems like the Browse the Web and Listen to Music icons respect my preferred applications choices. The first can be either Firefox or Chromium (and perhaps others) and the second can be either Banshee or Rhythmbox. However, I can't change the Check Email icon. It remains pinned to Evolution, even though I have Thunderbird set as my preferred email client. I'd like to change this if I can.

  • Have you tried looking in the /usr/share/unity folder? Maybe there is a file in there you can edit. I'll look into it as soon as I can. I'm having a little trouble starting Natty in a VM. It should only be a little while.
    – bntser
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 1:30
  • Sorry, I can't seem to find any way to do it. The only files in that folder have to do with the applications and file menus.
    – bntser
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 1:47

8 Answers 8


To change default applications, click the power/settings menu in the top right corner of your screen (the one with the OFF symbol) and select last item (System Settings).

Select Preferred Applications in the window that will appear, so you can change them.

As far as I know, it is not possible to add additional items in the Unity Dash.


I understand what he meant, in the old days you could right click on menu and edit, now the answer is to install alacarte.

sudo apt-get install alacarte

Alacarte can be run from the terminal or the Unity Dash.


The mail problem known bug in Unity. The bug is reported here and is fixed for 11.04

  • I'll try looking in /usr/share/unity to see if there's something I can edit. The bug report is mine - when I first reported it I wasn't sure if it was a bug, or if it was meant to be that way - there are a few things that can't be changed due to design decisions (in which case I guess it'd be more of a feature request). The bug report is now assigned to someone, so I expect we'll see it fixed. (I wonder if it's due to Thunderbird describing itself as a 'mail' client rather than an 'email' client.) Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 16:18

Unfortunately in 11.04/11.10 there is no way to arbitrarily change the shortcuts in the dash to any application you want unless you edit the source code directly.

However if you set your browser, mail program, and mp3 player in Preferred Applications Unity will respect those settings.

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  • Yeah,I've got it working now. There was some trouble getting Thunderbird to show up as the mail client; I filed a couple of bugs on that two weeks ago and it got sorted out nicely! Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 4:18

I got this working using a slightly modified version of this question's first answer What Custom Launchers and Unity Quicklists are available?

I'm not sure it's the best way though; among other things, I had to hardcode in my homedir path because it wouldn't work if I used ~ or $HOME. This launches nautilus, but you could run anything by changing the 'Exec' line.


Copy 'Home Folder' launcher file to your home directory:

cp /usr/share/applications/nautilus-home.desktop ~/.local/share/applications

Open the file for editing in gedit:

gedit ~/.local/share/applications/nautilus-home.desktop

Find the following line from the file:


Replace the above line with:


Add this text to the bottom of the file, substituting in your home directory path:

[Videos Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus /home/YOURUSERNAME/Videos

[Documents Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus /home/YOURUSERNAME/Documents

[Music Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus /home/YOURUSERNAME/Music

[Pictures Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus /home/YOURUSERNAME/Pictures

[Downloads Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus /home/YOURUSERNAME/Downloads

Save and close the file.

Log out and log in again to see the changes.

  • #sudo apt-get install alacarte gnome-panel then i logged off and log back in. Appearantly, I can't edit menu in current state. Since I have too many custom applications to add to the menu with a text editor, it isnt productive. at least I like the new 11.10 since pulseaudio or alsa is working properly.
    – Cresho
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 18:57
  • Yes it is. It does depend on what you mean by menu though. There are many. Not all can be edited, since many of them are completely dynamic. The music store, for instance, will search the actual music store over the network, so it would make no sense to make that editable. Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 19:21
  • what alacarte did for gnome-panel. thats what im looking for!
    – Cresho
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 19:38
  • I migrated over to kubuntu 11.10 for now. I like unity but it's not ready for prime time. I couldn't work!, i mean do my job at work with inability to do certain things. Kubuntu is more usable now with vsync working properly this time (adjusting settings work). I will wait till it becomes more usable. Reminds me of when kubuntu was first released.
    – Cresho
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 21:15

Some nice people are already developing a solution to your problem.


Please be patient, as it is not yet ready for use.


How to Create a custom launcher in Unity?

The link above should give you an answer.


  • Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference.
    – RolandiXor
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 19:27

"Unfortunately in 11.04 there is no way to arbitrarily change the shortcuts in the dash to any application you want."

To be honest you're not telling the truth ... you can change the entries in the applications menu just as you can change anything on your system ( it's open source people ! ). The problem is that most people don't know where to look ^^.

When it comes to the applications shown in your menu they can all be found under the /usr/share/applications directory. Every entry is of the file-type "*.desktop", these are textual files and you can edit them in vim or gedit ( do know that they're under root, so either chown them or sudo edit them ). If you delete the entry it won't show up in your menu anymore :). As for adding entries, it is just a matter of learning how to write a *.desktop file and placing it in the applications directory.

To learn more about the ".desktop" file format i'll refer you to http://linuxcritic.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/anatomy-of-a-desktop-file/ :) enjoy !

This might be a wee bit archaic ^ ^ but give the open source community a few more months and someone will have written an updated version of alacarte that does this for you :)

  • 2
    Editing the .desktop files still doesn't let you set which 4 applications can be listed on the dash. Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 2:44
  • It seems as though these entries are compiled in the com/canonical classes ... great way of being opensource ubuntu ... i'm coming from a fedora system and with a bit of knowhow you could change basically anything ( up until fedora lovelock when they introduced gnome3 ) Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 16:44

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