I am migrating from Unity to GNOME. One item I am missing is a "Show desktop" button (aka "minimise all windows") in the dash. How can I add this functionality to the GNOME dash (or Ubuntu dock in Ubuntu 17.10 and later), even if it means making a custom .desktop file?

(I know that I can use the Ctrl + Super + D keyboard shortcut to show the desktop and that I can install an extension to add a "Show desktop" button to the top bar, but I specifically want a button in the dash.)


2 Answers 2


I found a way to do that:

  1. Open a terminal and install wmctrl:

    sudo apt-get install wmctrl
  2. Create a shell script named show-desktop.sh (I put it in my home folder)

    gedit ~/show-desktop.sh

    place this code in there:

    status="$(wmctrl -m | grep "showing the desktop" | sed -r 's/(.*)(ON|OFF)/\2/g')"
    if [ $status == "ON" ]; then
        wmctrl -k off
        wmctrl -k on

    and make it executable:

    chmod +x ~/show-desktop.sh
  3. Create a file show-desktop.desktop in ~/.local/share/applications/ folder:

    gedit ~/.local/share/applications/show-desktop.desktop

    Add this text and save (don't forget change the value on <your user>):

    [Desktop Entry]
    Name=Show Desktop
    Exec=/home/<your user>/show-desktop.sh
  4. Open the dash, search for show desktop and add it to the favorites.

  • 6
    Tested and working also on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. This is the best way I've found to do it since they removed the 'Add show desktop icon to the launcher' option from System Settings / Appearance / Behaviour panel. It was such an useful feature. Sometimes I really do not understand Ubuntu developers...
    – bytepan
    Apr 29, 2018 at 9:30
  • 4
    In the file "show-desktop.desktop" (topic 3), I changed "Icon=show-desktop" to "Icon=desktop",because the previous one was not working. May 20, 2018 at 3:56
  • This is not beginner friendly. How do I create a file in the applications folder? I can't just create it and save it there through the gui because it's protected. Thanks.
    – Rabbit
    Sep 1, 2018 at 12:06
  • 2
    @Rabbit you need to use root privileges. Open a terminal and type: sudo nano /use/share/applications/show-desktop.desktop
    – AndAC
    Sep 1, 2018 at 12:10
  • 1
    @Rabbit I understand. I do think this could be better explained. Maybe someone with a better English could edit my post to make it easier for beginners.
    – AndAC
    Sep 1, 2018 at 12:41

First off, know that keyboard shortcuts Super (Windows Key) + D, or Ctrl + Alt + D will toggle between showing/hiding the desktop. You may get used to this keyboard shortcut and decide it's better than clicking an icon anyway. Nevertheless, we can create a clickable shortcut which will simply do this keyboard shortcut for us to show/hide the desktop.

Note that I recommend using Option 1 [MY PREFERRED CHOICE] OR one of the methods from Option 2 below, but not both Option 1 and Option 2 together, as they seem to conflict in weird ways. Ie: if you set up Option 1 then set up one of the Option 2's, just remove the Show Desktop icon from Option 1 as a favorite, and stop using it. Weird things happen if you click the Show Desktop icon from Option 1 after installing one of the Option 2s. I think this is because xdotool (used by Option 1) is attempting to send messages to your system as though they came from your keyboard, so however the Option 2 methods work, they conflict with xdotool or something and sometimes your Super key or mouse keys seem to get "stuck" down simply by using both Options together. Note that this unusual and buggy behavior does NOT present itself, however, if you manually use the Super + D shorcut together with an Option 2 method, OR if you use just the Option 1 method and no Option 2 methods.

My recommendation is to use the Option 1 method below in conjunction with the Super (Windows Key) + D keyboard shortcut whenever you feel like using the keyboard shortcut instead.

This suits me the best.


Tested and works in Ubuntu 14.04, 16.04, 18.04, 20.04, 22.04.

Credit: I didn't come up with this, Ubuntu genius & blogger Ji m did, here: http://ubuntuhandbook.org/index.php/2018/10/add-show-desktop-button-ubuntu-18-10-18-04/. I'm borrowing directly from his material (a lot of it quoted directly):

  1. "Open terminal (Ctrl + Alt + T) and install xdotool:"

     sudo apt install xdotool
  2. "Then create the show desktop shortcut icon and edit it via command:"

     gedit ~/.local/share/applications/show-desktop.desktop

"When the file opens, paste following lines and save it."

    [Desktop Entry]
    Name=Show Desktop
    Exec=xdotool key --clearmodifiers Super+d
  1. "Finally search for ‘show desktop’ in application menu, then right lick and select ‘add to favorites’:"

"That’s it. Enjoy!"

Here it is, as shown on my desktop:

enter image description here

Option 2:

Option 2.A:

Click your "Start menu" icon thing (9-dot icon) and type in "show desktop." Wait a few seconds for search results to pop up, and click on and install one of the Gnome Shell extensions. (Note that these search results are simply coming from the Ubuntu Software center).

enter image description here

For more info on Gnome Shell Extensions, see my other answer here: https://askubuntu.com/a/1089033/327339.

Ex: here's the first one: enter image description here

Click the "Install" button and here's what it looks like on my desktop:

enter image description here

Option 2.B:

Here's another one [used to be my personal favorite, but then I switched back to Option 1 because it seems to work the smoothest and be the most consistent]:

enter image description here

And here's what it looks like installed: enter image description here

  • 1
    Option 2a and b don't seem to be available in 20.04 Focal. (Thanks for this! It's so helpful)
    – Rabbit
    May 24, 2020 at 15:25

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