I've started playing around with remote X sessions and really like it so far as it allows me to use GUI tools to configure my server (sometimes, I just don't feel like editing text files).

One thing that bothers me though, is that unlike my desktop Ubuntu, I have no way to discover which application to launch for a given task.

For example, on my desktop, if I want to manage users, I simply click my way to "System / Administration / Users and Groups". When I ssh -X into my remote server, the only way to launch new applications is through the command line. If I want to use the user management application, I first have to find the name of the binary, which is not always obvious to do. Right now, here is how I do it:

1) Launch the application using my local desktop menu

2) Launch "gnome-system-monitor" and find the name of the binary

3) Launch the binary from my ssh session

Is there any better way to do this (apart from using a full fletched remote desktop solution as FreeNX)? For instance, isn't there any standalone application that can act as the desktop menu which I could launch from my remote X session?

UPDATE: I just found out I could launch gnome-panel remotely. It does exactly what I need (the applications/places/system menus). The draw back is that it's messy because my local applications get mixed with the remote ones.


I have tried to use gnome-panel over ssh in my computer and it worked. It replaced my awn bar with two pannels with the stock gnome theme. I can see in the bottom bar all my running programs, both local and remote. If I start a program from the menu it launches the remote version, in the same way, the Places Menu also open remote nautilus in remote locations.

Quite an interesting experience. I'm not sure if it will be useful for me, too used to pure command line.

Interesting enough pressing "Print Screen" saves the screenshot in my local computer:


I know, this is not a real answer, just a glorified comment. The answer will be use gnome-panel.

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  • This is exactly what I've done a few moments ago. I think it's "good enough" for most use cases :) – Olivier Lalonde Oct 21 '10 at 11:58

If you want a list of all applications in your Gnome Menu, you can do

ls /usr/share/applications/

All those *.desktop files are the menu shortcuts.

This may provide something close to what you are asking for and give you a list of available applications.

However the file name is not always the command to run. For example in the listing you will see


But to run OpenOffic.org Draw, you use the command ooffice -draw.

The command can be determined by looking at the "Exec" line in /usr/share/applications/openoffice.org-draw.desktop.

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  • Actually, those files aren't the menu shortcuts. The menu is built (and automatically updated) based on some of the info in those files, but they also contain other info (e.g. MIME types). It's actually up to the application that shows the menu (or the DE libraries it uses) to decide on how and what is shown. – JanC Oct 21 '10 at 17:17

A workaround would be: right click gnome menu -> Edit Menus -> Administration -> Users and Groups -> Properties

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I start gnome-do, a launcher, both on the local and remote machine. It is keyboard/keyword oriented. Like the Ubuntu Dash, I assume, but it feels less invasive.

I have them configured on different hotkeys: I call one of them and give it some substrings of the app name (not the binary name). Once found I launch it. The binary name would work, too, by the way, but it wouldn’t help you completing it by default.

@Richard is half right with the .desktop files: there is a standard on how they have to look like and which locations (plural!) they should lie in. Compliant launchers/menus can pick them up from there.

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