I wonder, isn't still there an easy way to create a desktop shortcut in Ubuntu 14.04 (or Unity)? There is no context menu on desktop doing this.

So I tried the following: I looked for an app I want to create a shortcut for in the dash, then I tried to drag it to the desktop. And guess what? I got the error:

enter image description here

  • have you tried that via "ln" command? – mortymacs Apr 19 '14 at 2:43
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    @MortezaIpo, "ln" command is a way, but that's not an easy, intuitive way. – アレックス Apr 19 '14 at 3:20
  • some options: askubuntu.com/questions/43659/… – Jacob Vlijm Apr 19 '14 at 20:06
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    I have the same problem on Ubuntu 14.04. I try to drag an icon from the Dash in order to create a shortcut and I face the error: "Error while copying." "There was an error getting information about “/”." "The specified location is not supported" I believe this is a bug. – kosiara Apr 26 '14 at 16:22
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    This is a known and old age bug appearing again and again, please up vote affected users so that UBuntu developers can open their eyes. Silly bugs, first time users will cry with these things. This bug was reported in 11.10 and appeared again in 13.10 bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/1241972 – Kanhiya May 3 '14 at 2:05

10 Answers 10

  1. Right click the file you want a link to in your file manager.
  2. Select "Create link" from the context menu.
  3. Move that link wherever you want it.

In the case of application launchers, they're placed in /usr/share/applications/. The procedure is identical. We have several shortcut editor applications if you want advanced functionality, but I suspect the method above should suffice?

When we discover bugs in Ubuntu and we would like them to be fixed, we report them to the developers. This is done on http://Launchpad.net.

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  • moreover, after that the desktop becomes kind of frozen (nothing is working there) although everything else keeps working. – アレックス Apr 19 '14 at 6:52
  • I don't understand what that means. The desktop is simply a folder and a shortcut is just a normal file. Your bug report doesn't belong on this site, but on Launchpad.net, as I explained in the answer I gave you. – Jo-Erlend Schinstad Apr 21 '14 at 16:04
  • in that case, why do all other distributives have a special menu for creating shotcuts at the Desktop? – アレックス Apr 21 '14 at 16:13
  • Launchpad developers are sleeping. Same bugs vanish and appear again. In 12.04 drag and drop was working flawlessly for applications and files. In 14.04 things got worse, like Whitelist of top panel tray items and these simple drag and drops. – Kanhiya May 2 '14 at 6:52
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    @JO- Erlend I have no personal issues, Every first time user will get frustrated by these silly issues. Try to put yourself in place of first time user. I am not the only one, almost everyone is affected especially first time users. – Kanhiya May 4 '14 at 7:47

Try to press Ctrl and Shift (I have used left ones) together when drag'n'dropping app or folder to desktop ;-)

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  • It works nicely. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS – YahyaE Mar 4 '15 at 17:13
  • Why this is not within the Ubuntu/Lubuntu tutorials... – matandked Dec 30 '16 at 14:35
  • This is an approach that allows creating links to resources that reside on read-only media – Sergey Ushakov Jun 4 '17 at 5:32
  • Simply works fine with Linux Mint 19.1 but using Nemo – Sam Wheel Jun 8 '19 at 12:08

I find this works:

  1. Open Nautilus
  2. Navigate to /usr/share/applications
  3. Right-click on the application you want to use and select copy
  4. Click on your desktop and select paste
  5. Right click on the icon that has just been created and select properties
  6. On the Permissions tab check Execute then click Close


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    That worked with me – Mina Samy Oct 10 '14 at 21:31
  • Great sollution – Jacob Jan 9 '15 at 11:45
  • Great solution. In Ubuntu 15.10 I'm using the built-in file manager (Files), and after pasting the application on the Desktop, it just works, without having to check Execute in Properties (step 5 and 6). – Alex Vang Nov 13 '15 at 13:39
  • The point is the application isn't there yet '-' – George Jul 17 '16 at 0:34
  • There are lots of ways to do this, but this one is the easiest. Good job! – Bill Oct 4 '16 at 15:19

The above answers all assume that the desktop file is in /usr/share/applications, but sometimes it is not the case. So I posted my answer in case these answers do not work.

Usually when running the application or package you have installed, the icon of the application will appear in the launcher. That is to say, ubuntu has already automatically created a desktop file for the application. All you need to do is to find it and copy it to the desktop. More often than not it is in /usr/share/applications, as assumed by all other answers to this question, but sometimes it is in ~/.local/share/applications, or elsewhere you have no idea about. In the following I will add an icon for Qt Creator which is not in /usr/share/applications by default to the desktop to illustrate this method.

(1) After installation of Qt, run Qt Creator.

(2) Locate the path to the executable. This can be done by search the list of System Monitor in the Processes tab for the particular process for that application and view the process property.

(3) Record the path, say, /home/zh/Qt/Tools/QtCreator/bin/qtcreator for Qt Creator. Search the disk for desktop file containing this path using command sudo find / -name "*.desktop"|xargs grep /home/zh/Qt/Tools/QtCreator/bin/qtcreator. You will get "/home/zh/.local/share/applications/DigiaQt-qtcreator-community.desktop".

(4) Copy that desktop file to ~/Desktop, then you are all set.

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  • This was very helpful! – chemkatku Jun 2 '16 at 5:41

An totally non-obvious way to create a shortcut anyway:

  1. Open Nautilus, navigate to "Computer" (or press ctrl+L, type / in the address bar and press Enter).
  2. Open the folder usr.
  3. Open the folder share.
  4. Open the folder applications.
  5. In that folder, select the program of your choice (for example, Gimp). Drag it to your desktop folder (in Nautilus) or copy & paste it.
  6. Profit from a desktop shortcut. Since you made a plain copy of the application launcher, it may break in a future update. If you cannot immediately find the program in /usr/share/applications, look in subdirectories or ~/.local/share/applications/.

It is ridiculous how involved the steps are just to get a desktop icon for an application. The following approaches were tried and did not work:

  • Drag from Dash to desktop: throws an error.
  • Right-click on the icon in the Dash: opens a second information canvas, but still no option to create an icon.
  • Start the program, right-click in the launcher: still no option to create a canvas.
  • Open the "Desktop" folder in Nautilus (located in the Home directory), drag the program from the Dash to the file browser to the desktop: same error as dragging from the dash to the desktop.

I am a KDE user, but recommended a peer student to try Ubuntu (with Unity). Hopefully this is the last surprise, but I have my reservations about that.

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    This does not work for programs I wrote, or other "non-installed" programs. – whitebeard Aug 26 '15 at 14:59

I was facing the same problem but mine was matlab app. This is how I did it.

  1. open nautilus and click on computer
  2. copy /usr/share/app-install/"application name"
  3. paste it to your desktop
  4. right-click it and go to properties and click on the permissions tab and check Allow executing file as program.

NOTE: replace application name with the of the application you installed. hope this helps.

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I like this procedure: Desktop shortcut to create a new desktop shortcut doesn't do anything

Short answer:

sudo apt install --no-install-recommends gnome-panel
gnome-desktop-item-edit ~/Desktop/ --create-new

then put your name and command in dialog to create on desktop your brand new launcher!!

p.s.: first command is not necessary if you already have gnome-desktop-item-edit

p.s.2.: other answers created software links and/or copied files as .desktop files, this approach will create a brand-new .desktop file

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You can navigate to /usr/share/applications

with Terminal then enter

sudo nautilus .

It will open a file explorer with admin right. Without "sudo" the "Create link" was greyed out.

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  • If all you want is a launcher, then you can simply copy too. No real need to use links as these are just very small text files anyway. – Jo-Erlend Schinstad May 3 '14 at 3:47
  • Please don't do sudo nautilus. Use sudo -i nautilus instead – Zanna Jul 27 '16 at 22:25

This is the same as Jo-Erlend Schinstad's answer above but it's the Terminal command.

ln -s /home/user/Desktop/originalFile.txt ~/Desktop/newShortcut.txt
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If you want to create a launcher from a shell script using a GUI

sudo apt-get install alacarte && alacarte

EDIT: Alacarte seems to be deprecated. Prefer arronax

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:diesch/testing 
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install arronax
nautilus -q
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  • why the downvote? – Jonathan Jun 13 '16 at 16:08

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