I'd like to know which folder the Unity Launcher .desktop files are stored in, as they're not anymore in /.gconf/desktop and I need to add a custom application to the launcher bar (adding it in /usr/share/applications doesn't seem to be enough).

Where are the Unity Launcher .desktop files?


6 Answers 6


Globally in


Locally in


If you want to add a custom launcher, create it in ~/.local/share/applications, make it executable, drag and drop it on the launcher*, and finally pin it (right-click on the launcher item → Keep In Launcher).

* Opening it using Nautilus doesn't seem to do the trick.

  • Actually, this way the custom icon is not shown but the application icon is instead. Any ideas on how to fix that? I also tried adding the .desktop through gconf-editor but I haven't found the Unity entry.
    – Tigull
    May 7, 2011 at 8:24
  • You are right, that's probably a bug. Instead you can just drag and drop the .desktop file onto the launcher. To find the favorites list, install the dconf-tools package and run dconf-editor. The list is stored under desktop → unity → launcher.
    – htorque
    May 7, 2011 at 8:32
  • 2
    You can manually specify the icon to use by adding the following line to the desktop file: Icon=/absolute/path/to/image.png
    – Dunes
    May 19, 2015 at 12:19
  • 1
    Just a note that those using snaps may find them in /var/lib/snapd/desktop/applications/xyz.desktop
    – Jon
    Aug 3, 2018 at 9:38

Unity 2D looks for .desktop files in the /usr/share/applications directory. This can be found by using the following in the Terminal:

locate firefox.desktop

For me it worked by adding one of the launchers that was already there (eg. gimp.desktop) using the following in the Terminal


to add an entry to the favorites list under desktop/unity-2d/launcher.

  • I forgot about locate , thank you! /usr/local/share/applications/ that'where the culprit was!
    – variona
    Nov 12, 2016 at 7:53

This question was posted almost 9 years ago, but it still appears on top of searches on this topic. For completeness, since Snaps are now a thing, there are at least 4 locations:



/usr/local/share/applications/ (less common)




  • 1
    That's the correct answer today. At my side a snap was the culprit I wanted to override, and - of course - I grepped EVERYTHING but /var for it (everything of snaps are located in /snap, right? Nope, apparently it infects all drives!)
    – Tino
    May 2, 2021 at 7:36

cd ~/.local/share/applications is the 1st place that is look in.

Examples from my directory that I used to add quicklists:

~/.local/share/applications$ ls
banshee.desktop           gnome-terminal.desktop
chromium-browser.desktop  mimeapps.list
firefox.desktop           nautilus-home.desktop
gedit.desktop             ubuntu-software-center.desktop

Besides globally in /usr/share/applications, locally in ~/.local/share/applications, it also has in /usr/local/share/applications/. It has similar effects as globally. Some applications choose to put their desktop file in this folder.

  • 1
    The tip about /usr/local/share/applications/ was spot on! Thanks!
    – smac89
    Aug 1, 2016 at 6:08

I actually found a fix myself! It is necessary to create an entry in alacarte. To customise the icon you must manually edit the icon again from alacarte.

  • That doesn't sound like the right solution, but more a workaround for a bug in either the launcher or the original .desktop file.
    – JanC
    Jun 9, 2011 at 10:37

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